I had completely forgotten this book was releasing last month until someone mentioned on a group chat, and I knew I had to read it immediately. It also happened to coincide with my #IronTomeAThon adult fantasy challenges, so decided to pick it up as the first book of the month. I actually didn’t have a lot of expectations, just wanted it to be an engaging read, but this one turned out to be surprisingly very good.
It wasn’t until the second book of this series Sita did I realize it was going to be a multilinear narrative with the first three books following three different characters but merging at the same point towards the end. This made the experience of reading Sita a bit boring because the last third of the book felt very repetitive. I guess I went into this book feeling similarly, but Amish definitely did a great job of dispelling all my misconceptions. The writing is very engaging right from the get go, fast paced and entertaining while also not shying away from the philosophical and dharmic discussions that I’ve come to associate with Amish’s books. The entire reinterpretation of Raavan’s backstory, which we generally don’t know much about is done masterfully and I loved how much of emotion the author was able to evoke in us. I also really loved the whole theme of every hero needing a strong villain in their life to have a large scale impact on the minds of the people. I guess my only gripe was that because the book was covering a very long timeline, there were huge time jumps and we are only told about major events rather than showing them happen.
Raavan’s character is really a study in contrasts. He is knowledgeable, accomplished, intelligent and ruthless but on the other hand loves his brother Kumbhakarna to no end. He has his moments of humanity and just when you think he is capable of change, something happens that completely changes the trajectory of his life. The depiction of unrequited love and absolute grief is so utterly raw and gritty in this book that it really shook me. Kumbhakarna is a character whom we don’t much about at all in the original epic but he completely fascinated me here and I really liked him a lot. At his core, he is a kind and compassionate person who wants to be more dharmic, but his devotion to his brother is also complete which leads him onto paths he doesn’t necessarily want to embark on. I adored the interactions between the brothers – how they were able to show their vulnerabilities to each other made me very emotional and connected to their relationship, but also seeing it change gradually pained me. It’s definitely this relationship that carries the emotional weight of the story and is what made it such a wonderful read.
To finish, I just wanna say that if you are fan of Amish’s earlier works, you should definitely read this one because I thought it had a great balance of mythology, political machinations, mystery and emotion. It also ends on a very epic note and I’m already very excited to see how Amish is gonna interpret the rest of the epic. However, if you haven’t read any of the author’s books before, I would highly recommend to start with the Immortals of Meluha. While this Ram Chandra series is not exactly a spin-off of the Meluha trilogy, there are many interconnecting elements between the two that I feel can be enjoyed better if you have start at the beginning.