The Other Side of Eden

A Novel

Fiction - Historical - Event/Era
239 Pages
Reviewed on 02/11/2021
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Lesley Jones for Readers' Favorite

The Other Side of Eden by Fazle Chowdhury, a family epic, begins in 1947 as Sultan Aslan tries to restore peace and harmony within his province. He is pressured from both East and West who try to convince the Sultan that they can help to pacify the opposing forces, but both come with their own set of risks in dismantling his province. Aslan has just welcomed his son, Prince Fardeen, back to the Irani Palace where he had been assisting the British in battle. As Aslan struggles to hold onto power against the rebels, betrayals, and an unhappy marriage, he still remains loyal to his family. As Aslan continues to hold the title of Sultan, a role he never wanted, he is also forced to marry a woman who controls those around her with an abusive rod of iron. Aslan believes his role is more important than his own happiness and therefore keeps the existence of his true love a secret. As the Sultan's enemies are moving ever closer, Aslan finally confronts those who betrayed him. Sultan Aslan, facing defeat, makes the ultimate sacrifice to save the last thing in the world he treasures.

The descriptive narrative in this story is exceptional. Fazle Chowdhury writes so beautifully, each of your senses comes to life. The characters' backstories are extremely detailed so you truly get an insight into their thought patterns and views of the world. The author draws you into the world of the characters very quickly. There is an incredible amount of tension and suspense throughout as Aslan tries to keep control of his province. Aslan's wife, the queen, was a horrific character especially when her daughter died; her actions were unbelievable. There are also some graphic scenes of the cruelest crimes against humanity, especially the torture scenes, and this brought a whole new layer of realism to The Other Side of Eden. Throughout the plot, you really get a sense of how far a person is willing to go to fight for their cause, no matter how wrong it is. I found the ending really tense as I could not see a way out for Aslan. If you love historical fiction, this is definitely a must-read.

Pikasho Deka

The Other Side of Eden is a historical novel by author Fazle Chowdhury. It's 1883, and a man named Omar arrives with his eight-year-old son at a monastery in the Himalayas following religious persecution in his native land. Omar takes an exceptional interest in Sufi Mysticism and goes on to write on topics such as philosophy, law, and ethics, which propels him into the role of spiritual advisor to Sultan Amin. Tensions arise when Omar's son Hussein gets himself killed over a love affair with Princess Haya, leading to Omar's banishment by Sultan Amin in despair. Fast forward to 1947, the British are leaving, and the larger nations of India and Pakistan are threatening the sovereignty of Sepheristan. Will it survive?

The Other Side of Eden is a compelling story about the rise and fall of a dynasty with engrossing courtroom drama full of political intrigue, love, and betrayal. Fazle Choudhury draws a vivid picture of the land of Sepheristan with an amalgamation of Buddhist, Hindu, Christian, and Islamic cultures painting the world. Chowdhury also deftly showcases the lasting effects of colonialism. My favorite aspect of the book was the realistic depictions of royalty under colonial rule. Chowdhury seems to be well-informed on the state of Indian princely states under British rule. The characters are vivid and colorful, with every single one of them having a distinct voice. I thoroughly enjoyed The Other Side of Eden, and I will highly recommend fans of historical fiction to give this one a go.

K.C. Finn

The Other Side of Eden is a work of fiction in the interpersonal drama, cultural and historical fiction sub-genres, and was penned by author Fazle Chowdhury. The work is intended for the adult reading audience and contains complex themes and some mature content unsuited for younger audiences. At the novel’s opening, we meet a father and son, Omar and Hussein, living at the turn of the twentieth century in the throes of British colonialism. As the plot spans several years in Middle Eastern history, we are introduced to Sultan Aslan when Omar gains his trust, and the small struggles of the many interweave with the deeper, darker struggles of those at the top of society.

