The Oath of the Vayuputras Book Review

the_oath_of_the_vayuputrasI was incredibly excited to get my hands on this book. After having read The Immortals of Meluha and The Secret of the Nagas, I felt like I was ready to finish off this series and discover how the legends of the Indian Gods came to be. As a refresher for those of you unaware: The Oath of the Vayuputras is the final instalment in the Shiva Trilogy (other books listed earlier), and attempts to tell the story of Indian God Shiva and his companions as if they were humans rather than Gods (who eventually became Gods through their stories/ actions). The Immortals of Meluha (TIoM) introduced us to Shiva and the strange new world he discovered. The Secret of the Nagas (TSotN) fleshed out the world and narrowed down on a specific plot. And The Oath of the Vayuputras attempted to consolidate everything together with one giant battle.

Therefore, much like the previous book, The Oath of the Vayuputras picks up where the last book ended. Along with finding out the secret of the Nagas, we also finally discover what the purpose of the Neelkanth is: to destroy evil. However, as we learned throughout the first and second book, there wasn’t quite a clear consensus on what the evil exactly was. At first, Shiva thought it meant he had to conquer the Chandravanshi’s and then he thought it meant that he had to unite India. In this book, the true evil is revealed. I’m refraining from posting the actual spoiler, but like in the other books, this discussion on evil takes on quite a philosophical character. And like always, I found it quite enjoyable to read it.

Anyways, after the evil is revealed, it turns out that people are not quite convinced by Shiva’s definition of evil. As such, a war begins between, with those supporting Shiva (many of the side characters we were introduced too in earlier books) and those against him (the rulers of Meluha, Swadeep, and some priests). This war actually forms the crux, and numerous pages are devoted to describing the various battle formations, actual battle scenes, and the aftermath of such battles. Along with the war, the book also begins touching about the entire Neelkanth myth.

In TIoM, we were told that Lord Ram established a system of living which was replicated, down to the minute details in Meluha, and greatly respected by other kingdoms. It turns out, that the Vasudevs who communicated with Shiva in TSoN, were actually devotees of Ram who encompassed his teachings and were tasked with ensuring that they were followed (?). However, despite this connection, the Neelkanth wasn’t really a manifestation of Ram or even directly related to him. Lord Ram’s duty (and the duty of his later reincarnations (?)) was to pave a way of life, to ensure that the good was revealed and used. The Neelkanth, on the other hand, was to analyze when the balance between good and evil tilted toward evil, and then eradicate that evil. Fittingly then, the Neelkanth was a manifestation (reincarnation?) of Lord Rudra instead. Lord Rudra, as implied, was a fierce and just God who existed to ensure that good prevailed over evil and destroy the evil. Just as the Vasudevas were devotees of Ram, the Vayuputras (in the title of the book), were accordingly devotees of Rudra. As such, it was their duty to monitor the world and decide when the need for the Neelkanth arose and then accordingly raise the fabled One. However, as TIoM showcased, the Neelkanth wasn’t really chosen or declared by them. Instead, to everyone’s shock, Shiva’s blue neck exposed him as the Neelkanth. Hence, there also existed some confusion over whether Shiva was really the fabled the Neelkanth, or just some impostor who happened to coincidentally have a blue neck.

To this end, the book delves, albeit a little, into Shiva’s background and how he turned out the be the Neelkanth. Turns out, his uncle was a former Vayuputra. He recognized that the good was slowly turning evil and advocated for the declaration of the Neelkanth. However, the other vayuputras refused to listen to him. Hence, the uncle, Manobhu, stole the ingredients necessary to “create” the Neelkanth (blue neck), and secretly administered them to Shiva as he was convinced that Shiva was indeed the fabled Neelkanth, sent by the universe/ God. What was also interesting, was that apparently, Shiva’s mother was the sister of the Vayuputra leader (who also secretly defected and helped make Shiva the Neelkanth), while his father was Manobhu’s brother, aka also related to vayuputras.

