Whilst some may refer to Prashani Rambukwella’s novel as children’s fiction, I’d like to call it fantasy fiction. I say so because fantasy fiction (I’m thinking on the level of Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia here) is a genre that tends to blur the boundaries of age, appealing to young and adult readers alike. And her novel Mythil’s Secret does just that.
The story is about a little boy named Mythil who is in the midst of difficult times because his parents are facing financial hardships which are causing them to fight more and more. To add to these worries, he has begun to see yakas everywhere he goes and when this becomes known to his parents, Mythil feels that it is only straining their relationship further. So Mythil sets on a mission to find a way to put a stop to seeing yakas.
The novel is a feel good tale about the importance of courage, family and friendships. The story though fantastic is at the same time extremely down to earth- dealing sensitively and insightfully with the kind of impact marital issues can have on a child, in a way that both the young and the old can relate. All the characters, from the real to the fantastic, are drawn very well and from a child’s perspective without oversimplifying them. I found the portrayal of the Bahirwaya especially enjoyable.
The narrative is well rooted in Sri Lankan idiom and culture and is done so effortlessly and effectively. I especially liked how the writer has conjured the fantastical from typical Lankan folklore and mythology rather than sticking to the usual (“western”) reference palette of goblins and fairies.
Mythil’s Secret is proof that there can be such a genre as Sri Lankan Fantasy Fiction. It’s the sort of book you can read to your kids at night and find yourself equally arrested as they are whilst the story unfolds.
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE LEISURE TIMES MAGAZINE