Fantasy

The Rise of Sivagami (Bahubali Book 1) [Review]

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Rating: 2.5/5

Who won’t be excited to read stories about Bahubali? When I found out that the creators are coming up with a book and it is written by Anand Neelakantan (Asura, Ajaya series), I was radiant. I was, am and will be a huge fan of the Ajaya series for its sheer courage and boldness to project a story from the alleged antagonist’s view. I highly respect the author for that. At the same time, I wouldn’t say I am huge fan of Bahubali- though I admit I was really impressed with the movie when I watched it. It was something new to Indian cinema. Yes. It’s a story about kingdom and fight for the throne, more like Mahabharat, but I felt this was for the first time, a concept like this was handled with so much professionalism and sincerity. Usually, the visuals are given prime importance and the story is out of bounds, but Bahubali made sure that it scored in all the departments. The movie meant serious business- and yes it made huge business. Honestly, more than the entire film, the ending stood out so much rising huge anticipation among the viewers- “Why did Katappa kill Bahubali?” That was more than enough to let the nation hover at the edge of the cliff for almost more than a year now. Enough said about the movie, let me jump to the book.

Book 1 of the Bahubali series- The Rise of Sivagami is a prequel to the movie. It narrates the story of the fierce and fearless little girl, Sivagami and how she became part of the Mahishmati kingdom. We do know from the movie what a strong and powerful hold she had over the running of Mahishmati, but how did she land up there in the first place? It also delves into the life of Katappa, the most loyal slave on earth. We have many other characters, who probably didn’t make it to the movie, who play a very important role sowing the foundation for Sivagami to attain power. But did she have an easy route then? What do you think? No way!

I wouldn’t go deep into the story- don’t want to spoil all the excitement. So will keep it short. Sivagami grows up under the care of Uncle Thimma after her father is labelled a traitor and is executed eventually by the King of Mahishmati. Raging with revenge, all Sivagami could think of is to kill the King of Mahishmati. For her own protection, Uncle Thimma puts her in a foster home where she has a hard, very hard time with her home mates and the warden. How does she get out of the foster home to avenge her father? That’s one of the main storylines. In parallel, Kattappa- a very sincere and loyal servant is put under huge dilemma when his brother raises questions about their future as slaves and why they succumb to all the insults and pains. Kattappa endures several tests throughout the book where he puts his life for his master. These two central characters are weaved into a political conspiracy of smuggling government secrets and plots to destroy their mother country.

Honestly, after having read so many books of foreign authors, this book hit me hard on my face for its Indianness. I am not sure how to express it but the book is absolutely Indian. The author has made sure that the book sticks to the roots of the movie on the basis of the place, characterization and the story elements. From description of the location, to the costumes, to the food and to the language used, Anand has made sure that we stay in Mahishmati and not get transported to our own fantasy world. I wonder if it was easy or difficult to depict Mahishmati in words since the world was already created and shown to us through the movie. Nevertheless, a very well done job on sticking to the flavor of Bahubali.

Now coming to book as a whole. To be truthful, I was more than a little disappointment with the amount of story covered in this book. I expected it the end to connect with the starting of Bahubali movie, but that still has a loooong way to go. Also- I felt the story didn’t really delve into what was put on the back cover? I thought that would be the main premise of the story- Sivagami and her father’s secret book. Apart from her landing her hand on the book, then losing it and then gaining it and then losing it back, there was nothing much on that front. Another thing- which is probably me- which I felt a little ughh was the amount of bloody moments involved. It was too violent for my taste. Yes. The story demands such moments. Those moments portray the courage and bravery of our heroes. BUT. I felt really difficult reading it. Somehow, instead of feeling the pain, I felt cringe.

A predominant section of the book involved Bijjala- the crown prince of Mahishmati, his arrogance, carelessness and weakness for woman. The conspirators uses this to their advantage to destroy the country during Mahamagam. As much as this played an important role to the main story, I felt a lot of time was spent on this. Same goes to the storyline of Jeemotha, the pirate. I wish we had more pages about Sivagami. Special mention to the character of Skandadasa, the Prime Minister. He is the white (not the race color but at heart) character in the story who throws all goodness and positivity at us. He is honest, sincere, hardworking, loyal and all the other good adjectives that can go with the above. The exchange between Sivagami and Skandadasa is very engaging.

