About the author:
Ashok K. Banker is an internationally acclaimed author of mixed-race and mixed-cultural parentage based in Mumbai, India. He aims to retell all of the major myths, legends and itihasa of the Indian sub-continent in a span that will cover over seventy volumes.
My thoughts on the book:
The power of a story is not just in the plot, but in the narration as well. The ability of the author to hold the attention of the reader through the book with just his words to me tells a lot of the book itself. I found this book to be that sort of end-to-end brilliance. I usually associate that phrase end-to-end with thrillers, but this mythology masterpiece definitely merits it.
The first book in the “Mahabharata (MBA)” series, this book sets the tone for what is to come. This is Ved Vyasa’s epic retold and the characters built as they are. The language is poetic, as befits the great epic, and the author shows that he is not just a writer, but a raconteur, as his voice takes one into a trance. Narrated by a raconteur Ugrasrava Romarsana, son of Suta and hence named Sauti, we are taken right to the heart of Naimisha-van, to the hermitage of Kulapati Shaunaka and his many disciples as he does so.
What I liked:
From the get-go, you are drawn into the tale and its interest is such that you don’t stop till the end, or you have to. For a magical tale, a magical narration is needed. The book has that. Right when you are lost in the book and may have missed a line of thought, the narrator brings it back to your attention by a wise interruption and question from the learned sage Shaunaka. The imagination of Sauti, where he sees not just the people at the hermitage but also the many souls of those who were lost in the epic battle, is well-drawn. I was especially drawn to the tale of Jamadagneya Rama. The pause in narration happens at exactly the right places, and split as the Mahabharata epic is.
What I didn’t like:
I couldn’t fault much at all. If any, I found a misprint somewhere, but that isn’t at a place where you can notice it.
With the first book ending at a place where the birth of Ved Vyasa and his existence is shown, it sets the stage for the second book to continue. This is my favorite fiction of the year to date.
Title: The Forest of Stories
Series: Mahabharata Series (Book 01)
Author: Ashok K Banker
Genre: Mythological Fiction
Price: INR. 295
(March 25th, 2013)