PLOT: 4.5/5 CHARACTERS: 5/5 WRITING STYLE: 4.5/5 CLIMAX: 4/5 ENTERTAINMENT: 4.5/5
It was while researching for a video on the latest Indian book releases of 2020 that I came across the book ‘Chaturanga’. A lot of reader friends had recommended The Rise of Sivagami (Bahubali: Before the Beginning Book 1) to me and I had been meaning to delve into this highly recommended series. When I finally did, it took me just 6 days to finish both the books cover to cover – and in case you are wondering, yes, it was that good!
Read on to know more about my thoughts on Anand Neelakantan’s‘Chaturanga’; a book that promises a delectable saga of epic proportions.
What to expect?
Expect a fantasy fiction that is set in the fictional kingdom of Mahismati in ancient India. Expect a highly entertaining read. Expect a book that has multiple characters, multiple kingdoms and the story of which spans over multiple generations.
Expect a book that has shrewd politicians, power hungry chieftains, tribal rebels, cunning statesmen and wily individuals – all trying to make the best of their circumstances and fighting for what they think is right. Expect a saga of epic proportions, one that is drenched in love, betrayal, rivalries, greed, lust, ambition and politics.
Who can read?
The book makes use of a rich language that neither overpowers the story nor does it unnecessarily complicate things. It is precisely because of this reason that ‘Chaturanga’ can be enjoyed by every type of readers – from beginners to voracious.
Let’s talk about the storyline
In the land of Mahismati, in the aftermath of the failed attempt at a political coup by the tribal Vaithalikas, the stage is set for a ruthless game of politics and ambition.
Sivagami has moved up from her humble beginnings and has been elevated to the powerful position of bhoomipathi. She now has all right tools and means to pursue her one true agenda –to avenge the death of her father, Devaraya.
Meanwhile, there is a constant tussle between the two sons of Maharaja Somadeva who are both vying for the crown.
A powerful and wily strategist, acting from behind the scenes, is slowly moving all the pieces of the puzzle in order to topple the current king, Somadeva.
Will the shrewd politician succeed? Who will win over Sivagami’s affection? Will Kattappapick love over duty? Will Sivagami succeed in her plans?
How good are the characters?
The characters are winners of this story. While in Book 1, they are either pure evil or inherently good,it is in ‘Chaturanga’ that we get to see their various shades. They become much more nuanced and many of them constantly oscillate between good and bad often blurring the lines that separate the two. This is the beauty of Anand’s writing and this is one of those things that I constantly looked forward to.
Another thing that strikes you is just how original they are – be it in appearances or character traits, be it in how they tend to behave – they are as original as they come. Totally, non-cliché and hundred percent original. Anand’s characters are also extremely inclusive – they are rich, poor, high class, low class, lepers, eunuchs, statesmen, prostitutes, dwarves, tribal, orphans, matriarchs, and patriarchs – they come in all shapes, sizes and colors and from distinct backgrounds.
What about the writing style?
Anand’s writing is effortless touching the right notes and chords. He is one of those unique voices in India that eloquently expresses emotions as well as it narrates an intense action sequence.
What did I like?
At a subliminal level, the book reads like a social commentary that portrays the ugly realities of our world. It serves as an appropriate example of what can go wrong with a country when the interests of the mass are sacrificed at the high altar of the class.
What did I not like?
My only qualm with the book is that certain scenes and events are rounded up too soon.
Is the book entertaining?
The book is packed with entertainment. The pace is much quicker than the unhurried pace of the Book 1. There is a sense of urgency with which the characters tend to move. If you are reading the Books 1 and 2 back to back, this difference might feel much more pronounced to you.
There is always something happening. There is a new mystery unfolding or a new action at the turn of every page. This sometimes may seem a tad tiring but overall manages to maintain that ‘edge-of-the-seat’ thriller appeal of the book.
‘Chaturanga’ parts with us on an interesting note promising a thrilling journey ahead. It leaves us with many open-ended questions, igniting our curiosities and flaming the fire with a tease here and a tease there. I, for one, am eagerly awaiting the next book in the series.
Let’s talk about the climax
The bookends on a satisfactory note, giving us a peak into what lies ahead in the game. However, the climax seems hastily written and does not give an epic closure to the Book 2. I would have loved it to be a little more elaborate and detailed, perhaps with a couple more pages chalking out the events and the motives of people at a much languid pace.
In the end
In the end, Anand Neelakantan’s‘Chaturanga’ is a book worth every minute that you spend reading. Taut plotlines, scheming characters, lucid narrations and expressive writing when combined with an intriguing universe sets the tone for a highly adventurous and fascinating journey for the reader.
The final verdict
Go for it!
Pick the book if
- You like the idea of a fantasy series set in ancient India.
- You like sagas of epic proportions that tend to span multiple decades or lifetimes.
- You like books that have strong and power-hungry characters.
- You are looking for a 5-star entertainer.
- You love books that have a lot of action and adventure.
Skip the book if
- You don’t like fantasy fiction.
- You are not a fan of the Bahubali universe.
Can’t wait to read it? Buy your copy of Chaturanga using the link below.