As per Tibetan mysticism, beyul are hidden valleys that are sacred and form some kind of gateway between the mortal world and the world of spirits. The canyon of souls is supposed to be one such beyul and the protagonists seek to undertake an arduous journey through the Himalayas to this place where no human has ever set feet before. An interesting premise that could shape up into a fantasy, a travel adventure or even a spiritual journey of self discovery if the author were Paulo Coelho!
The story is narrated in first person by the main character Tim Overleigh. It starts off with Tim stuck in a cave with a broken leg lying there waiting to die. Possibly a metaphorical reference to the present state of his life! A broken man, who has lost his wife, his artistic capabilities and the will to live! He blames himself for his wife’s death and wallows in self defeat and is going down a destructive spiral, finding succor in alcohol. The sudden appearance of an old acquaintance Andrew with an interesting proposition offers him a chance to emerge out of his psychological cave as he emerged out of the physical cave in the starting chapter.
He meets five other strangers who have been similarly summoned by Andrew to undertake this conquest of the conquest of demons of nature in order to quell their internal demons. The story follows their journey through the Himalayan ranges in Nepal passing through places with exotic sounding names such as Valley of Walls, Stairway to Heaven and Hall of Mirrors. However, only the names of the places sound fascinating. The general tone of the overall narrative has a darker tone. The journey is plagues by misfortunes – pilferages, injury and death. The story finally culminates in a totally unexpected climax or you might call it an anti-climax depending on how you look at it.
The best part of the narrative is its richness. It is loaded with appropriately chosen similes and metaphors. The author has taken great pains to take the reader into Tim’s shoes. The reader almost can visualize everything Tim is seeing and feel what he is feeling. In the natural way, our mind drifts towards the incidents in our past at times, Tim’s mind drifts towards his past suddenly at times during the journey. I found that a pretty interesting way to unravel Tim’s past story of his relationship with his wife, his feelings for her, why she left him and how she met with her death. This also serves the purpose of providing relief from the narrations of the journey.
The pace of the story is excellent. There is not a dull moment. It is the kind of book one can easily finish in a single sitting. Talking of characterization, the main character Tim Oberliegh has been etched out really well. The reader gets to associate intimately with him and deeply empathize with him. However the other characters are at best skeletal like the faceless soldiers Tim sculpts for the war memorial. The author has of course tried to give Andrew a kind of omnipotent aura, Chad a bit of juvenile immaturity, Petras a mature confidence and Shotsky some naiveté. But I felt there was scope to have developed these characters further.
I am sure the readers who like twists in the tale will enjoy the ending. But I personally felt a bit let down. As per me, the ending lacked strong logical base. But possibly in these kinds of novels, one should suspend logic and just enjoy the thrills. After all who goes to an amusement park for logic!
Let me add a word of caution as I conclude. The title and synopsis is a bit a deceptive. There is hardly any mystic element in the book except for the occasional appearance of Tim’s wife’s ghost and the general mention of the concept of beul. Though the protagonist regularly shares what is happening inside his head with the reader, I would say the psychological aspect is at best shallow. Also the name Canyon of Souls and Himalayas seem to suggest poetic or philosophical associations. I would warn the reader against harboring any such expectations. This is just a light thriller and a reader with the right expectation is sure to find the reading of this book an immensely enjoyable experience.
I have written this for the website bookchums. I have reproduced the article on my blog with their permission. You can find the original article here.