Thursday, 10 March 2016

The Scion of Ikshvaku by Amish Tripathi - Book Review

Publisher's write-up:

'Ayodhya is weakened by divisions. A terrible war has taken its toll.

The damage runs deep. The demon King of Lanka, Raavan, does not impose his rule on the defeated. He, instead, imposes his trade. Money is sucked out of the empire. The Sapt Sindhu people descend into poverty, despondency and corruption. They cry for a leader to lead them out of the morass.

Little do they appreciate that the leader is among them. One whom they know. A tortured and ostracised prince. A prince they tried to break. A prince called Ram.

He loves his country, even when his countrymen torment him. He stands alone for the law. His band of brothers, his wife Sita, and he, against the darkness of chaos.'

The Scion of Ikshvaku is the first book of the Ram Chandra series which is in fact, the prequel of the same author's Shiva Trilogy. In the Shiva Trilogy, a past monarch named Ram Chandra is revered, and this is a series about him.

A word of advice to all readers who have read the Ramayan, treat this as a story distinct from Ramayan as there are quite a lot of changes from the original epic (starting from Dasharath and Raavan being enemies even before the birth of Ram, Manthara being the richest person in Ayodhya, Sukracharya being from Egypt, etc.). I see a lot of criticism on this book owing to these deviations which I find to be rather unfair considering this story is not re-telling but re-imagining.

With that said, Prince Ram is born the day his father, Dasharath, the Emperor of Ayodhya, loses his first ever battle to the demon king of Lanka, Raavan. Hence, Ram is seen as the symbol of misfortune by his father and all the nobles in the kingdom. Notwithstanding that, he still loved his country and the people of his country, had a strong sense of right or wrong and believed in the rule of law being absolute. This story substantially revolves around Ram's student years along with his half brothers - Lakshman, Bharat and Shatrugan under the tutelage of their teacher Vashishta and eventually, goes on to his early adult life; marriage to Sita and the exile.

What I appreciate about this book is, yet again, the author has come up with a book which takes an ancient story as the premise to come up with something different which is perhaps more interesting to the current generation of readers. Truth be told, I have never been a big fan of Ramayan and I have always considered it to be quite a boring story and yes, so far, this has been a lot more interesting story based on what, in my opinion, is a boring premise.

The ideological conversations between Bharat and Ram were really good, with the former taking a liberal approach focused on freedom akin to the scenario today (or is it?) and the latter being absolutely strict about the rule of law, even if it is seemingly redundant. The places and the events were also described well and his writing has been progressively improving over the course of Shiva Trilogy and this has been no exception; he still uses modern colloquial language but I have learnt to accept that as his style, considering this is the fourth book of his that I am reading.

To talk about the negatives, I have one significant set of events in the book - which was an allusion to the 2012 Delhi gang rape tragedy (including the  and his description of the public execution was absolutely ... grotesque, to say the least and I couldn't stand it beyond a point. There was absolutely no reason to bring this issue into this book and this was just a move to strike a chord with the majority opinion of the public and honestly, one shouldn't write a story with commercial intentions in mind. Coming to the philosophical aspects of the book, I found it rather silly to associate gender with principles of governing a country and there is excessive content on this book as to how the system followed in the story during the time being feminine and how Ram wishes to bring the change by bringing out the best aspects of the masculine system. Moreover, like any other Amish book, there was some appalling use of pseudo science while attempting to rationalise some of the events of Ramayan which very well could've been skipped. 

To conclude, without drawing any reference to Ramayan, for if you do, you'd inevitably form a negative opinion, I would not say this story scores with regard to writing or an excellent case of imagination or anything along those lines but then, it was readable. Hence, for me, other factors ignored, if you just deliver a good story, I award them a standard rating of six on ten and this book is no exception to that principle of mine.

Rating - 6/10

Have a nice day,

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