To conclude, The Rise of Sivagami starts on a very interesting note. It tickles our Bahubali excitement a lot. We try to connect these happenings with what happened in the movie. But half way through, the plot takes a different route all together and somehow the story lands up being something else rather than what it actually started to be. Bahubali fans can either be entertained or disappointed but I fall into the latter. I am sure more books are on the way, and I still have hope that the story would fall back in place and focus on Sivagami and her path to queendom.

The Wizard of Oz

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Rating: 10/5

Published: 1900

I suddenly felt an intense thirst for reading children’s classics. I thought I wouldn’t be an authentic book addict if I didn’t read the classics. I started with Alice in the Wonderland. Honestly, it didn’t meet my expectations. May be I didn’t just have the right set of mind for it. In two minds, I moved to my next choice and what a choice! The Wizard of Oz by Frank Baum. I have no words to describe what I felt while reading the book. It was like a blessing. Don’t think I am exaggerating here. Seriously. This book was so full of positivity and motivation, and there was so much to learn from it. It’s completely wrong to categorize this as children’s classics. It’s for adults too. I am so happy for having picked this book. I think this would definitely be the Best book I have read this year.

Frank Baum wrote this book in 1900. At a time when there were no American stories for children, Baum came up with this amazing classic, The Wizard of Oz. Of course, he never thought it would go on to make such a magnificent mark in the minds of the readers. The Wizard of Oz made such a great name that the author came out with many more sequels, fourteen, according to internet resources. Reading all the books in this series is definitely one of my goals for the next year.

The story. Dorothy lives with her aunt and uncle in the city of Kansas. A cyclone takes her and her pet dog Toto to a magical world, The Land of the Munchkins. Apparently Dorothy kills the Wicked Witch of the land and the citizens are so grateful to her. Desperately wanting to return home, Dorothy gets to know that the Great Oz of the Emerald City would be the right person to help her. Dorothy, along with her dog, begins her journey. On the way, she meets her wonderful comrades, The Scarecrow who wants a Brain, The Tin Woodman who wants a Heart, and The Cowardly Lion who wants courage. The incidents Dorothy meets each of them have such a good feel to it. It’s hard to express. This party of 5 reach the Emerald City and meet the Oz. The Oz promises to help them, to give them what they need, only if they kill the Wicked Witch of the East. The party, after meeting several very interesting characters on course, achieve their goal at the end. But does the Great and the Terrible Oz, keep his promise? Does Dorothy finally get back to her family at Kansas? Or is she destined to live in this magical world?

The author has brilliantly carved the entire journey of Dorothy and her friends. The sense of loss and helplessness of the characters reach out to us. The beautiful part of this beautiful story is putting across the fact that, each one of us has our own strengths and weaknesses. It’s all about having faith in ourselves. Baum also cleverly makes the readers understand the importance of working as a team. One’s weakness could be another’s strength and vice versa. The Scarecrow might lack the brain but the Tin Woodman possesses it. The same goes to the rest of the characters. Each character fulfills the others’ weakness, or what they believe is their weakness. The author also displays through his story how it’s all in our mind. If we believe we can achieve something, we definitely can. Wonderful! Apart from this, the entire magical world is so enchantingly put in words that we, as readers, ease into the virtual world effortlessly. I just didn’t want the book to end.

My only slight little disappointment would be the character of Oz itself. Somewhere, since the title says The Wizard of Oz, I expected a more majestic character than what was shown in the book. Perhaps, I interpreted the character differently.

As my rating suggests, this book has to be read by all- children and adults. I had watched only cartoons of this story during my childhood. But books are books. Nothing can beat reading. I am so glad that I have read this inspiring classic now. Highly recommended.

