Saturday, March 23, 2013

Book Review - The Oath Of the Vayuputras


I write this review keeping in mind that with a great start to any work, comes the heavy responsibility of providing a fitting closure and in most cases, well begun is only half done. Amish Tripathi’s Shiva trilogy took the Indian reader base by storm and for good reason at that. The book series details the life of Lord Shiva as we know him, but focusing on what happened before he gained reputation as a God. 

Amish weaves an elaborate plot, beginning with the assumption that Shiva was born a mortal and was only as human as you, me or your irrational neighbor. The first two books talk about how and why Shiva comes to be chosen as the Neelkanth, the savior who would deliver his people from Evil. In the third and final book of the series, ‘The Oath of the Vayuputras’ we find out if Shiva manages to fulfill his destiny. 

This review focuses only on the third book and contains spoilers without apparent guilt.

To begin with, Shiva and his entourage at Panchavati learn how Brahaspati sprang back to life and in the explanation that ensues, Shiva puts two and two together and concludes that the elixir of Meluha, the Somras, is the root cause of everything that went wrong in the past few centuries. This includes a plethora of issues from the creation of Nagas to political unrest in surrounding kingdoms. Hence, Somras = Evil. 

With the definition finally drafted, everyone makes a choice and picks a side. They are either for or against the Neelkanth as and how their personal faith dictates. The end objective is to take the Somras out of the equation and the ultimate means is through war. The rest of the book is about how the offending and defending powers fight to destroy and protect and I use those terms with all the ambiguity they bring with them. That is the brilliance of the setup. What is good for you may not be so good for me.

That said, let me rant on why the book, while strong on so many points, still drew up to be a disappointing conclusion to the series.

Bones I’m picking on:

1 – Language : All hail the power of editing! Book 3 flows from start to finish, like the waters of the Saraswati, enriched by correct and simple language, free of annoying grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, clich├ęd dialogues, unnecessary lingo and  preachy prose. The text is a relief on your brain and you are free to focus on the plot and not break up now and then to roll your eyes at the author trying to act smart.

2 – Narration : This is an extension of the appreciation for point #01. Amish’s voice is honest and that was a striking feature throughout the book. His tone is free of gimmicks and his characters are well defined and sharply etched. They are clear about who they are so you could be clear about your opinion of them.

3 – The plot : To be honest, the plot isn’t path breaking. It follows a series of wars that need waging and for most of the time proceeds without shocking turning points or 180 degree flips. That said, it takes a serious turn towards unreasonable when Sati decides to march into Meluha and sign a peace treaty. The ambush, Kanakhala’s choice and Daksha’s foolishness fit in perfectly but then a bunch of Egyptian assassins swoop in and suddenly you find yourself reading about Sati being led to a gory death. This is where the book begins its journey towards being extremely disappointing. I assume Amish decided to finish Sati off in order to give Shiva a reason to use the Pasupatiastra, but the foundation does not sit well, at all. What should’ve been an enraged Shiva gradually losing reason and choosing vengeance, becomes a sorry tale of a widower. In a flash, he is no more the Neelkanth but a husband crying over his dead wife. This, in my opinion defeats the entire point of the series, that projects Shiva as a legend who fought for Good! It seemed like the book ended prematurely when Sati decided foolishly to take on the assassin army, due to guilt and the remaining pages merely came across as a mythological twist to a Nicholas Sparks plot.

4 – Contemplations : The dialogue between Shiva and Sati over the existence of Karma and God, and Parvateshwar’s choice were some of the best parts. That also is my favorite thing about this series. Amish allows Shiva to question without fear and agree to disagree. While other mythology titles most often end up as religious propaganda, Amish leaves the answer to faith open. Its all about perspective. Har Har Mahadev, indeed!

5 – Parvateshwar, the man : My respect for General Parva went up a thousand notches when he decides to fight for Meluha and not the Neelkanth, who still remains his God. Shiva isn’t able to digest it but I completely agreed with the General. It was such a beautiful digression that goes to waste in the climax. Beyond this decision, Amish gives Parvateshwar no role, except for a few war schemes. In the end, he just lets Parva and Anandamayi die in a quandary. If not for the sloppy ending, Parva could’ve been put to better use and maybe even had a more honorable and useful death.

6 – Daksha : This was one of those parts that left me in shock. This man, has just lost his daughter, the one he loved so dearly, the one that apparently had no high opinion of him and tries at every chance to win back her approval. He makes stupid decisions out of love and all that is justifiable. What isn’t is the last few pages he gets, to lament and he does it in reality TV style! There isn’t a chapter in the series that’s as disappointing emotionally as the one where Daksha merely looks out at a banyan tree and awaits his death albeit irritably while his daughter’s mutilated corpse rots outside the city walls. Two thumbs down.

7 - The Vayuputras : The book is named after them, but they hardly feature anywhere important, except as a crude sort of arms dealers. What was their oath again that deserved mention in the title?

In all, I enjoyed the series immensely, but the final book, the climax in particular, did not measure up. The Neelkanth is reduced to a brokenhearted man, who has lost sight of his mission thereby raising the question of why he received as much build up through three books as having been a living God. I loved Shiva’s portrayal throughout and the climax only cements my opinion that Sati could never have loved him, the way he loved her. Amishji, you broke the man too early!

All that said, I’d like to congratulate Amish for staying true to his voice and narration and not trying to pull a commercial success coup. Three cheers. I’d give five stars to the first two books anyday and a four star to the third one, only because I choose to ignore the climax and the crash landing. 

