Author: Lyndon C
Publisher: Kindle edition
My GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐
Sid Cooper, aged 11, and his dad are in Agra so his dad can attend a business meeting. Sid, a great history buff, with a fascination for the Taj, gets an opportunity to see the Taj, in the company of Raj Verma, the son of his dad’s colleague.
When his expensive camera falls and breaks, Sid buys a cheap camera from a man peddling junk outside the Taj Mahal. The camera is magical and the two boys are transported 350 years into the past when the magnificent monument was still being built.
They learn that some precious gems that were to be used in the intricate inlay work have gone missing. Hungry for adventure, the two boys decide to nab the thief and find the gems.
The blurb tells us that Shah Jahan is furious, but in the book, he seems remarkably unmoved and offers a reward to whoever finds the missing gems. This is the man of who it is said that he chopped off the arms of the workers who labored on the construction to ensure that they never worked on a similar project again. Wouldn’t it have been more in character if he were to demand that his men find the gems and the thief or risk being beheaded?
Nor does he seem perturbed at the sight of two 11-year-old boys casually strolling by, at the construction site. For a Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan is far too genial, politely enquiring about who they are, before letting them go.
What’s more, once the mystery is solved, he generously hands out gifts to the boys. Not the smallest hint of curiosity about whose kids they are and how they happened to land there.
The blurb also tells us that the boys seek to save history and themselves. But the truth is that the boys are far from concerned about themselves. The past is an extension of their outing to the Taj. Not once do they worry about how they will return to their own time. It’s not as if they’ve experienced both ends of the time travel journey before, the going forth and the return. Their nonchalance is unreal.
The book takes far too long to tell its story. At 32% on the Kindle, Sid’s camera broke. He bought a new one at 42%. But it wasn’t until 59%, that they went back in time. Too much time was wasted just reaching the past.
At one point, Sid and Raj watch Shah Jahan speaking to the supervising architect. Raj translates the Hindi conversation for Sid’s benefit. He tells Sid that the emperor spoke to Puruji. How did Raj know the name of the architect? Errors like these should have been caught in time.
The mystery in this book is utterly tame. There is no sense of danger or intrigue. The mystery itself is solved by the boys very easily, that too at the suggestion of a poor boy who works at the site.
In fact, the ease with which they slip into the past, without anyone suspecting them of being spies or strangers is amazing. Even their clothes are magically transformed into period costumes.
La Niña found it funny that Sid and Raj’s fathers were so cool with the idea of two 11-year-olds going to the Taj all by themselves, without a responsible grownup in attendance. She wanted to know if I would have let her go alone.
The bulk of the book is taken up by facts relating to the Taj Mahal, which was interesting at first. It would have been better if these nuggets of information had been seamlessly woven into the story, rather than having Sid read them out from a book or having Raj show off his knowledge.
The illustrations by fifth-grader Ananya Chopra were beautiful. This kid is really talented.
As an idea, time travel is always very exciting. Here the potential inherent in it is completely lost.