Mythology, and fantasy based on mythological characters are genres that are quite popular in Indian Writing in English of late. Though I’ve read many authors attempting the former, very few have really made an impression. Devdutt Pattanaik has been one. Anuja Chandramouli is another author whose works I have liked reading. She was attempting mythology from usually unseen perspectives, like Arjuna or Kamadeva. I wondered how she’d handle the change from the former to the latter. Yama’s Lieutenant is a fantasy novel, with mythical elements.
The novel begins by introducing us to siblings Varuna and Agni. Their love for each other can be seen easily. They discuss about death as they go about burying their dead goldfish, ending with a promise that neither will die and leave the other alone. But as is life, Varuna dies and this leaves Agni broken. Later, he meets a goddess who informs him about the evil that has broken free from the hells of Yama, and threatening to destroy the three worlds. Agni is asked to help stop that before it is too late. Only partially convinced, Agni accepts the mission. On another front, Agni peruses a manuscript that Varu had left behind. It bears similarities to what begins to happen. Can that help him in his quest?
The premise of this book is very interesting. That was what made me pick up the book in the first place. Anuja also sticks to her strengths, the points which I’ve noticed in her previous works. She keeps the narration in a simple language, and brings in those mythological characters that aren’t that known. She makes the Gods and Goddesses seem almost human. The character of Agni, the prominent character of the book, is well sketched. His emotions can be easily imagined by the reader, be it the despair he feels after Varu’s death, or the motivation for his mission. Fantasy fiction is a genre that needs creativity. This novel has that. This genre needed knowledge of mythology. The author’s prior experience reflects in the story, and also leaves one with some quotes to remember.
The novel, however, lacks pace. The author’s previous novels had managed to keep me engaged, even with a lot of research being prominent. I couldn’t find that charm factor in this novel. To remember the names of the characters that come in was tedious. A glossary at the start would have been good. Another wow factor that was missing in this was the cover art.
I admire the author’s attempt to move into a similar yet different genre. And it mostly works. Yet that lack of pace, and charm factor, is something I couldn’t get past. It made me take longer than I expected to finish reading. I will try reading it again, maybe the novel is one that may seem better the second time. Yama’s Lieutenant is a book that I feel is worth reading for its plot/premise.
|Title: Yama’s Lieutenant|
Random House India
(© Vinay Leo R. @ A Bookworm’s Musing
28th September 2016)