A Magnum Opus of Mytho-Fantasy
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
When I started reading Usha Narayanan’s Pradyumna: Son of Krishna, it was with a lot of expectation and anticipation. After all, I have had a childhood of reading mythological stories and comic books. And, truth be told, this book fulfilled every expectation of mine and more. If you are a mythology fan, you are going to love this book, and more than that, the way Ms Narayanan has written it.
One of the biggest challenges in writing mythology is that you have to deal with several characters, most of whom have godlike status or are gods themselves. One slip-up and you could end up alienating your core audience. This does not happen in Pradyumna at all. The author has been able to do full justice to all characters in the book, including Lord Krishna and the icons of The Mahabharata. Each character receives their deserved space in the book – nothing more, nothing else.
Secondly, there are a lot of back stories. This is much needed for people who are not familiar with them, which forms the majority of the reader demographic anyway. Ms Narayanan scores here as well because the back stories are told only to the point to which they need to be told to the audience. In mythology, a writer can stretch a back story right back to the Creation itself, but here the author knows exactly how much is relevant. That’s a major brownie point as it does not lead to a lot of digression from the core events of the book.
I must also put in a strong word for the character transformations. Two characters in particular – Vama who becomes Pradyumna, and Queen Mayavati who turns from mother to consort – are beautifully fleshed out. The reader moves with the characters during these transformations – from neglected prince to pauper to warrior – quite smoothly.
Another strong aspect of the author is the description of the battle scenes. There are action sequences aplenty, which keeps the pace of the novel moving quite briskly. The author has written some long-drawn action scenes but she has managed to keep variety in them. What I appreciated was the introduction of various creatures of different shapes and sizes, which elevates this book from being a mere oft-repeated mythological tale to one that has elements of fantasy. Also, Ms Narayanan does not shy away from describing gore. It only brings out the dark aspect of the book that is a recurrent theme in the story throughout.
The language is impeccable as well. I am making a special note of that because language plays an important role in mythology.
I must say that picking out cons in this book will be akin to nitpicking. But, if I do have to point out any drawbacks, it could be the long-drawn character sketches at the start of the book. The book takes a couple of chapters to establish characters. This could just be because I was not familiar with the characters, so it more of a reader shortcoming than the authors. Apart from that, I felt there was a tad bit too much narration at the start (by Narada), and since it did not happen chronologically at times, it got a little confusing. However, once the initial 4-5 chapters are done, the book really gathers momentum and you would not want to put it down till you finish it.
If you know your mythology well, this is a great book to add to your collection. It is mostly fact with some fiction thrown in to create the story, but that is what sets it apart from other mythological tales. However, if you are new to Indian mythology, you might find the beginning chapters a bit daunting. The story sets in soon though, and then the book is unputdownable.
The best is the climax, which is sure to leave you breathless. Glad to know there’s a part 2 already in the works.
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