The Far Pavilions


M. M. Kaye




Date Reviewed:

March 7, 2006

his book is way too long. It needs an army of editors to salvage it. The edition I read was 950 pages of a trade paperback, it must easily top half a million words. It took me 3 months to read it. In between the time I started and finally finished The Far Pavilions, I read at least four other books, this book just isn't that compelling - easy to put down, hard to pick up again. Other books quickly became more promising than continue to continue through this long slog. Chop the book down to a mere 500 pages, and it would merit 3 stars, since the last 150 pages make a passable story. But it takes a heruculean effort to plow through all this.

The Far Pavilions is the story of Ash, who is the son of wealthy British parents who are touring in India. Ash is orphaned, and an Indian woman raises him as her own son, and disguises his British ancestry (Ash has dark hair and complexion, and can pass for a native.) There is quite a long sequence describing Ash growing up in a palace - in a moment of quick thinking, Ash has saved the young prince from death, and he is rewarded with a place in palace, which is rife with intrigue.

After Ash foils another attempt on the young prince, the villains decide he must be destroyed, and so Ash is forced to flee with his mother. The antagonists pursue them relentlessly, and finally his mother perishes, but not before she reveals his true ancestry. So Ash goes to England, and gets an English education. He returns to India as a member of the British guards.

The curious thing about The Far Pavilions is that Ash never seems to actually do any duty for the guards. He is always on leave, going hunting or riding horses. He takes off on a two year quest into Afghanistan, but the entire (presumably) thrilling adventure is skipped over entirely - 950 pages, and no room to relate that tale? We get boring pages about Belinda, all of which should have been excised after the first draft. Who cares about his brief interest in that foolish woman? We are given endless pages about tea and chatting - people are always telling each other what has happened to them since last they met. This pattern follows throughout the book - when Ash goes undercover, Kaye skips over his exploits. All we get are vague glimpses when he reports in to his British officers - but we never get any of derring-do nor the dangers of spying. Even in the final showdown, Kaye contrives to keep Ash out of the conflict, leaving him as an observer.

This is not an adventure story. This is a romance. This is the story of Ash and his love for one of the princesses at the palace where he grew up. Although he has been away in England since he was 11, Ash coincidentally is assigned to escort Juli as his first mission upon his return to India. True love follows. Oddly enough, and despite 950 pages, we never really get to know Juli either. We know Ash thinks highly of her, and that others find her breathtakingly beautiful, but sh never is developed as a true personality. And if she is THAT terrific, why does Ash try to throw away his life in a futile gesture at the end of the tale? Maybe this unlikely love story is enthralling to some, it averages an unbelievable 5 star rating on the Amazon website, but this is not worth the amount time needed to labor through it. It's just way too long.