I picked up this book with a lot of expectations as Indian mythology is one of my favourite genres. The Rise of Hastinapur is based on some of the events that happened in the Indian epic, Mahabharata. Specifically the story revolves around the lives of three women – Amba, Pritha, and Gandhari. This book is the second in the Hastinapur series by the author, Sharath Komarraju. I have not read the first one, The Winds of Hastinapur and hope maybe had I, things might have been clearer.
The book is divided into three sections and the first one dedicated to Amba, the princess of Kasi. She is a princess wronged by several men in her life. Bhishma, the warrior prince of Hastinapur ‘wins’ her for his brother. Amba’s father lets Bhishma take her even though he was not invited for the Swayamvar. Her lover Salva, refuses to take her back when she returns from Hastinapur. Such a premise should have made the reader connect emotionally with Amba and back her plans for revenge. Strangely I could not connect with the character. Amba is as flawed as the men in her life and perhaps the characterisation is not strong enough. Amba becomes a priestess and sired a girl child who she hoped would kill Bhishma. While I do understand that this story is fictional, I do find it hard to accept some facts like a priestess sleeping with a king to ‘cure’ his infertility.
The second part of the book chronicles the life of Pritha, the princess of Kunti. Her brother Vasudev marries Devaki, Kamsa’s sister. But they are imprisoned by Kamsa after their marriage. Furious over this fact Pritha enlists the help of Surya, the celestial god of light. But Indra has plans of his own. Though he promises to help free her brother and sister-in-law he fails to do so. Instead, he blesses her such that her sons would be celestial beings and they would destroy Kamsa. Heartbroken but left with no other choice, Pritha hopes Surya’s words would come true some day.
The final part of the book revolves around Gandhari, the queen of Gandhar. She is a young maiden losing her eyesight each day. She finds out that her kingdom has been looted for years by Bhishma, the prince of Hastinapur right under their nose. Her brother Shakuni goads her to launch an attack on Hastinapur. But she knew that Gandhar’s army was not strong enough to win a war. Also having lost a lot of their gold, they did not have the resources to recoup an army. Help arrives in the form of Kubera, another celestial being from the mountains of Meru. But like Surya he too has plans of his own and uses Gandhari to achieve them. Decimated by Hastinapur’s army, Gandhari is no longer a queen. She concedes to Bhishma’s offer to marry his blind brother, Dhridrasthra. She does so with the intent of destroying Bhishma and Hastinapur.
The one problem I noticed in the book was some portions of the story zips through so fast it takes a while to connect the dots. For instance, there are elaborate discussions about the war in the last part of the book. But the actual war is described in less than page and lacks a coherent connection. The book is interesting in some parts and has some sudden pitfalls that sort of mars the flow of the story. I hope the loose ends are tied up in the next book in the Hastinapur series.
The book will be available on December 9th and you can pre-order it on Amazon via this link.
P.S: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.