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Aryavarta – the ancient realm of the noble.
For generations, the Firstborn dynasty of scholar-sages, descendants of Vasishta Varuni and protectors of the Divine Order on earth, has dominated here. For just as long, the Angirasa family of Firewrights, weapon-makers to the kings and master inventors, has defied them. In the aftermath of the centuries-long conflict between the two orders, the once-united empire of Aryavarta lies splintered, a shadow of its former glorious self.
Now, the last Secret Keeper of the Firewrights is dead, killed by a violent hand, and the battle for supreme power in the empire is about to begin.
As mighty powers hurtle towards a bloody conflict, Govinda Shauri, cowherd-turned-prince and now Commander of the armies of Dwaraka, must use all his cunning to counter deception and treachery if he is to protect his people and those whom he loves.
But who holds the key to the fantastic and startling knowledge of the Firewrights, which in the wrong hands will bring doom upon the empire? And does Govinda have it in him to confront the dark secrets of his past and discover the true meaning of being Arya, of being noble?

Thoughts : I’m going to rate this a bit differently because this book just wasn’t for me. I’m a big fan of Mythology but maybe it’s gotten to be too much and I’m done with the genre? Or maybe this just wasn’t for me. Whichever it is, I’d like to give a less personal review of the book so you can decide for yourself if you will like it.

World building: The author has done a great job with the world building. You could picture most of the landscapes and situations she wrote about and you gain a clear view of the palaces, grounds and the geography. It is our own world but where the Kuru clan have the misogynistic views of Manu and his script (not sure which time Manu is from). Panchali’s surprise at just how unimportant she is as a person but how important she is as a political pawn is something I could easily get behind. Women in India are akin to cattle and this is showcased brilliantly. You’re left seething and annoyed that a world this beautiful is actually this ugly.

Characterisation: The die hard fans of the Mahabaratham might get annoyed at the change in characterisations but this was a very refreshing aspect for me. In fact, it was my favourite thing about this book. Govinda (Krishna) isn’t god; he is just showcased as a very intelligent and intuitive man. Dharmar (Yudhistirar) isn’t the “he’s so perfect” character that our grandparents like to tell us about, he has a gambling problem and is all kinds of grey. Panchali (Draupathi) is a feminist but not in the true sense of the term. She’s shuttled about and helpless though she has great importance. (In fact I was excited because I thought the book would be all about her, but it isn’t. It’s about Govinda and Dharma)

Writing Style: This is where the author showcases her wonderful command over the language and just how much better she is when compared to other writers who are trying to make it big by riding the mythology wave. Though her books aren’t as popular as others, her language is that which belongs in literary fiction. I hope she writes non mythology soon.

The problem I had with this was no matter what the merits were I just couldn’t care about what happened to whom. For a while, I cared about Panchali; but after seeing this line, “She felt disgusted, nauseated at the thought of her own unclean, irresistible, sinful self, which could lead a guileless man astray.” I took a break, finished another book and got back to it. But it was done for me, I didn’t care anymore. Not to mention that the sheer number of events and characters made me lose track. See, I’m not an expert on the mahabaratham. I only know the childhood version that I read and that which my grandmother told me, not to mention that I didn’t know the other names of the characters. So I was left utterly bewildered as to what was going on. It was also dialogue heavy and if we cut out the unnecessary dialogues it would have been a good 100 pages thinner.

I’d say read this if you are a Mahabaratham fanatic. Please note that there are many changes in this book so if you are one who likes sticking to one version of a story, you may want to know this. I was just looking for a light enjoyable mythology read and this was too dense and heavy for me. This is book one of the Aryavarta chronicles, it’s followed by Kaurava and Kurukshetra. I’d originally purchased book two as well and the author has sent me book three to review so I will end up reading and reviewing it but not anytime soon.

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