Alice’s Adventures in the Wonderland

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Author: Lewis Carroll

It’s really weird to write a review on this amazing classic of 1865. 150 years! This classic was written 150 (appx) years ago and still this book remains in the minds of many. It’s rare that someone hasn’t read this book in their childhood. I picked up this book mainly because I couldn’t remember the entire story exactly. The premise was clear but the rest of the characters seemed murky in my mind. Hence to refresh my memory, I decided to jump into this classic again. It was a very nostalgic experience because as I went through the chapters I remembered my cherished childhood, the colourful cartoons on TV based on this story and the million imaginations in my mind to have a magical wonderland for myself.

Let’s look at the basic plot of this book.

Alice, along with her older sister, is sitting by the river side feeling bored. Suddenly she sees a peculiar White Rabbit and decides to follow it. Her pursue leads her into a rabbit hole where she suddenly takes a long fall into a curious hall with many locked doors. She finds a bottle with a label “Drink Me” which she consumes, resulting in her shrinking very small. Eating a cake makes her become very huge. Helpless, she cries creating a grand flood. She then meets various characters in this strange land, each one stranger than the land. There is the Mouse, the always-grinning Cheshire Cat, Bill the Lizard, the Caterpillar, the mad Duchess, the March Hare, the Hatter, the Queen and King of Hearts, Gryphon, the Mock Turtle; every chapter has one of these characters meeting Alice. In addition to finding them strange, Alice struggles to communicate with them, resulting in either parties getting irritated, entertaining the readers. There is a courtroom scene at the end where Alice is called on for evidence. The proceedings are ridiculous and funny, and the Queen’s- “Off with her head”, “Off with his head” is contagious and hilarious.

If I look to review this book logically, then there is not a shred of logic in this story. It is pure fantasy and rich imagination. The characters grow on you and you might even identify yourself with some of them. They may not be humans as such, but their characterisation and feelings are so influential. Alice’s arguments with every character are so enjoyable. It’s not a big book compared to what we have nowadays. Yet, the literature is so powerful; the poetry is so deep, that I had to read certain portions twice or thrice to actually understand the inner meaning.

This book was followed by a sequel, “Through the looking glass and what Alice found there”, which was released in 1871. It’s a shame that I didn’t even know there was a second book until the movie based on the sequel released few months back.

Usually I end my review with recommending or not recommending the book. But this work is above all that. I am sure most of you would have read this story. If yes, read it again and feel the nostalgia. If no, please do read and enjoy the amazing Alice’s Wonderland.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

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Rating: 3/5

No surprise, I was on cloud nine when I got to know JK Rowling (et al) was coming up with a new book. It didn’t matter if it was a novel or a play or just a short story. Being a Harry Potter fanatic, anything related to this magnificent series could get me jumping in joy. It would sound so silly and foolish, but the moment I held this beautiful hard cover book, I felt such endearing warmth. I guess only a fellow Harry Potter addict would understand this emotion.

From the time of the announcement, it was very clear that the book was a play and not a novel. The story resumes from where it left in the epilogue of the 7th book. It was quite a different experience to read Harry Potter as a play. There are no deep descriptions of the magical world as the entire narration is written as it would happen on stage. The entry and exit of characters, how the actors/characters give their expressions, the pauses, the beats- it definitely took me time to adjust to the transition. We don’t get an in-depth insight into any of the characters. May be on stage the emotions would be conveyed by the actors better, but as a book, you miss the emotional connect to the characters. It’s just a disappointment that this book could have scored better if it had been a novel than a play. I wish a novel version is released for the same story.

The play focuses on Albus Severus Potter and Scorpious Malfoy predominantly. They share an unbreakable friendship, quite opposite to what their fathers had when they were at school. Harry and Albus have a very strained relationship. Albus struggles being a Potter, the son of The Boy Who Lived. He is constantly bullied at school. Scorpious, on the other hand, is nothing like his father Draco. He is innocent and funny, and loyal. Both of them team up for an adventure, which goes horribly wrong, and therefore their parents have to step in to right their wrong. Vague enough? I didn’t want to divulge anything about the story.

