The Phoenix by Bilal Siddiqi is a fast-paced, action-packed spy-thriller that follows an ex-intelligence officer Aryaman Khanna who spends seven years behind bars after an unsanctioned operation by his team, Phoenix 5 division goes south. Upon the completion of his sentence, he looks forward to reuniting and mending broken fences with his wife and teenage son. But things take an ugly turn when his journalist wife, Jyoti is attacked for following up on a dangerous story wherein the development of biological warfare puts the entire nation at risk. Fueled by vengeance and patriotism, Aryaman Khanna is determined to foil the plans that are set to be in motion on the anniversary of the 26/11 attack in Mumbai.
This is my first read by Bilal Siddiqi but I have heard raving reviews of his popular thriller The Bard of Blood. This book does not fail to live up to Siddiqi’s reputation. From the plot to the twists, the book kept me hooked on all aspects. The narrative structure The Phoenix follows has a strong Bollywood undertone to it. Bilal Siddiqi has a quality to his writing that evokes the desired reaction to perfectly timed revelations. His plot is a mix of standard character motivations mixed with the unpredictability that runs the story, keeping me at the edge of my seat. The only aspects that I feel could’ve been explored a little more are character development and dynamics that fell a wee bit short for me. I wasn’t able to form an emotional connection to them, and they fell in the same line for a similar personality, and lack of strong depth that shaped their actions, especially from characters that were Aryaman’s family.
But besides that, The Phoenix is a highly satisfying read that can be read in one go. Its strong plot never once takes a dip as stakes only get higher and higher as we progress. And the ending leaves an open possibility for more (hopefully!).
Special thanks to Penguin India and Bilal Siddiqi for giving the opportunity to read and review this.
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