Saturday, March 09, 2013

Reviewing Oath of the Vayuputras

I don't have a favourite genre in books, as a writer I feel that it is part of my job to read just about everything. I read two fantastic books which I will write about in another post, for now, this is about the books I read only to comment or write about. So Talk asked me if I would like to review Amish's final book in the trilogy. The 600-page long book took me about two days of reading, while commuting to work, during lunch hour and into late nights. My verdict? It is easily the most readable in the Shiva trilogy. A pity that you have to get through the first two to read the Oath of the Vayuputras.

Here is the review from Talk magazine.

And here below is the longer, unedited version of the review.

In trilogies, is the subsequent book supposed to start off from the next sentence from where the previous book ended? I forget how trilogies are meant to be. The big fat The Oath of the Vayuputras by the other banker turned writer Amish begins that way. It has been a while since I finished his second installment in the re-imagined story of Shiva. So it takes me several pages before the story starts coming back to me, who is who, what just happened, everyone’s karma and what they are doing about it and all that. Problem number one – it seems like he has cut one very long book into three parts and bound them separately.

I have promised myself that I won’t nitpick on his populist writing, not so early on at least. But he makes it all too easy for me. I cannot help but notice the poor editing and find myself mentally correcting the grammar; I have a bit of the grammar Nazi in me. Amish has this rather annoying habit of italicizing Indian Hindu words like ‘prasad’, ‘darshan’ etc and giving their literal meaning, in italics again.  His books are releasing across the world, so that is clearly meant for those audiences. I find it ridiculous sometimes, like when the missile Pashupatiastra is explained literally as the weapon of the lord of the animals. But…nitpicking, nitpicking…I am trying very hard by now not to.

And then, Amish surprises me. Just when I am thinking I will have to groan through the book, the war—it is all about a war in this book—draws me in. Complicated strategies are discussed, battle lines are drawn, sides are taken, alliances forged. The next several hundred pages are only that, who will attack how and whom and from where. Bits about dharma and righteousness are thrown in every now and then, but if not such a racy read, The Oath of the Vayuputras would have been somewhat of a war manual, describing as it does tortoise formations, subvert attack tactics and such like. Shiva doesn’t swear as much as he does in the first two books. Though he continues to flirt with his wife Sati, the romance is kept to a very bare minimum; it is even a breather from long passages where every swordfight fought and every knife maneuver used by the war waging armies is detailed.

Shiva is the barbarian tribal from Tibet who migrates from the mountains and is reluctantly cast in the role of a living god. He is righteous and forgiving, an excellent dancer and fabulous singer even, but is no holds barred when it comes to destroying that which he knows is evil. He errs too, like a human; it is only 4,000 years after, in later times, that his “…descendants, in many ways unworthy…behold gods in what were great men of the past, for they believed that such great men couldn’t possibly have existed in reality.”

When I begin the book, I am determined to find its every fault. But Amish is miles better than the last time and I, almost grudgingly, pull up one notch higher my opinion of his writing. My expectations were never high brow to start with, yet the book is not half as bad as I had made up my mind it would be. It is a pity though that you have to suffer through the first two to get to what is the best of the Shiva trilogy.

Amish hints in the last sentence at what he might be writing about next; his publishers have already given him a million dollar advance, it is going to be another trilogy. What is it with him, Ashok Banker and the rest that they have to work through re-imaging the whole Indian mythology, I wonder. But then, you could argue that so did Uncle Pai.


Postscript: I am helping out at The Alternative with a water conservation campaign they are doing. A lot of writing is happening there. Read the stories here. Do follow the magazine too, there are some amazing articles there on sustainability, environment, inclusivity and other sexy issues.

1 comment:

Mirza Ghalib said...

At nearly 600 pages, The Oath of the Vayuputras is a massive book. Yet it has a good flow, which enables readers to finish it quite soon. I do not wish to reveal too much of the plot (although some other reviewers have already done that here!), but as the blurb says, Shiva is preparing his forces to battle the Evil, and at one desperate point, turns to the tribe of the Vayuputras, who help him defeat the Evil.

It's the classic Good vs Evil tale, with the author trying to pack in as many details as possible about the (semi) fictional world he's created, and trying to fill in some of the gaps left by the previous two books.

There is "bloodshed", and a lot of it, and the chapters detailing the numerous battles are seemingly well written, with chapter number 45 being the best of them all. Do not expect any heavy twists though; in the end, this is quite ordinary fare. If you already know the tale of Lord Shiva, you won't be surprised at how the story progresses and ends. Even so, the book provides quite a satisfying experience.

All that said, there are more loopholes in Book 3 compared to the previous two books, and given its length, the plot gets a bit slow in some parts. Also, the writing is not entirely convincing, sometimes just skipping ahead of important conversations and scenes. Definitely read it, but do not expect a masterpiece!

And finally, I would like to request other reviewers not to include spoilers in their reviews! I was just looking at a few reviews on this page and was surprised to find too many spoilers; that takes out the fun out of reading the book.