Pradyumna – Son of Krishna – Usha Narayanan – Book Review


PradyumnaGoodreads blurb: ‘I see a dark future that makes me quake,’ Devarishi Narada said. ‘One of these newborns will ravage the world and erase the name of Krishna from the face of the earth.

As the world trembles on the threshold of Kali Yuga—4,32,000 years of unprecedented evil—it waits for a savior to rise.

Meanwhile, in the dark netherland of the asuras, the meek Vama shudders as he learns that he is actually Pradyumna, the son of Krishna. And that his journey has just begun.

From the asura kingdom to Dwaraka and then Kurukshetra, destiny forces him to battle monsters, angry gods and blazing weapons, and overpower his own weaknesses. Will he be able to rise to the challenge in time to save the world? Or is he the destroyer prophesied by Narada?

Pradyumna is the gripping saga of the rise of this mighty, swashbuckling hero whom all of humanity awaits.

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Given my interest in mythology and its various retellings it must not come as a surprise to regular readers of my blog that I picked up this book and ended up reading and reviewing it. And true to its pre and post release hype around Pradyumna – Son of Krishna by Usha Narayanan, the book is quite well plotted and narrated. Relying mostly on relatively authentic sources from the original Sanskrit texts, this book, the first in a series narrates the events around the birth of Pradyumna, his separation from his parents, his subsequent reunion with them after fulfilling a part of the prophecy surrounding his birth and the events that occur thereafter.

What I liked the most about this book was the fact that the author does not take too much liberty from the original Sanskrit texts from where the core material has been sourced. Yes, while a few liberties might have been taken in terms of the sequencing of events and ‘shading’ the characters in various hues of ‘grey’, it is quite clear that by and large the book stays close to its original mythological roots.

While the first half of the book deals with the story behind Kama’s incarnation as Pradyumna, his birth as a mortal on earth, his separation from his parents Krishna and Rukmini, his teenage years as Vama and his subsequent fulfillment of a prophecy, the second half takes a more serious turn and focuses more on Pradyumna’s heroic exploits on the battlefield fighting away various enemies, battling monsters, and helping out people in distress.

Never too far away from his bete noire, Pradyumna’s brother, Samba, Krishna’s son from Jambavati follows his brother’s exploits closely, all the while seething in anger and looking for some way or the other not only to outdo him but even kill him. Samba’s character is like an overpowering presence on almost the entire proceedings of the second half of the book and readers cannot help but wonder how and what he will do next. In fact I will stick my neck out and make a prediction that Samba will have a more prominent and decisive role to play in the proceedings of the second book in this series.

The only grouse I had with the book were the last few chapters where Pradyumna decides not to participate in the greatest battle of his era, the Kurukshetra war and instead goes on to battle Vajranabha. While this may very well be how things unfolded in the original Sanskrit texts, this last portion of the book felt a little contrived to me and would probably have been better off as the beginning of Book Two of the series. But then, I am guessing the author knew perfectly well what she was doing and chose to slot this episode at the end of Book One.

This grouse aside I will surely pick up the second book in the series, if not for anything else, to enjoy the saga of this wonderful but overlooked character from Indian mythology and the sheer easygoing way in which the author has narrated his story to us.

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The Curse of Surya – Dev Prasad – Book Review


TheCurseOfSuryaGoodreads blurb: Sangeeta Rao, a beautiful, feisty reporter at Channel 7 TV in Singapore, rushes to Agra on a special assignment after an early-morning phone call. At the Taj Mahal, she meets Alan Davies, a charming Welshman. But a terrorist attack on Mathura’s renowned Krishna temple turns them into fugitives from justice and the duo must decipher a series of complex cryptographs and unearth the illustrious Shyamantaka that belonged to Surya, the Sun God, to prove their innocence. Joined in their quest by an elderly Frenchman, Anton Blanchard, the duo race against time in helicopters, motor boats and yachts. In hot pursuit are the brilliant and daring SP Nisha Sharma and the most ruthless terrorist organizations. Before she realizes it, Sangeeta is trapped in a world of betrayal, deceit and horror. Fast-paced and gripping, The Curse of Surya will keep you hooked and on the edge of your seat while you unravel one of the biggest mysteries in 5000 years.

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Cliches are good, in the sense that they can be used by authors to help readers easily understand that point they are trying to make. But resorting to clichés in each and every page of your book; not such a great idea. And that precisely is the problem that The Curse of Surya by Dev Prasad suffers from. Overuse of clichés, and a reliance on too many coincidences to keep the plot moving forward.

