Yama’s Lieutenant – Anuja Chandramouli – Book Review


YamasLieutenant

Goodreads blurb: The inhabitants of the thousand hells of Yama have broken free from their prison and vowed to wreak havoc on the heavens, the earth and hell. With the fiendish Hatakas and Narakamayas teamed up with Naganara, a terrifying necromancer hungry for power, the universe is headed for war and destruction unless one human has something to do with it.

Agni Prakash, a debonair young man whose world has been turned upside down by the death of his twin sister, Varu, has been enlisted to stop these forces and be Yama s very own lieutenant. As the mythical world clashes with his own, Agni discovers a manuscript left behind by his sister. Hauntingly, it draws parallels to the treacherous path upon which he has been thrust. Equipped with an acerbic wit and winning charm, Agni undertakes a battle, where the odds seem tipped wildly against him, and finds unlikely companions along the way.

Will he be able to uncover the secret behind his sister’s writings? And more importantly, will he be able to avert the destruction that seems imminent?

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Most regular readers of my blog would know that I am a huge fan of mythology and Anuja Chandramouli remains one of my favorite authors in this particular genre. You can read my reviews of her books Kamadeva: The God of Desire here [Link to review] and Shakti: The Divine Feminine [Link to review] to know how much I like her style of writing and way of interpreting mythological tales with a modern and contemporary point of view. It therefore was a no-brainer that I would then pick up her latest mytho-fiction book Yama’s Lieutenant and read and review the same on this blog.

This book marks a distinct departure from the other books she has penned in terms of the genre itself. While all her earlier books were her take on tales from Indian mythology and their characters, this one falls squarely in the fiction genre, or the mytho-fiction genre as I’d like to call it, given that it straddles mythological themes with good old fashioned fantasy fiction. As the blurb states Agni Prakash is the only person who can prevent the imminent destruction of the world as we know it today. An unwitting recruit to be ‘Yama’s lieutenant’, Agni was looking for a way where he could productively channelize his anger against evil and thus overcome the tragic loss of his twin sister Varu, and this mission of his proves to be just what the doctor ordered for his anger management issues.

What starts off as a personal crusade for Agni soon ends up being a relatively more critical mission on the basis of which the fate of the entire world would rest upon. Whether Agni is able to deliver on the mission, does he manage to prevent large scale destruction, will he be able to hold the forces of evil at bay form the crux of the narrative.

What I really liked about the book was the fact that the character of Agni was fleshed out very well. His back story, his motivations, the justification for his anger and subsequent actions, all of these have been highlighted very well by the author in the course of his adventures. Why he does what he does, and how he does them, are quite well justified with nary a loose end in this aspect.

Another part of the narrative I quite liked was the use of a parallel manuscript penned by Agni’s twin Varu to keep the action moving forward. While I did find it somewhat irritating at times, the main reason behind its use comes to the fore only during the last few pages of the book. In fact its usage to delivery the final twist in the tale is something that I didn’t quite see coming despite the large red herring right at the beginning of the story.

What however was a little bit of a dampener for me was the excessive usage of promiscuity in some parts of the book. Some unnecessary references to bodily parts and their daily functions could easily have been avoided by the author and they don’t add anything either to the narrative or to character development. The book would have been no less nice for their exclusion. Apart from this minor irritant, the book itself was quite lively and a relatively fast read as well.

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

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A review copy of this book was given to me by the author in return for an honest and unbiased review of the same.

Shakti: The Divine Feminine – Anuja Chandramouli – Book Review


ShaktiGoodreads blurb: Lose yourself in Maya, the divine game of the Goddess!

She is the Mother Goddess, Mahamaya the enchantress, the supreme consciousness, the pure source from which all creation emerges and to whom all must eventually return. As Usas, the enchanting goddess of the dawn, she is loved passionately and hated fiercely, leading to a horrific tragedy. As Durga, the invincible warrior, she defeats the savage Mahishasura, whom none of the male gods could vanquish. As Kali, the fearsome dark goddess, she delights in chaos. Yet she is also Shakti, beloved of all, who, when united with Shiva, restores balance to the universe.

In this captivating narrative, explore the contrasting facets of the sacred feminine; experience her awesome power, forged on the flames of love and hate; and watch her teach the male-dominated pantheon a lesson in compassion. Witty, engaging and thought-provoking, Shakti: The Feminine Divine will force readers to re-evaluate everything they know about the gods and goddesses and inspire all to embrace the Shakti within.

One of the few explorations of the story of the Mother Goddess, Shakti, retold in modern language, this book humanizes the gods

Witty and laced with sarcasm, it is a refreshing change from the heavy language of mythological texts

Draws analogies with the modern-day situation of women and contains a powerful message of woman empowerment.

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As was the case with her earlier novel Kamadeva: The God of Desire [Link to my review], author Anuja Chandramouli takes the story (or actually various stories) of Shakti, the mother goddess, adds her own uniquely interesting perspective to the same and retells them in quite a riveting manner in her book, Shakti: The Divine Feminine and man, does she deliver quite the mean punch with this book or what!!!