The play has everything a Harry Potter fan would need, but everything caters to the stage. Hence, this limits the fantasising and visualizing element of the reader. We don’t get to see and feel Hogwarts like the way we did while reading the series. The spells and the other magic are hard to visualize, probably because the language used is for a script. The pace of the play is also on top speed, years pass in a matter of two pages. We don’t get to read THE Harry-Ron-Hermoine conversations. Ron, for one, is written as a completely funny character, forcefully funny, that it doesn’t seem like Ron at all. The older version of the trio isn’t as entertaining as I expected. When the trio get to Hogwarts, they address their once Professors by their first name or last name, which is kind of very hard to digest. I mean, Harry called Dumbledore as Dumbledore is, I don’t know, kind of shocked me. This magical world, after 19-20 years isn’t something I would want to be in. I am happy to be stuck in the past, in the old Hogwarts than the current one. In the entire 7 book series, the one thing which I found really hard to comprehend was the concept of the Time-turner (Book 3). This entire play is based on that and hence the read was pretty difficult for me.

The friendship of Albus and Scorpious is very endearing. To see a Potter and a Malfoy bond is truly magical. Harry has turned very boring. Ron and Hermoine are dull too. The play lacks the dry wit. I wish they had brought Dumbledore back in some way and given him a heroic scene of some sort. It’s still hard to get over his death in Book 6. I loved, loved, loved Severus Snape in this play. He was fantastic. Even if it was for just a few pages, he leaves a strong mark. That’s when I realised, Harry Potter (series) couldn’t have been a cult, a classic, if not for all the supporting characters- Snape, Dumbledore, McGonagall, Hagrid, Longbottom, Weasleys- they all brought in such beautiful charm to the series. With their presence very meagre in this play, I didn’t feel belonged in this Harry Potter world.

Yet-Yet-Yet. It would be unfair to compare this play with the series. The writers had made it very clear from the beginning that this was a play. Hence it would be wrong to expect it to be like a novel, written like a novel. The look and feel of the book is very good. It’s definitely a page turner. I haven’t read many plays and hence I couldn’t judge how effectively this one is written as a play. But as a story, it has a very interesting plot and manages to keep the readers interested till the end; though I am sure every reader will feel a void while reading.

Read it to feel nostalgic.

The Night Circus

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Rating: Not applicable

Being a hard core fiction reader, I didn’t want to confine my reading to just crime thrillers. I have read a few non-crime books in the past and hence the story of The Night Circus pulled me into getting the book. I wanted to read something that would transport me into a different world, like…say Harry Potter (Not the right comparison, but still). The Night Circus seemed the perfect choice. Moreover, I absolutely loved its cover- black and scarlet. So did The Night Circus succeed in capturing a crime fiction fan’s attention? As you can see from the rating, I struggled immensely to complete this book.

I thought rating this book would be unfair. I would definitely say that this book wasn’t for me. But that doesn’t mean the book wasn’t good. I felt I wasn’t the right person to judge this book. I felt I didn’t have the mind to comprehend the concept projected in The Night Circus. I had a hard time picturing the author’s vision and that was the most significant part of this book- visualizing the entire Circus setting and delving into the magical world. The book was too slow for my liking. Every chapter jumped from one timeline to another making it very difficult to understand the flow of the story. After few chapters, it struck me that the Date and Year mentioned at the beginning of every chapter is very important to journey with the story. That made things more complex, to remember in which year you are. Before moving on, let me share the basic plot of the book.

It’s about two master magicians who nominate their own candidate for a competition. The nominees have no idea what the competition is, or who their competitor is. They don’t know on what basis they will be judged and what will be the outcome of the competition. The Night Circus is an initiative which brings in both the competitors under one roof, without each other’s knowledge. Will the candidates understand the consequences of the competition? Will they go ahead after knowing what they have been put into? What will happen to The Night Circus? This forms the 500 pages book.

I wouldn’t deny- the book indeed had some very magical moments in the beginning. I was really excited and interested to become a part of this book and go along with the narration. The characters of Prospero and A. H really grabbed my attention. But after a point, it became too tiring and I had to force myself to empathise with all the characters. I wasn’t able to connect to any of them. I also wasn’t able to understand the theories of magic behind The Night Circus.

