After reading the first book, I wanted to read this book for a very, very long time. After the first book, because I didn't want to finish off the second immediately making it a long, long wait for the third, I did not buy this book at all. I just kept postponing it. Finally, I succumbed to my indulgence and bought the book. Yet again, I kept myself away from it. I deliberately avoided taking it up for reading.
Finally, three days ago, I could no longer wait. I thought of starting off my New Year with a good book and I took it up with a great deal of anticipation of finding it very interesting and exciting.
It definitely is a great read. Most of the times, I could not stop reading and had to pull myself out of it to complete my household chores.
The book starts where the last one ends. Just like the earlier one, it is fast-paced, exciting, full of mysteries, a very unique mixture of mythology and fiction. New characters are introduced, new mysteries are revealed. Old characters grow and develop complete new personalities.
The Shiva, Neelkantha is again the great Lord that everyone worships and believes in. Most of the characters, including the aam jananta believes that he is the One who will deliver them from evil. He is shown as a man of great character, yet he has his flaws. He has his misgivings. He has his highs and lows. He is a warrior, so is he a doting husband, a responsible father. He is accepting and totally in love with his wife. He accepts his wife and her relations without a question, without caring of what their past deeds have been or without giving any undue attention to their physical abnormalities. He is truly great in that sense.
But he has his flaws. To quote a sentence from one of my favourite authors, "his temper is not to be vouched for." Sure enough, just as we know Shiva, the great God of destruction, just as we know of his temper to be truly the ultimate force of destruction, we see similar rage in Neelkanth. It's the first time he actually screams out aloud, getting out his anger in a vehement fashion, not the cool, calm way that we are used to. He really is human after all.
Shiva goes through so many revelations. Faced with the unknown, his discussions with the different Vasudevas are interesting and the discussion of what Evil really is the crux of the book. What was good before no longer is, what seemed to be always bad, may not really be bad. Nothing really is good or bad. Circumstances are. People behave in a good or bad manner. But each would have a reason for doing what they are doing or what they did.
Shiva has lost a great friend in Brihaspati, and that anger is still there in his heart. It is really this incident of losing someone like is brother that urges him ahead in his quest. Whether he is out to find the Good or the Evil, whether Evil is really Evil is what remains to be seen.
The book has it all. Romance, death, fights, battles, complex relationships, carefree moments, happy moments, religious moments, philosophical discussions, betrayals, trust, courage, failures, and all intermingled with good dialogues, and a fast-paced style of writing. The descriptions of the various battles, the minute scene-to-scene descriptions create the whole picture right in front of your eyes. You are transported to the war scene and can see it all from various angles.
Some characters are shown almost on the verge of death and brought back from the precipice, which really made me happy. I would have been sad to see them go.
Two completely different lifestyles are depicted. The Meluhans are strict and disciplinarians. The Swadweepans are carefree and relaxed. While the Meluhans go strictly by laws, the Swadweepans don't care much for laws, are lenient towards even criminals, and are happy to let each one live life on different terms. What's really required is an amalgamation of the two types of lifestyles. The book is leaning towards that. Extremes do not work. What works is a median attitude. A way of life that is beneficial to all.
The author has done his homework and used all characters in Hindu mythology or history to great advantage. Each character has his own philosophy, ideals, and behaves accordingly.
I probably liked the second book more than the first because everyone has grown in the book. New people are brought in. New secrets are revealed, a new way of life is seen. The book is definitely going towards the end of the story that comes in the third book called The Oath of the Vayuputras. I am eagerly waiting for the third one and I really hope Amish brings it out quickly.
A must read, I'll give this book a rating of 4.5 out of 5.