A debut novel and that too on a character accursed to live an immortal life stripped of all his celestial weapons, power and knowledge, ‘Ashwatthama’s Redemption’ will leave you thirsting for more. Narrated in simple language and at perfect pace, the book introduces you to various lesser known stories and aspects connected with Mahabharata and its characters along with mirroring the trials and tribulations of one of the greatest warriors of all times.
Ashwatthama the son of Guru Dronacharya, doomed to suffer immortality with the burden of guilt that continuously sears through his soul, is living the life of a recluse deep in the forests away from humanity until one fateful day he is called upon to assist on a mission that is fraught with dangers and a life far worse than death should anything go wrong. Being part incarnate of Lord Shiva, only he can deliver humanity from a fate unpleasant that awaits it with the imminent rise of a formidable foe. What follows is an adventure of sorts where at every turn he encounters memories from the past, memories that haunt him and offer pain and nothing else. Fighting his inner demons, and trying to atone for his mistakes of the past, Ashwatthama faces some facts, some questions that leave him deep in thought.
Twists and turns apart, the book also offers us some valuable insights into the working of the karmic cycle along with offering some nuggets of wisdom to chew and ponder on. The lesser known tales pertaining to the Mahabharata, its characters and Krishna, make interesting read and offer a better understanding of the epic. While the plot is interesting, the style of narration complements it. The climax too is like ‘Wow! What next?’However there are a few things that hold me back from pronouncing the book, ‘Perfect!’ Let’s see what they are.
1. Characterization- A little more work on the characters is sure to add value to the book and make it more enjoyable. While the characterization of supporting characters like Urmila and Rana leave no room for complaint, it’s the protagonist who fails to impress. We must remember that here all eyes are riveted on Ashwatthama, and for the story to truly impress, he must be able to connect with the readers. However Ashwatthama’s characterization leaves room for improvement. I agree he is an enigma, yet to fully appreciate his role in taking the story forward, he needs to connect with the readers on the spiritual plain, which incidentally does not happen.
2. The journey in search of the Kodanda felt incomplete and rushed through. A little more of detail with vivid imagery would have worked wonders for the book.
3. A little more fire, a little more dramatization in the action scenes with Raktavija and Vidyut would help in keeping the reader in me on edge. It would have felt like something akin to an intense thriller- racy and heart pounding.
A few interesting takeaways from the book that offer gems of wisdom/ food for thought –
1. Evil cannot survive if people find courage in their hearts to stand up for the good. Evil thrives on weaknesses of men. Evil rises on their shoulders; it feeds on bloodshed and death. Being a silent spectator wouldn’t help. Evil can only be defeated by determination and self-belief.2. The wheels of Karma are in effect everywhere. Good deeds become the only solution to bad karma.
3. Rise for your fellow citizens, for what you run away from today will come to haunt you tomorrow in one way or the other if you do not take a stand.
A truly interesting read and of course a good one considering this is the author’s debut novel. I’m sure there is a sequel to this in the pipeline considering how the climax ended , and I’m sure looking forward to reading that too.