After finishing The Immortals of Meluha and ending with a cliffhanger, I was quite excited to begin this book and to my happiness, this book picks up right where the last book left off. For those who haven’t read my previous The Immortals of Meluha review, The Secret of the Nagas is the second installment in the trilogy that deals with the mythological Hindu God Shiva. The trilogy imagines Shiva and his fellow God companions as humans and assumes that they became Gods through their actions as humans. The previous book introduced us to the immortal Meluhans, along with Shiva. And this book, like the title says, introduces us to the Naga’s and their secret(s). However, we don’t just meet the Nagas in this book. In fact, we’re introduced to a lot of other places in the Chandravanshi empire as well.
To be completely honest, I’m not quite sure how to begin or even write this review. I don’t want to give away too much of the plot because a lot happens and I’d like readers to be surprised as they read. But on the other hand, I like writing out the story because I find it to be interesting to recap. So my solution for now, is to write the review but attempt to be a little more vague than usual and hence I apologize if the review below is kinda choppy.
Anyways, as I mentioned earlier, this book picks up right where the other book left off. It then moves onto Shiva taking a tour of the Chandravanshi Empire. He comes to the city of Kashi, a sort of haven. Basically, according to the book, Kashi functions as this very non-violent, open, accepting place where refugees from any place (even cast off Meluhans were inhabiting Kashi before the two Empires united through Shiva’s victory) could live. Shiva, of course, is extremely drawn to this place. However, Kashi’s peace is upset by the actions of Brangas, people from Branga who left their homeland to live in Kashi. The Brangas are thought to be this dark, weird race of people who commit horrible things and purposefully instigate fights with others. For example, as Kashi is a peaceful city accepting everyone, everyone is treated equally. However, the Brangas demanded that they be allowed to be build their own colony in which only Brangas are allowed, aka pursue discriminatory behaviour. They are aided in their demands by the great wealth they possess — in a strange twist, the Branga King willingly funds the Brangas living in Kashi and as Branga is an extremely rich country, the displaced Brangas in Kashi are able to access large amounts of money. Of course this money also causes them to receive ire from others groups living in Kashi. In reality, it turns out that the Brangas aren’t necessarily the weird, dark, twisted group of people that most people assume they are. In actuality, the Brangas are actually cursed with a disease (?) and only dark, twisted actions provide some relief from the curse, along with a medicine. This strange medicine is actually one of the key mysteries throughout the novel, as it can only be taken from a certain tree and supposedly has a shelf-life of 24 hrs. However, through the Branga conflict, it is discovered that someone actually figured out a way to make the medicine last longer than 24 hrs and be kept in facilities away from where the tree grows.
Coming back to Shiva, he doesn’t really involve himself in this conflict until one of his friends gets directly involved and injured. It is only then that he starts paying greater attention to it. In another twist, the medicine is allegedly linked to the Nagas and therefore comes to create even more suspicion regarding the Nagas in Shiva’s mind. Those who’ve read the previous book probably already know, but for those new to the series, the Nagas are a mysterious deformed race who are considered to be horrible people. Shiva has fought a few of them and comes to easily dislike them and the medicine and Branga curse just fosters more dislike for them.
However, on the flip side, we actually get an inside look at the Nagas and get to discover their backstory. It turns out that the Nagas are actually pretty good — they definitely do fight others, but they seem to represent a sort of Robinhood-esque role in the story as they attempt to help those less fortunate. Their story is actually really closely involved and directly related to Meluha, Sati, Daksha and the Somras. I’m going to refrain from commenting too much on this (which is actually a pity and really hard for me to do because most of the novel is about it LOL) because I think it’s one of the more interesting features of the book. Much of the book actually deals with the Nagas, their perception, perceptions in general, good and evil, etc. Near the end of the book, we actually get an inside look at the Naga settlement and their secret is revealed (which you don’t see coming!) and then the book ends, leaving you with even more questions!
Throughout the book, Shiva also continually talks with and listens to the Vasudevas, priests who hold the secrets of the past and knowledge for Shiva. The priests are deliberately portrayed as these vague, occasionally omnipresent beings who attempt to help Shiva with his destiny/ journey but also attempt to refrain from helping him too much. It’s a little annoying and Shiva also gets annoyed with them (LOL). But these Vasudevs are the ones who bring up the philosophical talks/ questions/ discussions about good vs. bad. The discussions themselves are actually quite interesting, to be honest. In some really abstract, vague way, they can also be seen as relating to real life (or actually I found it pretty reminiscent of general book plots about good vs evil).
Just like the previous installment, I found this one very interesting and nice to read. If anything, I actually found myself more absorbed within the story-world in this book rather than the former and I think it’s because this time around, I actually understood more things and was more deeply invested. As The Immortals of Meluha was a great starting point, this book was a good mid-point; answering some questions but leaving and creating more questions. On a more technical point, I read some reviews that criticized the book for its writing. More specifically, awkward and weird words were used to create clunky sentences, and I think that while I agree with that, I also don’t think it’s that big of a deal? I think, over time, you get used to Amish’s awkward wording and you don’t notice it as much. At least that’s what happened with me. I’m the type of person who appreciates detailed world building over literal writing (as is the case with Harry Potter — excellent world-building but writing could’ve been better) and I find that Amish is pretty good at etching out this Meluhan/ Swadeepan/ Brangan/ Nagan world. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate a well written book like any other person. But at the same time, I’m not a stickler for extremely well-written books. Amish definitely has his problems. His book bio stated that he was formerly a financial executive and I think it sort of displays in his writing. It is clunky and awkward. But as I mentioned, a) not only have I gotten used to it, but b) I like good story-building/ telling and he delivered there. His writing could’ve improved, but it wasn’t horrible, like third grade level. It was readable and he was able to get his points across. My only complaint would be that I wish he wrote more of his side characters. We get introduced to more side characters in this book and I wish we had more time to get to know them. On that note, the book also reduces the focus it had on Shiva earlier. It’s strange but it echoes my previous complaint from The Immortals of Meluha, wherein I wished that there was less laser-focus on Shiva and more focus on other characters (LOL). While I definitely did get my wish, I now wish we had more time with the characters. Maybe a longer book would’ve sufficed? Or reducing the number of character and increasing focus upon them? Not quite sure.
My rating: Read it to continue on the Shiva adventure (if you were on it on the first place) and familiarizing yourself with Hindu mythology (it is quite fascinating!).