After having read Ajaya, I was very eager to see how the sequel – “Rise of Kali” goes. And I was not disappointed at all. Anand Neelakantan has taken the perspective of the antagonist in the Mahabharata and delivered a gripping tale. A plot and angle that not many will dare explore and delve deep into. A fitting finale which is something of an ode to the kauravas, the clan that was wiped out at the end of the Kurukshetra War.
We start our journey with Draupadi being called to the court after the Pandavas lose her in a game of dice and follows the event chain from there as we all have heard/read about in the Mahabharata. The key difference us the perspective and side we are taking, and that of the antagonist also seems very passionate and practical. There are points where I wondered if we have been taught the wrong side side of the epic all along! Very lucid and tight writing style.
Ajaya gave us the humane side of Suyodhana, and Rise of Kali is even more gripping and taught in the same path. Multiple instances where the reader literally a part of the plot and on these instances the book is almost immersive and extremely tough to put down. For me, the part where Suyodhana confronts Krishna in the discussion about the validity and legitimacy of his cause. Krishna is written as the glue of the intriguing plot here, every scene that he is in, there is an interesting side of him that comes to the fore. The thought process and reasoning of Krishna makes you admire the political acumen he brings to the story, at places you start questioning the whole logic behind the war. Such is the narration and writing. The point where Bhishma’s proclamation that he is going to support Suyodhana is also one of the high points of the tale and brilliant writing comes to the fore. Thoroughly engaging!
The stories of Shakuni, Eklavya, Karna and Yudhishthira have been laid out without falling into the trap of calling them right or wrong. The whole tale is about a set of human beings who are real, normal, fallible, full of weaknesses and most importantly very very fallible. There is no hero worship in the entire book.
This is a book that tries to break conventional storytelling and boldly takes the side of the antagonist in trying to examine the practicality of a tale that we are all used to hearing in one narration from our childhood. And in that attempt, the resulting tale is very immersive and does not dip in interest even one bit. The conservative people who regard epics as sacrosanct may have a problem with this book, but I found this a very interesting and enjoyable tale. One feeling that one has is that the ending is rather abrupt and things have been tied up in a hurry to go to the end that we all know. But then, I am not at all complaining, this style to looking at the other side of the coin is something that has to be explored and written more often. This book stays with you for a long long time after you read it. I am recommending this as a must buy and must read book! Completely worth the buy and more!