On the whole, this book wasn’t for me. I put in a whole week for this book and yet I couldn’t mention anything that stood out. I guess I would have to stick to the crime/thriller genre or otherwise be very careful with the kind of book I choose.

Game of Thrones- Book 1

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Rating: 3/5

Game of Thrones accounts for prestige issue. If you haven’t watched GoT, you would be facing a huge problem during social events as invariably GoT is a common topic of discussion, and it would be extremely awkward if you have to say, “Sorry! I haven’t seen GoT”. The reaction you would get for that answer would raise you up the wall of shame. Though I am not a person who usually succumbs to societal pressures, I definitely got curious to know what this entire fantasy saga was all about. Knowing that it was 5 books (and 5 seasons) down, I had to make a choice- either to read or watch the series. I decided on the latter as it was the easiest and the quickest mode to catch up and be in par with my fellow GoTians. At the same time, I was really sceptical if I would become one of them. I have and always am an HPian and I wasn’t sure if I would share my loyalty with another series.

The HBO version of GoT started off really interesting. The fantasy world of Seven Kingdoms and the Wall was really interesting. But as the show progressed, the violence portrayed was too extreme for my taste. I realised I skipped more than 75% of every episode. At the end of 5 seasons, I sat in confusion as I couldn’t understand much part of the theory/story. This experience reassured me that books are always better than the visual representation. I purchased book one of GoT and the massive bulk of it scared me. 800 pages! I wondered if I should risk starting to read the series because if I begin, I have to read all the books too.

After contemplating for nearly 2 months, in due course of which I completed like 10 books, I took GoT out of my shelf and began reading it. All I can say is, the book pulls you into the world of grit, jealousy, deceit, politics and plotting comfortably and engages you to the world of Game of Thrones that it becomes hard to put down the book at the end of the day.

The highlight of the book is the method of writing. There is no confusion in spite of the high number of characters involved. George RR Martin effortlessly connects you to the characters, their lives and the plot of the story. A few chapters in- you would definitely find yourself shipping for a particular character, wanting them to win the game. Wish it was that simple.

For a book on fantasy, description of the setting plays a vital role. If you aren’t able to visualise the fantasy world, the characters would seem far away from reality. The author hits the mark perfectly with his description and involuntarily forces the reader to believe the existence of this alternate world.

To put in few words, the story is about a list of people fighting for the Iron throne. The story would predictably end with the winner of the throne. But the journey is not so simple. Since I do know what has happened till season 5, I know what to expect from the rest of the books. Yet, the book serves you with fantastic depth in characterisation enabling you to understand the each one better than how they were portrayed on the series.

Book 1 introduces the primary families involved in the feud over the throne. We have the noble Starks, the cunning Lannisters, the unsteady yet rightful Baratheons, and the ambitious Targaryen(s). With the death of the King, the battle begins to conquer the Iron throne. Apart from the members of the each of the family, we have some very interesting characters in Lord Baelish, Lord Varys, Ser Jorah, Jon Snow, Lord Mormont and many others whose allegiance and strategies flips the story around. The primary character of Book 1 is Lord Eddard Stark who puts honour before everything. He epitomizes the perfect candidate for the throne. But the author strikes and informs the readers that the Game of Thrones isn’t straight forward and to win this game requires more than just honour.

My favourite character of this particular book has to be Tyrion Lannister. He in a way is a huge inspiration. He portrays how it is important to understand and use one’s strengths (here it is his wit) and accept one’s weakness. He laughs at himself before others does. His chapters are a delight to read. Apart from being excited for what’s in store for him in the next books- I am highly excited with where he has reached at the end of Season 5. Go Tyrion Go!

The character which bored me was Sansa but her character is rightfully explained.

The Clash of Kings awaits next.

I would strongly recommend reading Game of Thrones to watching it. Though I can never equate it with Harry Potter, this series has found a place for its own.