If the last few lines are any indication, Amish is due to bring out a retelling of the Mahabharatha and if he retains the same kind of transparency with respect to perspective, one that doesn’t get preachy on what is good and what is evil, my kids someday, would finally have an unambiguous account of Indian mythology to read about. Fingers crossed.

Did you like this review? Do you agree with the points discussed? Or not? Leave a comment. Let's share notes :)


15 comments:

  1. Stumbled onto your book on flipkart; and then this blog.
    Honestly, this review makes me want to pick up the first book, just to give it a try.And then perhaps, I can discuss it on here.

    Your book soon. It seems quite interesting. And besides, fellow Chennaiite writer gets support. :)

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    1. I'm glad you've decided to read the Shiva series Laavanya :) Would love to discuss it with you. Come back soon!
      Thank you for supporting my book :) Namma Chennai does rock :)

      P.S : You have a supercool blog name :)

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  2. The intrest in the trilogy decreased with the series. Was disappointed with the 3rd part personally. My review is at my blog:

    http://nvkarthik.blogspot.in/2013/03/shiva-trilogy.html

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  3. ur review is bang on... captures exactly what went wrong with the third installment.... a real pity considering that i so loved the first two books

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    1. And it couldve been so effective had it been given a different plot twist in the right place! I am a fan of the first two books too. Thanks for dropping by :)

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  4. Only if the climax would have been better .... :sigh:

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    1. I know! And it was building up nicely until that...

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  5. Highly disappointing end....:(
    The greatest man who ever roamed on this earth, who was elivated to the status of God by those who saw him, finally breaks his promise and uses the Pahupatiastra, acts in a fit of rage and decides to put his personal grief ahead of his mission and values and chooses to kill thousands of innocent people along with the annihilation of Devagiri....just dosent fit into the picture the author was trying to create.
    Adding to the midway left events and character build ups mentioned above, what was the need of Sati's apparition being visible to Ganesh and Kartik and saying different things.
    Moreover Bhrigu potrayed as a villain throughout was suddenly shown in good light without conclusive justifications for his acts.
    Also how did Monobhu, Shiva's uncle, manage to convince Meluhans to invite Shiva at right time is not revealed.
    Ultimately it turned out to be a war fought for personal motives, and Sati came out to be the epicentre of everything, from what Daksha did to what Shiva did.
    Highly dissatisfied with the ending after I became a fan of the 1st two parts....:(..if only Amish could fix it now....
    Totally agree with "Lazy Think Tank" you indeed have a cool blog name...:):)

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    1. Thanks Vivek :) Maybe Amish ji should write another version with an alternate ending? Now that's an idea huh? :)

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  6. In Public interest, I want to officially tear off the last 150 pages of the Oath of Vayuputras, before anyone reads it.. to save them the disappointment.

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  7. Hi,
    I stumbled across your blog and really enjoyed your reviews. I am a publisher (2 novels published) in search of identity and would feel privileged to get reviewed by you.
    I will be happy to send a copy to you (soft copy or hard copy. Whichever you feel convenient enough). Let me know if you are interested.
    I’d love to hear back from you. You may contact me at mallam.nareshgoud@gmail.com

    Best Regards,
    Naresh

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  8. i totally agree with u lazy think tank but just think if the climax would be something else like they had a war in which Sati dies at one side and as planned some people of Shiva's army would have gone and destroyed the secret somras factory, after it is destroyed Shiva gets frustrated of seeing Sati and thinks of using the pashupatiastra but comes to his senses and remembers his oath and all would have ended nicely. i think Shiva should have been portrayed as a man who put his KARMA before his wishes and life. then he really would have been a true GOD. :)

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  9. Amazing review..really captured and joined all the pressure points of this phenomenal novel !! The first two books made me crazy...i always believed the great legends or identities we call as Gods must have really been kings in the very old times ... and it must have been some of there great deeds ..that the precious and honorary titles were bestowed upon them by people...Take a example of Great Vasudev Shri Krishna...king of Dwarka !! He managed an entire Mahabharat the most epicwar ever...he was a king...he sure must have been the reincarnation of bhagwan Vishnu but what he did was in a mortal form and there was nothing magical in it....Same goes with Shiva Triology....

    A zillon thanks to Amish ji for the masterpiece ...u really have that kinds of imaginations when poured into words..its like a movie running in front of our eyes....

    Sadly the end was a bit disappointing ...thts jus my view......but the plot maybe couldnt justify the title give to the Lord, I totally agree with "Lazy think tank" the end would have been far better...


    Anyways worth pulling a all nighter ....felt happy..
    Kudos to author for such splendid work of imagination...it was near to Non-Fiction !!
    Amish ji loved your perception and near perfection...
    am not worthy of reviewing or commenting on such beautiful work of art i.e the triology..please dont consider this as an assessment !! just friendly insights

    To Lazy think tank : awsmm Blog dude...read ur other reviews...too good man....Please do read.."Mritunjay" by Shivaji Sawant....worth reading 10 times !!
    Keep up the good work !!
    God bless !!

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  10. My respect for Parva went down when he decided to follow his nation instead of his living god. however, i do agree that his character was just brushed off at the end.

    also, like mostly everybody, is so disappointed with the ending, im kind of just choosing to ignore it, like you mentioned. your review is excellent. hits so many of my feelings. why did he write shiva losing his cool and using the pashupatiastra!?!?! i have no idea. the ending is just so not on par with the rest of the trilogy. even so, i love the trilogy, especially the second book. and give respect to amish for writing such a work. again, awesome review as well.

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  11. I felt mesmerized by this whole three book series. But i felt that the first part "Immortals of Meluha" will be considered the best. But the story is so written is that you just can't help reading all three.

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