Review: Arjuna

By Anuja Chandramouli. Grade: B+


Arjuna is the immortal tale of one of India’s greatest heroes. These pages retell in riveting detail the story of the Pandava Warrior-Prince who has captured the imagination of millions across centuries. This is the intense and human story of his loves, friendship, ambitions, weaknesses and follies, as well as his untimely death and revival, his stint as a eunuch, and the innermost reaches of his thoughts. Told in a refreshingly modern and humourous style and set against the staggering backdrop of the Mahabharata. Arjunas story appeals equally to the average, discerning reader and the scholar. It spans the epic journey from before his birth, when omens foretold his greatness, across the fabled, wondrous landscape that was his life.

This book was sent to me by the author herself for the purpose of review for VoB – I took my time getting to read this one, as I was still enamored by the starkly vivid world of Acacia created by David Anthony Durham in the concluding volume to the famed Acacia trilogy.


Arjuna brought me to back to India. And how. Back to the world I’ve always loved right from my first brush with India’s finest epic fantasy known to one and all as the MahaBharata. And I say this again, against the backdrop of this vast and fantastically detailed epic, of late I’ve seen countless stories spring up. And not a single one do I tire of.


Anuja’s triumphant debut lays out in lavish detail the life of the greatest warrior of the epic Mahabharata times, the pandava prince Arjuna. Fast read, written in a competent prose and the action keeps moving along at a steady clip. There are no surprises here; we’ve grown up on this story, right? So I was curious to see how differently she treated this one.


Well, for starters you might argue that by singling out Arjuna alone, who arguably enough hasn’t seen his fair share of the mytho-fantasy book-mentions or devotee-vote banks, she has got it right.  A book dedicated to the exploits of the greatest archer/warrior of the MBH story written from his point of view, Arjuna is a definite page-turner.  It helps that Arjuna being the most gifted archer of the lot, gets involved in most of the interesting action that happens in these times. Most of the initial parts of the book focuses on the character growth of Arjuna as he grows into his inheritance, the tag of being the greatest warrior. In the beginning though, Anuja takes her time setting up the context to the birth of the Pandavas – the narrative zips across events blurring timelines and it didn’t help that the author hopped from one event to the other instead of building it up chronologically. Maybe this was deliberate but I personally felt it jarred a little. But quickly sifting through the tumultuous childhood of Pandavas and Kauravas, Anuja takes through Arjuna’s journey to the Naga lands, the eastern provinces (Manipur), the famous Draupadi Swayamvar, his quest for celestial weapons that pits him against Gods and Asuras alike, his exile and the year spent as a transvestite dance teacher  – all forming a nice pattern weaving into the larger scheme of things, building up towards the formidable eighteen-day war that is the final confrontation between the cousins, the Kauravas and Pandavas.


This is touted to be an often hilarious rehash of the Mahabharata times through the lens of Arjuna – while for most parts the story reads like a documentary with minimal fictional intervention, the latter half of the novel that concentrates on the war is a bit more lively – interspersed with dialogues and action. As is expected, you cannot really do justice to the larger story arc without bringing in viewpoints of other major characters in this titanic struggle for power. So Anuja deftly weaves in interesting side stories of Krishna, Karna and Drona, among the many other colorful characters who lent vibrancy to the proceedings.


This is another of those books that stands tall on the shoulder of giants – well researched and competently delivered. Anuja’s prose is lively and drives the narrative forwards in spurts – Perhaps a slow start that chugs along in the middle and really picks up heated pace towards the latter halves. But it doesn’t really deliver anything new to the table. If you haven’t read any MBH versions before, you are definitely in for a treat. Rajagopalachari’s Mahabharata still remains my favorite any day – Govinda brought a new spin to the proceedings – mixing fact with fiction and magic. Ashok Banker’s retelling now with three parts out crowds the bookshelves of most retail bookstores. So in a world where everybody is scampering to cash in on the hype and success created by the rich landscape of India mythofantasy, Arjuna is more of the same wine in a slightly new bottle.  Arjuna is probably an incredibly stereotypical protagonist and the plot is also very predictable due to its own been-there-done-that qualities. That being said, I realize that not everything has to be new, fresh and inventive to be enjoyable. Go soak yourself in those wonderful times again – where Gods walked the earth and the best of us got a chance to wield weapons against evil and triumph against odds.

This post was written by

Sachin Dev – who has written 4 posts on Vault of Books ||.
Sachin is a big speculative fiction junkie and has been devouring books ever since he could string together a bunch of words. Music, Writing and Reading Science Fiction & Fantasy forms a huge wedge in his circle of life and he hopes to come up with a cure for thassophobia one day. For now, he spends his time reading genre fiction across SFF and slaving at a day job that pays money to buy books and pens. He blogs about books at


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