By Krishna Udayshankar. Grade A. Series: Book 2 of The Aryavrat chronicles
What is a great novel?
A great novel is a long sequential story that cultivates and provocates the mindset of readers, it sets out to create something new in its domain and not only achieves its goal but also manages to surpass expectations and set a new benchmark in said genre.
If you believe in this definition, then Kaurava is a beautiful book. Maybe not a masterpiece, but truly the work of a scholar.
Nothing left to fight for is nothing left to lose…
Emperor Dharma Yudhisthir of the Kauravas and Empress Panchali Draupadi rule over the unified realm of Aryavarta, an empire built for them by Govinda Shauri with the blessings of the Firstborn and by the might of those whom everyone believes long gone – the Firewrights.
Now the Firewrights rise from the ashes of the past, divided as before in purpose and allegiance, and no one, it seems, can stand in the way of the chaos about to be unleashed on the land – not the Firstborn, not the kings of Aryavarta, and not Govinda Shauri.
As sinister plans are put in play and treacherous alliances emerge, Aryavarta transforms into its own worst enemy. Dharma Yudhisthir gambles away his empire, the tormented empress is forced into a terrifying exile and the many nations of the realm begin to take up arms in a bid to fight, conquer and destroy each other.
His every dream shattered, Govinda is left a broken man. The only way he can protect Aryavarta and the woman in whose trusted hands he had left it is by playing a dangerous game. But can he bring himself to reveal the terrible secrets that the Vyasa has protected all his life – secrets that may well destroy the Firstborn, and the Firewrights with them?
In Kaurava, the second book in The Aryavarta Chronicles series, Krishna Udayasankar continues to recreate the world of the Mahabharata and the lives of its characters through stunning imagination and powerful storytelling. This is the epic like it was never told before.
Mahabharata is timeless. It is an epic that provides relevant lessons and much entertainment even in the 21st century. Krishna Udayshankar has owned it and given a new perspective to the epic without compromising much of the main story. Mahabharata is a sea of plots and characters and knowledge and there is no way this epic can be distilled in one book. Kaurava is a sequel to the author’s debut novel Govinda in ‘The Aryavarta Chronicles‘ series. Those who have read Book 1 of ‘The Aryavrat chronicles‘ dont need a book review to read Kaurava. They would already be frothing with impatience to grab this.
Just like in Govinda, Udayasankar’s characters are all very much human and very much real; the research is colossal and leaves you tranquilized and purified. Infact Kaurava plunges into the bizarre, hysterical depths of each character in the epic, slowly shedding lights on the emotional side of them. Capturing the queasy feeling that giants of Mahabharata felt in diverse situations, Kaurava swims in the mind of Syoddhan, Vidura, Asvattama, Jayadrath, Vasusena, Shikandin, Dhrstyadymn, Dharma (Yudhisthir), Partha (Arjun), Panchali (Draupadi), Bhima, Nakula, Sahdeva, Angasena and many more, refusing to accept stereotypes. And on that front Udayshankar has brought us a delicately crafted experiment.
The characters don’t obey popular narrative. Asvattama, Shikandin and Dhrstyadymn are strong and likeable characters. Suyyodhana has been projected as a nice and just guy whereas you develop a mild hatred for Dharma by the time the book finishes. There is no cheating in the game of dice and it is Dharma who wants to go gambling. Govinda is unable to come to protect Panchali from getting molested by Dussasan and drowns himself in a sea of sorrow, hibernating in Dwarka.
The story is written through a nib that gives an alternate retelling of Mahabharata, a heightened sense of realism, and the events you expect are slapped away as swiftly as Chief Virat of Matsya slaps Yudhisthir towards the end. There is a kind of attention to emotional details of Mahabharata’s characters that has remain unmatched in the past attempts. There is so much happening in the mind and lives of the characters in these 350 pages that you’d think it could be either too much or too little, but Udayshankar finds a fine balance and allows the characters and story to unwind peacefully, until it breaks into a huge war awaiting in the
final installment of the trilogy.