Jani and the Greater Game by Eric Brown – Review

By on August 2, 2014


ublisher’s Description: 

Jani and the Greater Game is the first book in a rip-roaring, spice-laden, steampunk action adventure series set in India and featuring a heroine who subverts all the norms…

It’s 1910 and the British rule the subcontinent with an iron fist and with strange technology fuelled by a power source known as Annapurnite discovered in the foothills of Mount Annapurna. But they rule at the constant cost of their enemies, mainly the Russians and the Chinese, attempting to learn the secret of this technology… This political confrontation is known as The Greater Game.
Into this conflict is pitched eighteen year old Janisha Chaterjee who discovers a strange device which leads her into the foothills of the Himalayas. When Russians spies and the evil priest Durja Das find out about the device, the chase is on to apprehend Janisha before she can reach the Himalayas. There she will learn the secret behind Annapurnite, and what she learns will change the destiny of the world for ever…

What I expected:  I expected a young adult adventure set in a steampunked India, including a mechanical elephant. Which sounded excellent, and I adored the cover, so I wanted to read it right away and didn’t even read the blurb first.

What I got:  I guess I got a young adult adventure set in a steampunked India, and it did include a mechanical elephant. Just because all of that is true does not mean that what I got was exactly what I expected.  The young adult part was hard to hold on to.  Jani left home at eight years old, and since her actual age is never given, I had to try and figure out how old she was.  She alternatively spent 5, 7 and 12 years away from home.  I think that at times these were referring to time spent in school but it just isn’t laid out well enough for the reader to figure out how old she really is and how much time she spent in England.  It is just as difficult to figure out how old her friend Anand is.  The elephant plays a very minor role, though it is definitely pretty on the cover.  The “steampunk” elements are also less than satisfying, as they don’t seem to be the fruits of wonderful scientific minds working out new and interesting ways to harness power and make it work for you but of an external source, which takes away some of the fun.

What I liked:  I liked that Jani enjoyed both of the cultures that formed her background and that, though this gave her much trouble from both peoples, she refused to be one or the other.

What I did not:  I did not like that Jani was supposed to be so clever and intelligent but did so many things that just were not clever, and never seemed to be suspicious of anyone or have any idea that the world is not always what it seems.  I did not like the side character POVs full of more people who are not nearly as intelligent as they should be and doing things out of character as they were described.  I was also a little annoyed by the use of what I suspect are Hindustani colloquialisms.  Since I’m not familiar with them, I have to assume that their use by Jani and her family and friends to be correct.  However, then the British used them as well.  I couldn’t tell whether it was done in mockery or was a poor bit of trying to fit in, or what.  It felt awkward to me but was probably just due to my unfamiliarity with the terms and their regular use.

My biggest issue with this story is it felt like two different books combined to make one.  Spoiler Alert – this paragraph has spoilers for the story so please do not read on if you do not want to know certain facts about the plot.  In one book we have the story of a girl in the wrong place at the wrong time and misadventure ensues.  In the other book we have an alien invasion that has been kept a secret for 50 years despite the 3,000+ people involved in the extraction of information from the alien craft and death; mayhem and riots ensue.  There is nothing wrong with either scenario, but they were not made to meld well together and made the book feel patched together.

Cover talk:  The cover is pretty!  It works, too, because that was the main reason I chose to read this book.  I snatched it up without even reading the blurb.

Recommendation:  I cannot personally recommend this title to steampunk and fantasy fans, but there must be people out there who might enjoy this story.  And it is quite possible that because I did not get what I expected that it colored my enjoyment of the story.

About amberdrake


Thank you, yes, it definitely had potential and the bones of the story were fine - I think it mostly needed another round of editing to smooth out those rough spots and aid the reader's suspension of belief.


This sounded like it had a lot of potential, but reading about your thoughts on the strikingly different storylines turns me off a bit, too. Whenever aliens are thrown into anything so unexpectedly I always feel like I'm watching a History channel documentary, and then I just can't take anything seriously. Loved your review, though. You're very clear on your thoughts. I enjoy that. :)