Anyways, pretty interesting book. In general, I thought the book did a decent enough job of closing Shiva’s story. I particularly enjoyed how almost anti-climactic the end was. The end destruction commences amid sadness, without much fanfare or dispute. It was unexpected and created a melancholic tone that I think worked quite well for the book. It was enjoyable to read. That said, I definitely had a few complaints.

Firstly, I don’t quite understand why this book was named The Oath of the Vayuputras. To be more precise, through the title, I expected the book would deal with the Vayuputras at length. As mentioned earlier, we do get their backstory and there are actually quite a few chapters upon this. However, when it comes to the Vayuputras themselves, we’re only really given a few chapters (maybe 3?) where we actually get to see them. I just, it felt very misleading. Actually, I also found myself curious about the Vayuputras, about their way of life, their engineering, their own individual stories. Alas, we don’t get much on that.

Secondly, I was quite unsatisfied by the whole how-Shiva-became-Neelkanth story. We were given the basics of what happened, but not really why it happened. How was Manobhu sure that Shiva was the fabled One?  To this end, there is a tiny discussion on Shiva’s third eye (?) but even that isn’t explicitly explained. For someone quite new to Indian mythology, I would’ve much preferred a more in-depth explanation. On this note, I also found myself quite interested in the lives of those before Shiva, namely his parents and relatives (like Manobhu). I mean, we got more hints into the background of Sati and her father Daksha, than we did Shiva. It would’ve been nice to have the same focus on Shiva’s background.

Thirdly, there was also a lot, A LOT of unnecessary detailing. There were times where Amish just went on and on in describing places, things, people, etc. I mean, I understand the need for detail, but there’s also something to be said for being efficient with words. The overly detailed passages also led to the book to be quite long in its length, with over 500 pages of words. It was annoying and in my opinion, majorly detracted from the book/ reading experience. I found myself skimming through a few passages and/or pages as I got so bored with the overly verbose descriptions.

All in all, a decent enough conclusion. It could’ve definitely been improved upon (seriously, where were the editors?) but it was decent enough.

My rating: read it to finish the Shiva adventure and learn some more about Indian Mythology, but skip it if you aren’t interested in either.

Advertisements

The Secret of the Nagas Book Review

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 reviewThe 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 ratingRead 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!).

The Immortals of Meluha Book Review

Okay, so my initial reason for reading this book was pretty stupid, I’ll admit that. The reason was, I liked the way it sounded when the title of the book was said in a fancy British accent. I know, its stupid, but the word ‘Meluha’ is so interesting phonetically, at least for me it is! But, once I got past that (okay no, I didn’t get past it, I still say it in a British accent for kicks), I thought the premise was also pretty interesting. I’m not sure if any of you are familiar with Hindu mythology, but this book imagines that the Hindu gods in religious books were initially humans who turned into Gods through their amazing feats/ lives. Accordingly then, this book assumes Shiva, a powerful Hindu God, was once a human and proceeds to tell his story. I’m actually not very familiar with Hindu mythology so I’m not sure if the story the book tells is accurate or not. But, it was pretty entertaining so I enjoyed reading it and hence will review it. Again, spoiler-filled review (I feel like that’s my style now) below.

The book begins with the introduction of the main character, Shiva. He’s the leader of a small tribe, the Gunas. These tribes live in difficult circumstances as they are often required to protect themselves in violent ways in order to survive conquest. Hence, when Shiva receives invitation from the Meluhan Empire to establish base there (i.e. move the Gunas to Meluha), he agrees in order to ensure the protection of his people. On their first day in the Empire, the Gunas fall quite sick. The Meluhan doctor assigned to them, to ensure that the Gunas have proper vaccinations so they don’t contaminate the rest of the Empire with their foreign diseases, attends to them and eventually everyone heals. However, in this chaos, another interesting and important development occurs, Shiva’s neck turns blue. This causes joy for many Meluhans and especially the ruling family, the Suryavanshi’s, as for them, the blue neck signified their fabled warrior. According to Meluhan legend, while the Empire was founded years ago by the great Lord Ram, it had eventually began to fall into despair as its water source, the Saraswati River, was beginning to dry and they were falling under increasing attacks from their neighbours, the Chandravanshi’s and the cursed deformed Nagas. The legend posited that a blue-necked individual would come and save the empire and restore it to its glory days — the individual being Shiva in their eyes.