While the premise of the narrative is interesting – that of the famed Syamantaka gem and its story (on which I have written an entire series of blog posts, read the first one here), the treatment meted out by the author to how the story moves is where it is a big letdown. For regular readers who have read the likes of Dan Brown, Matthew Reilly or for that matter our very own Ravi Subramanian, and are familiar with how the ‘thriller’ genre of books work, this book is a ‘cop out’, for lack of a better term to use.

I mean, how else would you explain the usage of the following clichés (and even some technologically impossible things) – love at first sight by an otherwise seemingly smart reporter, mobile phone signals and GPS signals working perfectly well in high seas, GPS signals working fine underwater, voice enabled radio communication within scuba diving suits, convenient use of ‘red herrings’ throughout the book and finally ending with the worst cliché of all, that of the protagonist finally finding the true love that she didn’t even know she had been searching for.

While this book is a brave and even a competent attempt by the author to marry fiction with mythology, it suffers due to the lack of a proper editorial process. I fully lay the blame for the shoddy end product that this book ends up being on the editorial team in charge of finalizing the manuscript and putting it out there on the book shelves.

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A review copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers in return for a honest and unbiased review of the same.

Children, Women, Men – Sundara Ramaswamy – Book Review


ChildrenWomenMenGoodreads blurb: This intricately woven narrative is one of the landmark novels of Indian modernism.

This ambitious novel, teeming with characters, focuses on the family of Srinivasa Aiyar or SRS, who moves from his ancestral house in Alapuzhai in Kerala, to the more modern Kottayam, before returning to his wife Lakshmi’s home in Nagercoil in Tamil Nadu. Set in the late 1930s and reflecting the political and social turmoil of the pre-war years, it chronicles the psychological conflict between SRS and his nine-year-old son, Balu; the moral struggle of a young widow, Anandam, as she considers remarriage; and the political journey of Sridaran, who chooses to break off his studies in England in order to join nationalist activities at home.

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I am not a big fan of poetry per se. Not that I have anything against verse, it’s just that I don’t quite get it, that’s all. But when I finished reading Children, Women, Men by Sundara Ramaswamy I somehow ended up feeling that I had just finished reading a poem. Yes, the story of Srinivasa Aiyar (SRS) and his family set in rural Tamil Nadu/Kerala of the 1930s is nothing short of lyrical or poetic in the way it has been woven and narrated.

Very few authors have the innate ability to bring to life in front of readers’ eyes places, events, characters and their stories from a different time period. And that too when the time period involved is completely different from what readers are accustomed to, the author has to walk a fine tightrope between devoting too much time and words to the settings and the characters and the narrative itself. And this precisely is where Su Raa (as the author is called in Tamil Nadu) excels. The narrative, its setting, the characters and the overall feel of the book is so universal in its nature that not for one moment did I feel out of place at all.

Another area where the book scores really high would be on the ‘universality’ of its theme. In fact, as the famous saying goes the more things change, the more they remain the same and this statement rings so true to me after having read this book. Themes such as the rigidity of a patriarchal society, the lack of empowerment of women and widows, youngsters and teenagers coming of age and trying to break firmly held beliefs and status quo in society, parents struggling to bring up their children appropriately, children being scared of their strict disciplinarian parents, are adroitly dealt with in this book. And true to its name, the narrative follows the sequence of children, women and men in its points of view.

While the book itself reads like a television serial in terms of the fact that there is no single overarching narrative arc to it, and is more like a collection of episodes from the lives of the various characters, it works really well in this book primarily due to the fact that each of the characters have been dealt with in a relatively detailed manner, with none of them being short-changed. Equal importance has been given even to minor characters and their traits and motivations and actions which keep the narrative moving are clear and unambiguous throughout the book.

A must read for anybody who enjoys a grand narrative which is very strongly grounded in the reality of the day and deals with human emotions in an extremely mellow and sensitive manner.

Click here to purchase the book from Flipkart [Link] or Amazon [Link].

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Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was offered to me by the publisher in return for a honest and unbiased review.

The Scatter Here Is Too Great – Bilal Tanweer – Book Review


TheScatterHereIsTooGreatGoodreads blurb: A vivid and intricate novel-in-stories, The Scatter Here Is Too Great explores the complicated lives of ordinary people whose fates unexpectedly converge after a deadly bomb blast at the Karachi train station: an old communist poet; his wealthy, middle-aged son; a young man caught in an unpleasant, dead-end job; a girl who spins engaging tales to conceal her heartbreak; and a grief-stricken writer, who struggles to make sense of this devastating tragedy.

