Book Review #69: Music To Flame Lilies

Name: Music To Flame Lilies
Author: Megha Rao
No. of Pages: 149
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Tara Press
Price: Rs. 299/- 
Published in: June 2019 
How did I get it? From the publisher. 
When Noor gets a message from her best friend, months after her death, she cannot help but go back to her hometown in search of answers, and perhaps even her best friend. 
Noor isn’t prepared for the village that seems deeply rooted in magic — where villagers pray to local ghosts, spend their evenings watching live possessions in the middle of a forest clearing, have innumerable stories of encounters with demons, or where she is told of people who are haunted to death.
Then there’s Kalki, the boy from the wrong side of the tracks, the local black magician, who is always in her way. He may be trouble, but Noor knows he can help her unravel the mystery of her friend’s death, or so she tells herself. 
Caught between magic and reality, Noor is increasingly drawn to the mysticism and drama of her hometown, even as dark forces gather and danger closes in on her. Will she be able to run away? Will she want to?
Megha Rao is a confessional poet and a surrealist artist. Her two fiction titles, It Will Always Be You and A Crazy Kind of Love, were published by Penguin Random House India in 2015 and 2016. Her poetry has been featured on platforms like The Open Road Review, New Asian Writing, Terribly Tiny Tales, ScoopWhoop, eShe Magazine, New Love Times, Why Indian Men Rape, Homegrown and Thought Catalog, Kommune and UnErase. Megha is a Post Graduate in English Literature from the University of Nottingham, UK. When she’s not cafe hopping in Mumbai with a bunch of Sylvia Plath poems or Friday Kahlo biographies in her bag, she’s curled up on her grandfather’s easy chair, her cats on her lap, back home in Trivandrum, Kerala.
The blurb of the book seemed quite interesting and the title mystic.The writing style is lyrical and poetic, understandable since the author is a poet. So, some parts are really pleasing to read. But I felt that the story itself, along with the characters, lacked depth.
Noor is pulled back to her mother’s mystical hometown in search of answers to her best friend Kirti’s death. But how did Kirti become her best friend? Apart from playing games as children, how were they bonded, what secrets did they share? Nothing is mentioned. As a reader, Kirti and Noor seemed more like childhood friends, who met during holidays, rather than real best friends in adulthood.
Then Noor’s family background, her being from Kashmir, the intermittent mention of the unrest in Kashmir, doesn’t actually hold much relevance in the plot, other than the fact that her family was relieved that she left Kashmir just before the unrest and its consequential violence.
Then there is Kalki, Noor’s love interest and Kirti’s big brother. The story is more about the love angle between Noor and Kalki, but some conversations were repetitive. The plot is set in Herga, a small village in Karnataka, depicted as a ghost-town in the making. But there is no proper background to the setting, as to how it became mystical and prone to black magic.
In short, I found the story quite superficial. A one-time read maybe, just to enjoy the lyrical part of it.
I give “Music To Flame Lilies” 

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