Hence, Shiva’s life changes, he stops being the leader of his tribe and instead becomes a de-facto leader for the Suryavanshi’s. Throughout his stay in Meluha, Shiva meets and becomes enchanted with a solemn looking beautiful woman, Sati. Sati, is it revealed, is not only the daughter of the Suryavanshi king, Daksha, but she is also a part of the Vikrama, untouchables who were expected to suffer due to their past sins. As a result, despite Shiva’s desire to marry her, she is unable to as her social status as a Vikarma makes it so that she cannot accept his proposal. In order to combat this, Shiva fully and publicly accepts to being the fabled warrior — the Neelkanth, and decides to destroy the concept of Vikarma, allowing Sati to marry him (before the Sati revelation, Shiva was actually quite hesitant about the whole Neelkanth thing and wasn’t sure if he wanted to take up its mantle or not).

Shiva’s time in Meluha also alerts him to the existence of Somras. The Somras, it is revealed, is a liquid made from the Saraswati River that allows individuals to receive partial immortality. It is through the Somras that the Suryavanshi’s have been able to live for so long and that the Meluhan Empire is so successful (hence why the drying of the Saraswati River is so bad for them). In fact, the Somras was what actually turned Shiva’s neck blue — again pointing to his Neelkanth persona. Manufactured on a mountain, Shiva and the Suryavanshi’s check out the Somras and Shiva makes a good friend, the scientist Brihaspati who helps with Somra production. It is actually Brihaspati’s body’s absence and the Naga insignia that appear after the Somra-making mountain is bombed, that causes Shiva to wage war against the Chandravashi’s. Shiva begins believing in the Meluhan idea that the Chandravanshi’s and Naga’s entered an alliance to vanquish the Suryavanshi’s and take over the Meluhan Empire. As Shiva has prior fighting experience due to his previous position as tribe leader, the Suryavanshi’s are able to easily win over the Chandravanshi’s.

Here’s where the story gets interesting. After being captured, the Chandravanshi King’s daughter reveals that they too had heard of the legend of the Neelkanth. In fact, according to the Chandravanshi’s, the blue-necked Neelkanth was supposed to be their saviour against the warring Suryavanshi’s. In other words then, both ruling families had heard of the Neelkanth and both expected the Neelkanth to save them from the ‘evil’ other. Of course, this quandary troubles Shiva greatly as its unclear exactly who the evil is. The Suryavanshi’s claim that the Chandravanshi’s are evil due to their attacks and wild way of life, whereas the Chandravanshi’s claim the Suryavanshi’s to be ‘evil’ in their restrictive lifestyle and attacks. In order to clear his head, Shiva heads to Lord Ram’s famous temple in Ayodhya, conveniently based in Chandravashi’s land, Swadeep.  In the temple, he talks with a priest over the importance of karma, decisions, and fate. The book ends with a cliff-hanger, as was expected as this book is a part of a trilogy.

On that note, I actually really enjoyed reading this story. The story itself was pretty engrossing with all the twists and turns. And I think it actually functioned really well as the beginning point for a trilogy. The reader is given an introduction to this world and its characters, and I think Amish did a great job at making the characters. I enjoyed reading Shiva’s perspective. He’s depicted as a human in this book and hence I like how he struggles often and has flaws. He has his own backstory and often deliberates about his decisions, unless his anger takes over and causes him to act impulsive. In general, I think Amish did a really good job depicting a future God as a human. Similarly, I also enjoyed Amish’s writing style. The book was written in a relatively clear way with some nice imagery. That said, some of the language in the book was definitely kind of weird and awkward and I actually found myself rereading quite a few passes in order to ascertain that I interpreted the passage correctly the first time. But, I think that perhaps might just be my bias rather than actual criticism. Ehh, not really sure. And I actually would’ve liked to see more insights into other characters and their thought processes as well, not just Shiva. But, it was still a pretty engrossing read.

My ratingRead it to go on a pretty cool adventure and familiarize yourself with some fascinating Hindi mythology.