Book Review: Asura – Tale of the Vanquished

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Asura: Tale of the Vanquished by Anand Neelakantan is the story of Ravan, the primary antagonist in the Hindu Mythological Epic Ramayan. Instead of portraying Ravan as a devil and Ram as a God incarnate, Anand has attempted to depict the human nature of the characters, which is more grey than either black or white. Anand has taken well-known mythological facts and weaved a very imaginative and ingenious story around it.

Ravan is one of the most fascinating characters in Indian Mythology. His character is much more nuanced than has been traditionally depicted. When I heard about this book on Ravan, telling his version of the story, I was truly excited and eager to read it.

However, this book did not match up to my expectations and this is in-spite of a very engaging and interesting story. This one’s undoing is its lax editing and poor characterization. The book is longer than it should have been and certain portions are extremely dull and boring, especially the first half. Further, the way Ravan’s character is developed is highly inconsistent. At times he is brave and knowledgeable, at times he is arrogant and acts like a fool, at times he is full of love and affection for his family, at times he insults and throws them out. There is nothing in the plot which can explain these inconsistencies, and this makes it really difficult to relate to the main character. Bhadra – the second main character and one of the narrators, also suffer from similar inconsistencies.

A good read if you are interested in Indian mythology, but definitely not something which will blow your mind.

PS: All said and done, the Shiva Trilogy by Amish remains the undisputed king of novels based on Indian Mythology.

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