The Aryavrata Chronicles, Book 3 - Kurukshetra - Book Review

Title: The Aryavrata Chronicles, Book 3 - Kurukshetra
Author: Krishna Udayasankar
Publisher: Hachette India
ISBN: 978-93-5009-718-2
Number of Pages: 427
Price: 350 [INR]
Genre: Mythofiction

Blurb on the Cover:

War is upon the realm, but is Aryavrata prepared for what it will bring?

The empire that was Aryavrata fades under the shadow of doom. As a botter struggle ensues to gain control of the divided kingdoms, Krishna Dwaipayana Vyasa of the Firstborn and the Secret Keeper of the Firewrights both watch from the wings as their own blood, their kin, savage and kill on the fields of Kurukshetra. Restraint and reason have deserted the rulers who once protected the land and they manipulate, scheme and destroy with abandon - for victory is all that matters.

At the heart of the storm stands Govinda Shauri, driven by fickle allies and failed kings to the very brink of darkness. He may well be the greatest danger Aryavrata has faced yet, for he is determined to change things forever. Reforging the forsaken realm in the fire of his wrath, he prepares to destroy everything he loves and make the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of one last hope: that humanity will rise, that there will be revolution.

In this spectacular, gripping episode of The Aryavrata Chronicles, Krishna Udayasankar's recreation of the world of the Mahabharata establishes her as a storyteller of formidable power and imagination.

My Review:

The book Kurukshetra is the third and final installment of The Aryavrata Chronicles. The first two books in this trilogy are Govinda and Kaurava. The first book 'Govinda' deals with Govinda's plot to destroy the Fire Wrights and make Dharma (the name of Yudhistira in this trilogy) the emperor of Aryavrata. The second deals with the after math of this; the dice game and the consequences that follow, leading to the big war. The third book, as the name suggests, is about the great war of Kurukshetra.

The story of Mahabharatha, though similar to the epic we have read, is still different in many ways. In the very beginning, the author writes "We are the stories we tell. The Aryavrata Chronicles are neither reinterpretation nor retelling. These stories are a construction of reality based on a completely different set of assumptions" Here, the characters are not divine. They are all ordinary people. There are no miracles; instead the author has given logical explanation to events which were termed miracles.

The story begins with Govinda's peace proposal, which is rejected by Syoddhan (Duryodhan). What follows is the series of events, where both the sides try to form allies with other kings, trying to expand their forces. Though they prepare for the war, there is still hope in everyone that it wouldn't come down to war and the other side would surrender. But when peace proceedings fail, it leads to the great battle.

I was waiting to see what form this war would take, as the author has mortalised all the characters. What would be the war like without the divine astras used during the wars? But by hinting that the arrows were coated with nitre, which caused such massive destruction during war, the author has managed this part brilliantly. The war takes the centre stage of the book and almost 200 pages is devoted to the 18 days war, but never once does the reader loses interest. The author has managed to narrate the whole story with precision keeping the reader engaged throughout.

The author has done justice to almost all characters, without letting just some dominate the whole story. Even Syoddhan has been portrayed as a Just ruler, who fights for what he believes is right - The Divine Order and their way of life. By showing compassion to Abhimanyu during the battle, he wins the hearts of the reader. On the other hand, Dharma fails to do so. Dharma was supposed to be all great but reading this book, one cannot stop themselves from harboring ill feeling s towards him. Reading about his reactions during war councils, his pushing Abhimanyu towards the chakra formation, even when he knew the chances of Abhimanyu returning back safe is almost nil, his behaviour towards Hidimbya and even toward Govinda; they all make you wonder if he is really the same Yudhishtira whose praises are sung with devotion! I didn't like this part of the book where Dharma was downgraded.

One more story line, which I enjoyed was that of Abhimanyu and Uttara. Stuck in a marriage which both weren't happy to begin with, there is a barrier between them which both fight to keep and break at the same time. But eventually, love finds its way. There is particularly one line which Uttara says to Abhimanyu "If a woman is truly your equal, prince, then there is no need to talk about it. The more you spout these declarations and postulates, the more you reveal the truth of the matter - that in your world, women are not equal to men, and so rhetoric to the contrary is required" It speaks volumes about Uttara's courage. One cannot help but feel the pain when Abhimanyu is so brutally killed later in the war.

There are many mytholgical incidents, which Krishna Udayasankar deals with reason. She has managed to give attention to even minute details, to keep the readers in loop as to why things are the way they are. For instance, when describing the war arrangements, she says there were different kitchens in each units and sometimes more than one in each sub unit. This arrangement was to reduce the risk of poisoning the army either accidentally or deliberately. A simple yet effective approach. It was easy to keep up with the story. Her writing is eloquent and engaging; her narration skills exceptional.

Here are a few quotes from the book that I loved:

The book makes a great read. Without miracles and just logical reasons to support the events, it seems more believable. The pace is perfect, slowing down only when need be, without exaggerating anything unnecessary. I will suggest this book to all mythology lovers.

My Rating: 4/5 Stars.

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Until the next post,
Keep Smiling :)

Swathi :)

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