When a book is part of a series, there is an inadvertent comparison to the book that precedes it. There is a basic expectation that the book will be at least as good as if not better than that preceding book. I was absolutely impressed by the first book titled ‘The Winds of Hastinapur’ in this series authored by Sharath Komarraju. It was because that it wasn’t a retelling of the Mahabharata, but a part of it from the point of view of two women in the epic. That was the USP of the book, and this second book continues that as well.
‘The Rise of Hastinapur’ brings the story of three of the queens in the story – Amba, who was won by Bhishma Devavrata, but freed when she spoke of her love for another king, whose child brings about the fall of Bhishma in the end; Gandhari, the queen of Gandhar, who later marries the blind Dritarashtra; and Kunti, who does whatever she can to free her brother Vasudev and his wife Devaki.
Like the first book, this sequel too brings aspects to the characters that are not as they were in the original epic. And also brings to light some characters that I hadn’t heard of before. But these aspects work; it doesn’t turn me away from the reading, and in fact adds to the depth of the character sketch. To bring the events as we know it and from the point of view of some who aren’t that prominently featured earlier, or talked of, that is what makes the book interesting, and for doing that, the freedom that Sharath takes to change parts of the characters is acceptable. These small changes are thought provoking. What makes the genre of fantasy/mythology work best is the narration, which has to be magical. The narration was engaging, yes, but on some level, it felt a few notches lesser than that of the earlier book. The division of the book into three sub-novellas was nice, and each stands on its own. From the three stories, I liked the tale of Amba, and her quest for revenge the best. It was done justice. But the best part of the novel overall is the ending, which makes me anticipate the next book.
‘The Winds of Hastinapur’ had a cover that felt bland, and seeing an image online, I’d felt that this cover was kind of similar, but holding it in my hand, it feels apt – a very royal cover art, and a very powerful one, one that a friend described as fierce. The novel can be read without reading the first book, but I feel it works better if the reader has read the first book. I’d rate it a little lower than what I had given the first book, but it’s well written nonetheless. A book worth reading for a mythology lover, if kept in mind that it is not a like-for-like retelling of the original epic.
|Title: The Rise of Hastinapur|
|Author(s): Sharath Komarraju||Genre: Mythology|
|ISBN/ASIN: 9789351773764||Publisher: Harper Collins|
(© 21st January 2016)