Defying school rules?

Published in Books & Authors (Daily Dawn) on September 18, 2005

(Original Link)

Details: The Quest of the Falcons
By S. Uzair Ahsan
Ferozsons, 60 Shahrah-i-Quaid-i-Azam, Lahore
Tel: (042) 630 1196-8. 277
Peshawar Road, Rawalpindi Tel: (051) 556 3503.
Mehran Heights, Main Clifton Road, Karachi.
Tel: (021) 583 0467 UAN 111-62-62-62 ISBN 969-0-01870-1 236pp. Rs150

Reviewed by Ayesha Hoda

Rebellion, pranks, bluntness and revenge are the prime elements of The Quest of the Falcons. Like the adventurous expeditions of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five or Secret Seven, Uzair Ehsan’s first book deals with school children who get involved in similar galvanizing and perilous activities.

However, in this book, the kids do not get involved of their own accord (they do not have a spy group) and their inclination towards defiance of school rules results in precarious and life-threatening situations.

One of the main characters is Sameer Mohammad, a 12-year-old, egocentric yet lonely boy, who is able to attend a renowned secondary school (Cornwall) that is chiefly for the affluent. With his financial inferiority in mind and expectations of a snobbish attitude, he enters school and manages to make enemies within a week of his enrolment. His arrogance and frequent cynical comments, offered with the least embarrassment, are to blame for the hostility he is generally regarded with. However, circumstances work favourably for him and he manages to strike a strong bond of friendship with several of his fellow seventh graders, particularly the twins, Dania and Farzan.

The book progresses with the events in the classroom and with the chess championship and football games. The writer shows an understanding of chess games and reveals a keen interest in football, through an elaborate description of several matches that ensue in several chapters.

Details of the main plot of the story, about a criminal group called the Falcons, come more into focus at a later point. There is some element of suspense, but the plot still leaves much to be desired. There is a need for more originality of thought and ideas. The unrevealed part of the mystery at the climax paves the way for a second part of the book, but does not add much to the worth of the first part. It seems as if the real excitement has been saved for later narration.

Also, the division of students in four houses and their competition (Gryffindor, Slytherin inspired?), the assumption that all students and teachers are travelling to school in the same train (Hogwarts Express?) and so on, do not give the writer much credit. His characters live in Canada in a more or less realistic world and there is no room for the reader to make presumptions.

However, from the young readers’ point of view, there is much to be procured from the perusal of the book in terms of English vocabulary, especially keeping in mind the writer’s age (15 years). His expressions improve from chapter to chapter and disclose a good command of the English language.

The reader learns more about the personality of some of the characters as the story unfolds. Storytelling through the eyes of the different characters and the inclusion of a prologue are still positive factors for the book and in this case, work much more than a simple, straightforward narration of events.