Author Fazle Chowdhury has crafted a thrilling, dynamic, and insightful work of historical fiction with plenty of thinking material and deep emotion to offer its readers. Having read works by Chowdhury before, I found the pace a little slower than previous books, but it was steeped with so much culture and history that I still found it impossible to put down. This work uncovers such lesser-known diverse themes and character representations that it becomes all-engrossing, with the reader living through every emotive and agonizing decision and the consequences thereof. The dialogue was also highly effective, serving to display the unique traits, culture, and personality of the characters whilst moving the plot forward in a natural way. Overall, I would highly recommend The Other Side of Eden to fans of deep historical fiction, psychological and cultural work, and for Middle Eastern fiction enthusiasts everywhere.

Grant Leishman

The Other Side of Eden takes us to the north-east corner of the Indian subcontinent and the fictional Sultanate of Sipheristan. Author Fazle Chowdhury first takes us back to 1883, when a refugee and his son seeking sanctuary arrive in the region from Persia, bringing new ideas and new thoughts to this remote area. Fast-forward to pre-World War II and we find the sultan, Aslan, ruling over a country that is prosperous and tolerant toward all ideologies and religions. Following World War II, the withdrawal of the colonial power, the independence of India, and the partitioning of Pakistan, Sipheristan is under pressure from all sides. Aslan must walk a fine line between balancing the desires of the British, who still support his independence, and competing factions within his country and indeed his royal household, to take power and form an independent republic. Having already lost his daughter, and then one son to the war, Aslan relies on his trusted military counselors and his one remaining son, the Crown Prince Fardeen, to steer the ship of state in such a way that he protects and nurtures his citizens and maintains the royal household and prerogative. Sipheristan and Sultan Aslan are in a very fight for their existence and the circle of who to trust grows smaller and smaller every day.

The Other Side of Eden reads more like an actual history book than a fictionalized version of a small sultanate struggling to maintain its integrity and existence in an ever-changing world order that would emerge post-WWII. Author Fazle Chowdhury presents a set of circumstances that must have faced every nation freed from its colonial shackles in the twentieth century. The competing factions within and without the palace give the plotline a twisting, unpredictable nature that carries the reader along to the point that I began to question whether indeed this was fiction or history. I appreciated the author presented Sultan Aslan in all his multi-faceted glory. He, like us all, was deeply flawed yet he did have a deep love, respect, and desire to assist the citizens of Sipheristan, which is more than could be said for many of his competing rivals for power. The intrigue and deception even amongst those incredibly close to the sultan were both breathtaking in their audacity and yet easily recognizable and understood. I particularly enjoyed the way that the competing ideologies and religions were used to justify the factions’ sedition and treason. This, I am sure, was a reflection of many countries in this situation in a post-WWII world. The mendaciousness of the British colonial powers was also well highlighted in this story and one has to accept that Britain’s colonial past is certainly nothing to be proud of. A good read and one I can definitely recommend.

Rabia Tanveer

The Other Side of Eden by Fazle Chowdhury is the story of a sultan driven to the edge of sanity to keep his hold on power. The power of a sultan was precarious, and no one knew it better than Sultan Aslan. He knew he had to do whatever it took to keep his power intact, especially now that so many were trying to take it away from him. With the British Administration about to leave, Aslan was scrambling to hold on to his rule to make life better for his people. He was ready to risk it all, especially his happiness. But some things were not meant to be. Was Sultan Aslan’s rule one of them?

Fazle Chowdhury has a way with words that immerse you in the scenes so that you become a part of the story. As expected, the descriptions were out of this world and gave me enough powerful imagery to transport me into the moment with Oman and Aslan. Yes, the chapters were long-ish, but that was to be expected considering the descriptive narrative that the author specializes in. The prologue set the stage and gave me the perspective to enjoy the story even more. Aslan’s journey was historic yet his development was very human. His progress was in keeping with the dark thriller theme of the plot. The relationships these characters had were realistic and honest, something that I thoroughly enjoyed. Brilliantly immersive and entertaining.