The Bridge between Despair and Hope

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After an impatient wait of more than a month, I finally laid my hands on the third book of the Vikramaditya Veergatha series, ‘The Vengeance of Indra’. Curveballs of life again delayed my reading by a couple of weeks which was disappointing, to say the least. Having overcome some of the obstacles, I finally managed to finish the book earlier this week.

‘The Vengeance of Indra’ is slower compared to the pace set by the predecessors in the series. That doesn’t mean there isn’t any excitement or that there are dull moments. The excitement that this brings is in the build-up of what is to come in the final book of the series. I think the speed had to be curtailed because of the position of the story. It’s just like a battle – you take stock of the position you are in before drawing a hectic battle line again.

The interesting thing about this book is that most of the councilors of Vikramaditya are away from Ujjayini. This was necessitated by a lot of things and one would think with Ujjayini’s guard a little down, the devas and asuras would take the bull by its horns. There is a feeling of uneasiness, and quite naturally so. The devas and asuras continue to plot and there are quite a few natural outcomes to the way the story develops. There is this uneasiness among the allies as well and one really hopes the relationship stays taut.

What stands out in this book is human nature. Shatrujeet has continued to delve into the mind of the characters from where he left off in ‘The Conspiracy at Meru’. You have good vs. evil, attack vs. defense, confidence vs. confusion, honesty vs. treachery, betrayal vs. redemption all interwoven beautifully into the tale. This compensates for the lack of battle scenes, the kind of which we see in the first two books. It’s intriguing and engaging. In a sense, it’s a battle – of the minds. There is an air of impending danger at the conclusion – a harbinger of things to come.

I remembered a shloka apparently penned by the legendary Kalidasa, which I had first read some 20 years back. The shloka runs like this:

धन्वंतरीक्षपणकामरसिंहशंकु
वेतालभट्टघटकरपरकालिदास
ख्यातो वराहमिहिरो नृपतेः सभायां
रत्नानी वै वररुचिर्नव विक्रमस्य|

(In King Vikrama’s court there were the nine gems by the names of Dhanvantri, Kshapanaka, Amara Simha, Shanku, Vetal Bhatta, Ghatakarpara, Kalidasa, the renowned Varahamihira and Vararuchi).

Hope the nine gems and the Samrat remain intact at the conclusion of the series, their stories as immortal as the shloka.

I really can’t wait for the ‘The Wrath of the Hellfires’. It will be one hell of a read, methinks. I’m giving a rating of 4.5 on 5 for ‘The Vengeance of Indra’. The author deserves kudos for keeping the reader engaged throughout the series. It’s no mean feat considering the waning interest in mythology in India. Tales like these will not just add an imaginative dimension to mythology but also rekindle an interest in understanding the original mythology.

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A Bolt of Lightning

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If you have read my review of the first book of the Vikramaditya Veergatha series by Shatrujeet Nath, then you would know how much I loved it. Immediately after finishing ‘The Guardians of the Halahala’, I took up the second book of the series – ‘The Conspiracy at Meru’. To tell you the truth, this was like a bolt of lightning.

We are introduced to a lot more characters in this book. To the credit of the author as well as the story, none of the characters are excess to the requirements because each of them has a role to play. After the kind of battering that the humans received, one would think they are on the verge of losing out to the forces that are hell-bent on acquiring for themselves the potent weapon which Lord Shiva had asked Samrat Vikramaditya to guard. But the humans are resilient.

Before they know it, they are under attack again. This time also, the battle scenes are so full of imagery that I could visualize it in my mind’s eye. It gave me goosebumps. The description of the Vyalas, Ahi, and Yaksha are quite imaginative, I should say. You get to know a lot more about the characters – their thought processes, their convictions, their weaknesses. Vikramaditya’s unbridled love for his queen, the sub-plot involving Ghatakarpara and Aparupa and of course Kalidasa and his mysterious past all make for some edge-of-the-seat reading. The councilors continue to realize their potential which leaves a smile on your face.

When we have so much misogyny around us these days, it’s quite refreshing to see how the author has two powerful female characters in Kshapanaka and Shanku, both of whom find a place in the top 5 characters I love in the series. True to human nature, the Samrat has his detractors also. This is something that would have been accurate during those times when power was something that kings and princes chased fervently. These power struggles are similar to what we see today, but in those times, it definitely was in a different form and a different vein.

The way the book ends, it leaves you with no doubt that the future will not be without more struggles. All the more reason to know how the humans respond to what the devas and asuras will throw at them next. I’m giving ‘The Conspiracy at Meru’ a rating of 4.75 on 5 simply because of the pace at which the story moves.

A Revelation of a Book

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Mythology has deeply fascinated me since childhood. So has History and Geography. I adore fiction. Therefore, if someone were to hand me a book that is a combination of all these, I would devour it. There was one such series about which I hadn’t known until a chance talk with Vinay, a dear friend. Debdatta, another friend who I met last year, gifted me the first book of the series and Vinay gifted me the second one. However, life threw me enough curveballs that I couldn’t bring myself to read those books until the start of this year.

This is a review of the first book of the series. This was a revelation, I should say. Taking King Vikramaditya and his famed nine councilors and weaving that into a mytho-fiction with the devas and asuras in tow was a masterstroke. Once you get to know the many characters, this is a very fascinating tale moving at a nice pace. This being the first book of the series, it pays to have patience to read this meticulously.

If you knew God would hand over a potent weapon to a human king to guard it from the devas and asuras, your logical mind would fathom that it would have dire consequences and the humans would need everything in their armory to thwart the forces that are out there to covet it at any cost. This is why the characterization as well as the way the story progresses is exemplary. I found the portrayal of The Ashvins, the Maruts, Andhaka, Hellfires and Veeshada’s dagger really good – so good that the imagery stayed with me even after finishing the book. The author is blessed with an immense command of the language which is so essential to create the kind of imagery that the story evokes.

The other thing I liked is the subtlety with which the councilors realize their potential. I’m not going to add spoilers here because you have to read it to experience it. The chapter headings are short and crisp and the author has done a good job of creating manageable sub-plots which are equally intriguing as the main one.

I really enjoyed reading this and at the end of the book wished that I had read it much earlier. But then everything has its time, they say. Perhaps, my time for reading ‘The Guardians of the Halahala’, the first in the Vikramaditya Veergatha series by Shatrujeet Nath came at the right time. I would give this a rating of 4.5 on 5. This certainly is a must-read for a mythology as well as a mytho-fiction fan.