Goodreads blurb: The deadly Halahala, the all-devouring poison churned from the depths of the White Lake by the devas and asuras, was swallowed by Shiva to save the universe from extinction.
But was the Halahala truly destroyed? A small portion still remains – a weapon powerful enough to guarantee victory to whoever possesses it. And both asuras and devas, locked in battle for supremacy, will stop at nothing to claim it.
As the forces of Devaloka and Patala, led by Indra and Shukracharya, plot to possess the Halahala, Shiva turns to mankind to guard it from their murderous clutches. It is now up to Samrat Vikramaditya and his Council of Nine to quell the supernatural hordes – and prevent the universe from tumbling into chaos!
A sweeping tale of honor and courage in the face of infinite danger, greed and deceit, The Guardians of the Halahala is a fantastical journey into a time of myth and legend.
Very few authors have the ability to take mythological stories, characters and situations, imbibe them into plot narratives and make their plots convincing and interesting enough. And man, has Shatrujeet Nath succeeded in doing that with the first book in The Vikramaditya Trilogy, The Guardians of Halahala or what!!!
Regular readers of my blog will know my affinity and liking for Indian mythology, the epics and the numerous stories that this genre has to offer. In fact, on more than one occasion I have used this blog to write about Indian mythology and stories from the same. While I don’t consider myself an expert or anything even remotely close in this genre, the truth is that I have read more in this genre than the average reader has and therefore my exposure to the same is just that little more. And trust me when I say this, starting from the very premise that some of the Halahala escaped being swallowed by Shiva and linking it up to the famed ‘navaratnas’ in Vikramaditya’s court in Ujjayini, the author simply impressed me from the first page of this book itself.
How he has managed to re-imagine the concept of the nine councilors and their loyalty to the king, how he manages to imbibe elements of the debauchery and arrogance of Indra, how the guile of Shukracharya proves to be invaluable to the cause of the asuras at the end; all of these and more make up the first book of what promises to be a wonderful trilogy. I know I am lavishing quite a bit of praise and that too unconditionally, but trust me, this book deserves it and more.
As if the threats from the devas and the asuras trying to recover the Halahala for themselves wasn’t enough, the Hunas and Sakas hover dangerously close to the northwestern borders and the eastern borders are in war with the Magadhan princes taking a dangerously violent stance. Handling the action simultaneously happening in almost all parts of Sindhuvarta, the author keeps readers on their toes waiting to read about what happens next in almost all the pieces. And the fact that all the action in the book doesn’t come at the cost of character development means that the author is fully aware of his craft and knows how to successfully balance the narrative and character development by keeping both of them in good check throughout the book.
Here and there, the author also leaves behind some small hints of what is to come in terms of character development. For example, there is a brief mention about how the nine guardians themselves aren’t quite fully aware of the extent of their powers, and also, how and why the first book ends the way it does is also something that the author probably has left for the second book to explain. This suspense works well in terms of the fact that all readers of this book will be left thirsting for the second book in the series and will surely wait for it with bated breath. I will, for sure.
Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was offered to as part of the Reviewers Programme on The Tales Pensieve, probably India’s largest repository of book reviews written by Indian authors. However, the views above are completely my own and unbiased in any form or fashion.