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India's Tolkein invokes the spirit of Shiva

The last of Amish Tripathi's Shiva trilogy weaves a compelling story from Vedic and Puranic legends with a dash of Indian history

Sanjeev Sanyal 

From fantastic landscapes to the swashbuckling adventures of larger-than-life characters, has it all. The book completes Tripathi's bestselling and does not disappoint those who enjoyed reading the previous two in the series - and I am not going to reveal the plot and spoil the fun for those who have not yet read the book. Nevertheless, readers can expect non-stop action, unexpected twists and turns and, underlying it all, the internal struggle against moral dilemmas.

The fast-paced but easy style from the earlier has been retained, although if one goes back and rereads the first few pages of The Immortals of Meluha, one can see that the author has become much more comfortable and confident of his writing. Of course, those whose literary tastes have not outgrown Wren and Martin will still find fault with his use of the English language. For the rest of us, it is delightful to see how Tripathi applies simple language to evoke great battle scenes and extraordinary landscapes.

One of the things that makes Tripathi's writings so popular is the way he has taken well-known Vedic and Puranic legends, added a few seasonings from India's actual ancient history, and then woven it into one consistent story. This is no easy task because Indian mythology is full of internal contradictions, at least for the casual reader. The author, therefore, has really had to work hard to link myriad legends in a way that simultaneously retains the original spirit of the ancient stories as well as connects them to the modern reader. Indeed, I must confess that some of the legends make better sense to me after reading the Shiva trilogy, even though I had known them all my life.

As the trilogy is ultimately about Shiva's own spiritual evolution, Tripathi has brought out many philosophical questions and debates that have animated Indian philosophers over the ages, particularly those concerning the nature of evil and the many shades of grey. Thus, there is Somras, at once an elixir of immortality and a terrible poison. Then we have Shiva - a valiant warrior and a living god - who struggles constantly with self-doubt and an old nightmare. And Bhrigu, a great sage, an indefatigable enemy who is convinced that his cause is right.

My main quibble with the book is that there are simply too many characters. Having read about them a couple of years ago in the first book, it can be confusing when they suddenly reappear in the third book. The huge cast of characters has been accumulated over the course of the trilogy and is perhaps inevitable for a work like this (the same accusation can been hurled at Tolkien). Tripathi could, however, have been kinder to the reader by finding better ways to reintroduce them. The same can be said of their names that are often too complicated or too similar.

All in all, Tripathi is well on his way to become India's Tolkein. The trilogy is screaming to be turned into a Lords of the Rings-style movie. I hear that it is already in the works and I look forward to seeing it on the big screen, hopefully in 3D!

The reviewer is the author of Land of the Seven Rivers: A Brief History of India's Geography published by Penguin 2012

Author: Amish Tripathi
Publisher: Westland
Pages: 578
Price: Rs 350

First Published: Fri, March 29 2013. 20:38 IST