Bilal Tanweer reveals the pain, loneliness, and longing of these characters and celebrates the power of the written word to heal lives and communities plagued by violence. Elegantly weaving together different voices into a striking portrait of a city and its people, The Scatter Here Is Too Great is a tale as vibrant and varied in its characters, passions, and idiosyncrasies as the city itself.

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In this extremely unconventional book, the author Bilal Tanweer takes up the theme of belonging (or more like ‘not belonging’) of the characters to the city of Karachi. Using multiple points of view, he weaves various threads together to form a multi-colored tapestry of the city of Karachi, using the bomb blast at the Cantt Station as the pivotal event around which the narratives revolve around.

Well, if the above paragraph was confusing, I don’t blame you too much as the narrative itself is intended to be quite so; extremely unconventional, not following norms of the usual structured narrative arc that most novels follow, The Scatter Here Is Too Great is a book to be enjoyed and relished like no other. It makes you think like no other book can with its characters constantly looking inwards, into mirrors of their own personalities, their innermost desires, their worst fears, their motivations, etc.

The various stories of the characters range from estranged children to teenage love to defeated communists trying to make peace with their life-choices.

One common theme though which resonates through the book is the lament for the simpler times gone by and the gradual descent of the city of Karachi into one which none of the protagonists seem to recognize as the one from their childhood memories. And through these characters, the author seems to have highlighted his own longing for simpler times, and the city of Karachi from his memories which still resonates deeply within him.

Click here to purchase this book from Flipkart [Link] or Amazon [Link].

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Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers in return for a honest and unbiased review.

Warrior – Olivier Lafont – Book Review


Warrior_OlivierLafontGoodreads blurb: In Mumbai, driven to its knees by a merciless blizzard, Saam the watchmender is cornered into an intolerable position. As Shiva’s only earthly demigod child, it falls upon him to stop his indomitable father. Bred to war, son of destruction, Saam rides with six extraordinary companions into the horror of a crumbling world to face Shiva.

He is forced to join hands with Ara, his half-brother he can never fully trust and take with him his own mortal beloved, Maya, on this desperate attempt to stop the End of Days. But his path is littered with death, danger and betrayal.

Interweaving mythology, epic adventure and vintage heroism, this enthralling novel will change the way you see gods, heroes and demons.

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If you are looking for a classic ‘good vs evil’ adventure where the protagonists are racing against time, trying to save the world overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds, with formidable antagonists doing everything possible to prevent them from doing so, look no further, Warrior has all of these elements and more. And what is better is that it is a roller coaster ride from the very first line of the book itself.

Saam, son of The Destroyer, is going about his normal life as a watchmender in Bombay when the prophesied End of Days begins unraveling itself and he soon realizes that he has only three days and the fate of the entire world rests on his ability to meet his father, and figure out a solution to the problem. What makes things worse is that this phenomenon also seems to have emboldened all the other semi-mortals living within us and most of them seem to have picked the wrong team to side with.

Saam then sets off on a journey with his band of seven companions and has to travel almost the entire northern parts of India including Varanasi, Rajasthan and even other worldly realms to find a solution to the problem at hand and the group has more than its share of adventures on the way.

Do Saam and his ragtag team of companions find what they are looking for, and more importantly does Saam personally have what it takes to save the world from an imminent end is what makes up for the crux of the narrative.

What I personally really loved about the book was its pacing. Not for one moment are readers allowed to put down the book and relax, the action and the narrative are so well paced that the pages turn themselves automatically at a reasonably quick pace. Even the flashbacks into Saam’s past and the history of the phenomenon itself are so crisply presented in small little chapters which are interspersed with the frenetic action that the reader easily immerses himself in the action of the book with great gusto.

Using concepts and characters from Indian mythology liberally, the author belies the fact that he is European (at least by name) and his love and respect for the same comes through very clearly. That being said, Indian mythology is at best a crutch and a canvas which the author uses to paint his narrative of the classic ‘good vs evil’ story on, and to his credit, it must be said that he uses it extremely effectively and creatively.

All descriptions of the action sequences are lovely enough that readers can easily visualize the action happening on the pages in their minds’ eyes very clearly, and that to me, speaks volumes of the ability of the author to paint a narrative picture beautifully well using nothing but just words.

In a nutshell, this book is a sure-shot read for all aficionados of a good yarn, well spun with enough spice and action in it to make for an unputdownable book. Click on the links following to purchase the book from Flipkart [Link] or Amazon [Link].

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Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was arranged for by the author’s publicist in return for an unbiased review.