Friday, September 16, 2011

The Secret of the Nagas by Amish: Impressions

Surely the best way to avoid disappointments, is to avoid expectations. The second of the Shiva Trilogy, The Secret of the Nagas did not disappoint because I expected nothing from it - or should I say, I knew what to expect. Staying close to the plot of the first of the series, The Immortals of Meluha, Amish Tripathi has written yet another action-packed book in his same irreverent style. For those who don't know what I'm talking about, a histori-mythical Lord Shiva (the protagonist) talks like this --->; How did that dog move so far ahead? right from page 1. But when I say the book stays true to the plot, I refer to book 1, because The Secret of the Nagas really has no secret to offer; not a substantial one in any case.

The Secret of the Nagas is a book heavily dependent on both - its prequel and its sequel and cannot be read as a standalone book. It is perhaps designed that way, but the reader feels cheated when he reaches the book's end and finds that he has not been made privy to any earth-shattering secret. Instead, there is an element of slight surprise, and a hurried 'handover' to the next book in the sequel.

However, most readers will enjoy the book, as its style is racy, pretty much like the first part. Amish Tripathi (I wonder why he prefers using only his first name) has delivered yet another accessible and easy-to-read book, even as he unfurls a new plot using old tales. New characters like Maharshi Bhrigu and Parashuram have been introduced and Kartik and Ganesh as Shiva and Sati's children have been cleverly introduced into the plot. What I find utterly commendable in this book is that it has dared to call popular Hindu deities, Ganesh and Kali, 'ugly, deformed creatures', by having them belong to the Naga clan. Despite blatant clues like the phrase 'Lord of the People', it came to me as a complete surprise when the Naga leader's identity was revealed to be that of Ganesh. Kali as Sati's twin is also an interesting take on the different rupas of Shakti. Other interesting bits in the book include a spin on Parashuram's legend, Sati 'controlling' the lions of Ichhawar, Shiva's angst against Ganesh and Daksha and Shiva's confrontation. The Vasudevs make their appearances in this book too, with a healthy dose of philosophy, whereas the Parvateshvar-Anandamayi courtship provides the romantic angle.

It seems to me that the writer has almost written the story backward, deconstructing the popular mythological stories, picking up elements he likes best and then spinning a tale of his own, keeping the thread of sequential logic intact. I continue to admire Amish's ingenuity in writing a completely new story while staying within an arm's length of the old legends, and taking every opportunity to educate the readers about interesting tidbits of Indian mythology. The book as a final product did little to impress me, but I will yet again look forward to the last book of the series - The Oath of the Vayuputras to see where the story ends.


Harish said...

Hearing lot of good reviews about the series.

Prem Piyush Goyal said...

I read the book yesterday in my 24 hour train journey. Like you, I too had no expectations except a racy plot.

I was kicking myself for not being able to decipher "Lord of the People" reference too!

Any guesses on what is the evil? I think Somras is the real evil. [and the good too.]

Urmi Chanda Vaz said...

I couldn't agree more, PP. There is good reason that we always chase immortality, and don't have it. Heaven knows what bullshit an immortal man can be capable of.

Aditya Mehta said...

If I believed in 'God', I'd be a Shiv bhakt. Shiva is a bad boy rock star!

Ghalib said...

The story is well continued after the first book. Lots of new, surprising and shocking information is revealed.

Did not find it as engaging as the first book for some reason. But enjoyed it nevertheless. And anyway, after reading the cliff-hanger ending of the first book, you can't stop without reading this one!