Book Reviews

Ajaya: Roll Of The Dice by Anand Neelakantan

I needed a break from the genres I usually read and I borrowed this book from my library as it was nearest the check out counter. I grabbed it after giving the blurb a cursory glance. It ended up being a delightful read.

I just learned how to add links in a post. You can check out the Goodreads synopsis by clicking on the little blue phrase. 😀

The book is a retelling of a great Indian epic, the Mahabharata. A quick Google search reveals that the Mahabharata is almost ten times the length of the Iliad and the Odyssey combined. It has several sub-stories and is chaotic at best. None of the chaos was reflected in this book. It being the first in a series definitely helped in making it neat.

A little about Mahabharata:

Hastinapura is the greatest city of India. The royal family of Hastinapura has two sons, one of whom is blind (Dhritarashtra). The visually challenged son is the eldest. However, due to his blindness, the younger son (Pandu) becomes the king. Pandu later dies and Dhritarashtra takes his rightful place as king of Hastinapura. Now, these two sons have families of their own. Pandu’s first born, Yudhishtra, is older than Dhritarashtra’s first born Duryodhana. Pandu’s sons are called the Pandavas and Dhritarashtra’s are called Kauravas. The Mahabharata is about the long drawn politics between the two groups as to who should become the ruler, which eventually ends in war.

About the book:

18684615This book is a retelling of the Mahabharata. Though mythological retellings seem to be the flavor of Indian literature currently, this book was the best of them all. The main reason this book wins is that it tells the story of a lesser known hero. It is a different perspective and not an abstract retelling. Every version of Mahabharata out there, either as books or TV shows, shows the Pandavas as the righteous ones on the path of dharma (the eternal law of the cosmos) and the Kauravas as the evil side. The main character Duryodhana is always portrayed as a villain wielding a mace and permanently plotting against the Pandavas.

This book provides a new perspective of the age old epic. It tells us the Kaurava perspective of Mahabharata, with the main character being Duryodhana. The epic states that his original name is Suyodhana and he changes it to Duryodhana by himself as it means “the unconquerable one”. In this book, the name is conferred on him by his Guru Drona who is not very fond of Suyodhana and often sides with the Pandavas. He does so because the Sanskrit prefix “Dur-” has negative and inauspicious connotations.

Characterization:

The main character Suyodhana has been characterized very well. The growth of character is visible throughout the book. He is vastly different from the Duryodhana we grew up reading about. The reader can feel a connection to Suyodhana as he seems very human and accepts any mistakes he makes. Suyodhana’s group of friends and the extent to which he’ll go for them were written very well. Other lesser known characters such as Ekalavya and Jara have also been portrayed brilliantly. Jara, with his ironically named blind puppy Dharma, will definitely tug at the readers’ heartstrings. Guru Drona was written well but the reasons for some of his actions were not convincing enough. In the case of Ekalavya’s aunt, it would’ve been better if there had been an arc where her becoming soft on him had been observable.

Setting:

The author’s portrayal of prehistoric India was detailed.The setting was more show and tell. There was no information dump. Rather, the reader gets to gradually picture the old Indian cities while reading the story.

Writing:

About a few pages in to the book, the pace picks up and is maintained throughout the whole book. I was able to finish this 456 page long book in 5 days. There were a few grammatical errors, typographical errors , and maybe an excessive use of the Thesaurus. The errors were, however, minimal and the fast paced nature of this book glosses it over for the reader.

My thoughts:

Knowing the traditional epic, before reading the book I wondered how the author could endear Duryodhana to us. This was handled impressively. This book will most certainly make the reader think about the other side of Mahabharata. There were moments when I was cheering along the Kaurava clan, as I’m sure other readers would too. That in itself is a great achievement for the author for almost all the Indian readers would have grown up reading about how the Kauaravas are the evil ones. It shows how convincing this story is as a whole. The Pandavas’ mother Kunti’s political maneuvers, the priests who side with her, and the Pandava brothers’ characterization certainly worked in making Ajaya seem totally plausible.

This was a delightful read and anyone interested in Indian Mythology should definitely read it for its different perspective.

My rating: 4 out of 5

Details:

Title- Ajaya: Roll Of The Dice

Author- Anand Neelakantan

Sequel- Rise Of Kali (Gimme it! I’ll definitely read the sequel!)

Publisher- Leadstart publishing

Publication date- December 1st 2013

Length- 456 pages

Genre- Historical fiction, Indian mythology

 

Have you read this book? What were your thoughts? Let me know in the comments! 🙂

~ Shruti

 

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