Flood of Fire (Ibis Trilogy 3) by Amitav Ghosh

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Flood of Fire (Ibis Trilogy 3) by Amitav Ghosh

Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: The sweeping Ibis trilogy comes to an end with a touch of contrivance, some smiles, a battle and some great historical insights. The even better news is that it reads well as a one off as well as an encourager to read the whole story.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 624 Date: May 2015
Publisher: John Murray
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0719569005

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1839 and the repercussions of the sinking of the Ibis and the Chinese clampdown on opium smuggling go on. Now widowed by the marine disaster, Shireen Modhi is given an opportunity to discover her late husband's legacy although it means journeying alone from India to China. Former sailor Zachary Reid finds life landside to be a little complicated when he becomes a 'mystery' (craftsman) attached to the Indian home of a British opium trader, despite its fringe benefits. East India Company sepoy officer Kesri Singh is also a little unsettled, especially when he discovers he must prepare for a war that, in some way or other, will affect them all.

Indian author Amitav Ghosh has a back catalogue of novels taking in multi-faceted characters and backdrops ranging from London (in The Cities of Reason) to Burma/Myanmar in The Glass Palace and beyond. Indeed Flood of Fire, his tenth book and the final instalment of the sweepingly epic Ibis Trilogy that began with Sea of Poppies, combines his homeland during the height of Victorian colonisation and the Chinese Opium Wars. Is it a case of location at the cost of all else though? A resounding no to that one!

Ok, one or two minor disbelief suspensions may be required. For instance the author takes great care to organise events so that all his characters are in China at the same historical point in a way that makes us dimly aware of his workings out. There are also chunks of catch-up exposition at the beginning but that passes fairly quickly and, for those of us who have only joined for this leg of the three-book journey, it's valuable.

Indeed the saga may total over 1,100 pages before reaching these 624 but the novel reads well as a one-off for those who would like to use it as a sampler and don't mind the inevitable spoilers that come from reading a series backwards.

The language is accessible and the story absorbing, populated by a delicious mixture of the normal and the eccentric with just a moment or two spent wishing it would move a little faster.

Personally I love Zachary and his amusing bemusement when faced with the offer of a series of love trysts. What's bemusing about a love tryst? In his case the goalposts are moved repeatedly (figuratively) by an almost pantomime seductress. He'll have his day by the end though.

We really feel for Shireen as she comes to terms with the death of her beloved and then discovers what everyone who read Book 2 already knows. Then there's Kesri, with whom we travel back to a childhood in which he dreamt of adventure only to receive maltreatment.

There is one particular character who is perhaps a little unfortunately named. I will leave you to discover more about him yourself but, bearing in mind he plays a serious role in at least this book, Baboo Nob Kissin seems an odd choice of words to juxtapose.

For me though the star of the proceedings is the historical detail that really brings it all alive. Anyone who knows me knows my love of historical factoids and Amitav provides enough for us to luxuriate in them. The difference between the treatment of British and Indian soldiers, the colonial structure, the importance of China and the opium fields, not to mention the rituals surrounding taking opium – it's all here with much more besides, simultaneously entertaining and educating. I will definitely be going back to the beginning of the trilogy and look forward to catching up.

(Thank you so much to the folk at John Murray for providing us with a copy for review.)

Further Reading: If this appeals and/or you'd like to discover the revelations that hit the widowed Shireen so hard, we recommend the second book in the trilogy River of Smoke. If you've already read this and would like to keep the Indian raj theme going, we also heartily recommend Zemindar by Valerie Fitzgerald.

Buy Flood of Fire (Ibis Trilogy 3) by Amitav Ghosh at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Flood of Fire (Ibis Trilogy 3) by Amitav Ghosh at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Flood of Fire (Ibis Trilogy 3) by Amitav Ghosh at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Flood of Fire (Ibis Trilogy 3) by Amitav Ghosh at Amazon.com.


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