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A Christian Science Monitor Best Fiction Book of the Year
A Guardian Best Book of the Year
A San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year
The stunningly vibrant final novel in the bestselling Ibis Trilogy
It is 1839 and China has embargoed the trade of opium, yet too much is at stake in the lucrative business and the British Foreign Secretary has ordered the colonial government in India to assemble an expeditionary force for an attack to reinstate the trade. Among those consigned is Kesri Singh, a soldier in the army of the East India Company. He makes his way eastward on the Hind, a transport ship that will carry him from Bengal to Hong Kong.
Along the way, many characters from the Ibis Trilogy come aboard, including Zachary Reid, a young American speculator in opium futures, and Shireen, the widow of an opium merchant whose mysterious death in China has compelled her to seek out his lost son. The Hind docks in Hong Kong just as war breaks out and opium is “pouring into the market like monsoon flood.” From Bombay to Calcutta, from naval engagements to the decks of a hospital ship, among embezzlement, profiteering, and espionage, Amitav Ghosh’s Flood of Fire charts a breathless course through the culminating moment of the British opium trade and vexed colonial history.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Flood of Fire is the third and final book in the Ibis Trilogy by Amitav Ghosh. Where readers of River of Smoke may have wondered what happened to the major players in Sea of Poppies, those questions are answered by Flood of Fire. Characters from both previous books reappear, along with new characters. Neel continues his account of events, much of it in the form of a journal. Zachary Reid has a narrative role, as do Kesri Singh, older brother of Deeti, and Shireen Moddie, widow of Bahram. Well into the tale, the voice of a young boy, Raju, is added. While a newly exonerated but penniless Zachary tries to put his life back together, Neel uses his linguistic talents to help the Chinese war effort. Kesri heads a team of sepoys who form part of the fighting force on the English side, and Shireen heads to Canton in an attempt to gain compensation for Bahram’s lost opium cargo. Once again, the Ibis seems to draw the characters to her. As the Ibis, Anahita and Hind converge on the Pearl River Delta, many of the characters from Sea of Poppies and River of Smoke find themselves in close quarters. Against a background of the battles of the First Opium War, Ghosh demonstrates the depth of research done (which he attributes to his ancestor) in the detail he provides on a multitude of topics: the composition of fighting forces involved in the wars, what comprised their uniforms, the important role of the army followers, the restrictions on travel into Canton, the power of translators, Victorian sex therapy, futures trading in the nineteenth century, and, of course, the Opium Wars. He includes a wealth of information in easily digestible form by weaving the facts into an absorbing tale full of interesting characters. Ghosh also gives the reader plenty of humour: he subjects poor Zachary to all kinds of indignities and gives the reader plenty of laughs at his expense. Who knew there were so many euphemisms for sexual terms in Victorian times? Double entendre and innuendo abound. Reunions, too, are plentiful, some less friendly than others. There are dramatic battles, more than a few deaths, a marriage proposal, quite a bit of impersonation, some secret assignations, and an act of piracy. Characters develop, but not all for the better. In his Epilogue, Ghosh explains that the story could continue, but having spent ten years on the trilogy thus far, and unwilling to abbreviate the tale as would not do it justice, he leaves it with, what no doubt many readers will feel, much unsaid. The final moments of the main story hold a delightful twist that will have many readers laughing out loud. At over six hundred pages, this may be a brick, but it is a brilliant read. With thanks to The Reading Room and Hachette for this copy to read and review.
This is a wonderful conclusion to the story of the ibis. It is important in understanding our current opioid addiction and the malicious power of colonialism