Ibn Al Bitar was a physician, herbalist, and traveler who lived during medieval times in Spain. Although his name simply means “son of the veterinarian”, Al Bitar was known for his healing powers and his vast knowledge of medicine, which he used to treat ailing men that he met during his travels. Daniel is a reputed Egyptian archaeologist and historian. When the book opens, Daniel is travelling to Rome to offer his expertise on an interesting set of manuscripts that were found during an archaeological dig, considered as “one of the most important discoveries of the twenty-first century.” What is the connection between these two men who are separated by centuries and yet walk parallel paths? It is this answer that Brisha explores through IBN AL BITAR’S VOYAGES, and it is an intriguing one.
Brisha alternates between narrating Al Bitar and Daniel’s stories beginning from their childhood through to their rise as healer and historian respectively. Quests, discoveries and love are the underlying themes that bind Al Bitar and Daniel’s voyages, which take place at emotional, physical, and spiritual levels, and are interesting to read. That said, the book suffers from plot lag and, most of all, from a somewhat choppy translation. There are beautifully written sentences, such as, “I had never seen my father like this before. His pure blue eyes were full of lightning storms. His quiet and soft voice was sharp like a sword.” and ““He smiled widely, leaving everyone with the mysterious impact of simplicity mixed with fear.”
Elegantly constructed sentences like these enhance the story considerably, but also make the reader more aware of their relative spareness in the book. The pacing, too, is sometimes uneven. While the story sweeps the reader into its folds initially, there is a tendency for the mind to begin wandering towards the latter half. Readers might also find it challenging to completely get into the story and be absorbed due to vague descriptions and the sometimes confusing intertwining of themes.
IBN AL BITAR’S VOYAGES is a fairly good read that does not quite reach the potential that it promises in the beginning.
~Swati Nair for IndieReader