It isn't often one comes across a book by an Indian author, with a sequel. It is even rarer when the said sequel might just be better than its predecessor.
Tripathi once again delves into Indian mythology and spins a fascinating tale around many of the names heard in tales told at our grandmothers' knees, portraying them as mere mortals. Last left, Shiva was about to launch an attack on the dreaded Nagas to avenge Brahaspathi's death. The book's blurb gives you enough indication, and then some, that Shiva's plan might not be that easy to execute. His desire, and ours, for answers takes him all across India in this book, with the city in focus being Kashi.
I'll give the book this, the author has good command over the story and doesn't let it meander, with something or the other always afoot. Filled with secrets, shocks and betrayal, this book is a page-turner from start to finish. The reveal of the Naga's identity was shocking, to say the least. I DID NOT SEE THAT COMING, PEOPLE! The "secret" of the Nagas, however, was something I had long suspected so I wasn't blown away by the "cliff-hanger". As for that Master Pupeteer, I think it's Bhrigu. There's a suspicious character if there ever was one!
But, the book is not perfect either. Many issues are brought up and then never addressed again, or explained properly. For example, the awfully gross "ritual" the Branga people perform in Kashi - what is THAT about? Or this mysterious plague that seems to affect them, nothing is mentioned as to what it is or why it is happening or how it started and it is never brought up again after that chapter.
Sati annoyed me a bit in this book. I don't know about you, but I wouldn't be OK with leaving my 6-month old son and going off to fight lions or planning a break-in because I'm wondering what the King of Kashi is up to when he disappears mysteriously into his palace every now and then (BOUNDARIES, woman!). Anandamayi, however, was a delight to read about. I couldn't help but grin every time that feisty, saucy girl sauntered onto the page!
The author often uses the story to put forth his opinion on many issues - like Karma, ethics, consequentialism, existentialism and the balance of Good and Evil. Though it is clearly intended to make you think, sometimes it does get a bit too much. What I also found jarring was the use of certain words/phrases that didn't quite match with the era the book is set in. I get that the author has tried to give the story as modern a take as possible, but I can't quite digest the fact that these people know of "radio waves" and "accumulator machines" OR that they say things like "You're a 180-year old virgin??" (Was anybody else reminded of Twilight here? No? Just me? OK.) and "I never understand their mumbo-jumbo". But maybe that's just me.
Recommended. Go read. Now.