Starting off with the story of Usas, the goddess of dawn and how she is wronged due to the jealousies and insecurities of Sachi, Indra’s wife the book goes on to narrate the stories of the origins of Durga, the slaying of Mahishasura and Vritrasura, Karthikeya’s birth, a unique take on Ganesha’s origins, and more. One overarching theme throughout the book remains Shakti’s uniquely wonderful relationship with The Holy Trinity – Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. While one of these relationships ends up driving most of the action in the first half of the book (am not revealing which one as that would amount to a spoiler), the other two relationships end up delivering sanity to the otherwise volatile nature of Shakti. In a nutshell, these three relationships pretty much drive the book.

And of course, one simply cannot overlook the contributions of the main ‘antagonist’ to most of these stories, Indra, the king of gods. His contributions coupled with his wife Sachi’s interventions in the various stories make up for extremely interesting reading and it is quite clear that the author has used Indra more as a figurehead for all that is wrong with men and their attitudes to women nowadays rather than being honest to how he is portrayed in most traditional mythological retellings. While it did irk me quite a bit that Indra was painted with such dark hues almost throughout the book, how his character ends up by the time the book is finished somewhat redeems him.

Powerfully written, hard-hitting, the almost irreverent tone with which the book is written works really well in communicating the author’s well-articulated point of view about the plight of women in Indian society today which woefully remains largely patriarchal showing no substantial signs of improving anytime soon. Here’s hoping more men read and understand this book for what it truly is – a commentary of the times we live in today in India rather than just another mythological retelling of tales we probably already know.

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

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

Kamadeva: The God of Desire – Anuja Chandramouli – Book Review


Kamadeva_GodOfDesireGoodreads blurb: Kamadeva, the charming wielder of the sugarcane bow and the flower-tipped arrows, born out of the wellspring of Brahmas latent passion, has for long remained an enigma. This enthralling story of the God of Desire explores his many wondrous adventures, as well as his heady romance with Rati, his chief consort.

Best friends with Indra, the King of the Gods, tutor to the Apsaras in the art of lovemaking, Kamadeva lives a dream life in the magnificent Kingdom of Amaravathi – until danger strikes when he incurs the wrath of Shiva because of a preordained curse. Follow Kama as he hurtles towards his destiny and the Destroyers dreaded third eye. Find out if he will rise from the ashes to reign supreme as the King of Hearts or if he will be doomed to spend an eternity as Ananga – The bodiless one.

In Kamadeva – The God of Desire, the author masterfully marries imagination with stellar research to bring to vivid life one of the most intriguing Gods of the Hindu pantheon. Laced with wit and narrated in contemporary flavour, Kamadeva will take you on a rollicking ride into the heart of desire and its tantalizing dark side.

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With this book, the author Anuja Chandramouli uses an extremely irreverent and cheeky tone to tell us the tale of one of the most under-appreciated and oft misunderstood characters from Indian mythology, Kamadeva. Starting from the unique story of his birth and that of his consort Rati, to his persistent squabbles with his father Brahma on various issues, the first part of the book deals with how Kama eventually finds his way to Amaravathi, and goes on to become a very good friend of Indra, the King of Gods. Here, the author uses their friendship to narrate some of the stories involving Indra, his various expeditions into the realms of mortals and Asuras and how he manages to get himself into trouble more often than not. Anuja cleverly uses these stories to highlight how Indian mythology in general seems to favor the male chauvinistic attitude and tends to use its female characters are mere props or worse the instigators of all the troubles of the world.

As the narration progresses, Kama finds himself on a path hurtling towards his certain doom as pre-ordained by his father Brahma at the hands of Shiva, the Destroyer. What happens thereof forms the second part of the book and deals with the life of Pradyumna, the incarnation of Kama as the mortal son of Krishna. Pradyumna, the purpose of his birth, the love of his life Maya and his life with Krishna is detailed in a lovely narrative in this part of the book.

What this book does is that it brings to light some of the lesser known tales from Indian mythology, especially those involving Indra and his dalliances with lovely damsels from the Three Worlds. And given the mythology buff that I am, I truly enjoyed this book and for sure it has given me enough fodder for the mythology related posts on my blog.

What also endeared this book to me quite a bit was the fact that the author chose to treat the Gods almost on par with mere mortals and she has also successfully managed to try and bring out some of the motivations behind their actions, their deepest fears and desires; after all this is a book about the God of Desire and in hindsight it was but natural that she took this approach. The use of colloquial dialogues between the characters and the friendly banter that they share with each other was a refreshing change from the normal style in which mythological books are written. Yes, while purist readers of Indian mythology might have issues with the same, kudos to Anuja Chandramouli for having taken the brave decision to take this path and what’s more she seems to have succeeded wonderfully well given the warm reception that this book has received. She has more than successfully managed to ‘humanize’ the Gods mentioned in this book, and that to me, is quite an achievement of sorts.

So, what are you still waiting for? Go ahead and click on either of the following links to purchase the 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 an honest and unbiased review.