Book Review: ‘Silk and Steel’ by Stephen Alter

An Epic Tale of Power and Betrayal in Historical India

Book Title: Silk and Steel: A Novel
Author: Stephen Alter
Publisher: Aleph Book Company
Number of Pages: 352
ISBN: 978-8119635047
Date Published: Jan. 5, 2024
Price: INR 374

Silk and Steel by Stephen Alter Book Cover

Book Review

Stephen Alter’s “Silk and Steel” takes readers on an exciting voyage back to India two centuries ago, between the decline of the Moghul kings and the rise of British dominance. Alter expertly weaves a narrative of intrigue, adventure, and war against the backdrop of historical change. Set against the background of a society in upheaval, “Silk and Steel” is a story filled with internal conflict, shifting allegiances, and cultural clashes. Alter’s vivid writing brings to life a diverse cast of individuals as they deal with the complications of power, loyalty, and desire.

Beyond the veneer of action and adventure, “Silk and Steel” explores deeper themes of identity, love, and treachery. Alter investigates the subtle workings of human nature in the midst of historical upheaval through the mercenary band commanded by renegade Englishman James Webley and Colonel Augustine. As they travel across the turbulent geography of north India, readers are lured into a world where silk and steel meet, alliances alter, and loyalties are tested. Alter’s personal knowledge of India, as well as his storytelling prowess, bring this richly detailed story to life, providing readers with an engrossing peek into a watershed moment in Indian history.

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Stephen Alter’s “Silk and Steel” explores the forces that determine destiny and the decisions that define individuals in India. Alter’s story delves into the darker aspects of human nature, such as Augustine’s complex connection with Webley and his struggles with identity and purpose. The novel serves as a moving meditation on the fragility of power and the repercussions of unrestrained ambition. Alter’s evocative descriptions and unvarnished depictions of devastation create a vivid vision of a country on the verge of instability, where violence and ruin lie just beneath the surface.

Despite its occasional cruelty and gore, “Silk and Steel” exemplifies Alter’s storytelling abilities. Through his excellent words and piercing vision, he urges readers to confront the complexity of history and human nature, leaving them with a better knowledge of the forces shaping our world.

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