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The Gurukul Chronicles Paperback – 2017
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"Action-packed and filled with heart, this wonderful novel will appeal to all mythology fiction readers" - by Anil Menon, author of HALF OF WHAT I SAY " Fast-paced, well-researched and a riveting read!" - by Kavita Kane, author of KARNA'S WIFE Eka, a humble hunter with an impossible dream. Radheya, a foundling with a mysterious power. Aswa, a powerful teacher's son, with an axe to grind. Three young men, on the same journey to master archery. Two teachers, who will influence their destinies. When all their paths collide, it results in a cataclysmic battle, a battle that seals their fate and that of the world. Find out if the three archers succeed in their mission.
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Second, I want to say my review is unbiased (it is, I promise), but maybe the fact that I fell in love with The Gurukul Chronicles from the first time I read it more than two years ago might have a slight (very slight) bearing on what I have to say about the book.
I love this book! :)
The fact that it takes three lesser-revered characters from the Mahabharatha (save Karna) is in itself unique about this book. And then it narrates their stories in first person. And then, it picks that coming-of-age moment in their lives, before they became the legends in the original epic. This is a re-imagining, not a re-telling, so Radhika lets her imagination fly, but always remains sensitive to the overall character arc of the protagonists.
We follow the stories of Ekalavya, Karna and Aswathama, three gifted archers with disparate destinies and yet connected with a strong emotional graph that allows their paths to cross briefly. We are pulled into their complex worlds of regret, guilt, anger and fierce loyalty, laced with an underlying thread of disillusionment and despair - not qualities you generally talk about in heroes, but qualities that exist nonetheless. Their doubts, confusion and innocence make them real, and therefore make them heroic.
I know this book is meant for Young Adults, but for anyone who has grown up listening to stories from the Mahabharatha, I would fully recommend this book for the unexpected insights it opens up, firing your own imagination and giving these familiar stories a quiet flamboyance.
The book follows the lesser known lives of three characters of Mahabharata in their younger days which have always fascinated me: Ekalavya, Karna and Aswathama. Ekalavya and Karna are my favourite characters. They are the tragic heroes of the great game of thrones. The story follows three characters, told in first person present tense, one by one. While Eklavya is fighting in his mind to break away from his home and go on to the journey of the world out there, Aswathama is struggling to come to terms with the changed character of his father who once was his hero. Ekalavya manages to finally leave his clan and seek tutelage at Dronacharya’s coaching centre.
The story after this is known to everyone more or less. But what the author achieves here is quite remarkable. She is a master of portraying the internal bouts inside a character. And she does so with such dexterity that you too would feel and relate to the situations the characters are feeling. For what is important for a modern retelling in an old epic, is to find new meaning in the characters’ actions. And upon finding the new meaning, we relate to our modern life, thereby keeping the Indian tradition of epic tales alive. No other country can boast about the existence of mythological fiction so deeply than India.
We study in our home, learn our cultures from our parents. Then we go to faraway places for higher education, and we learn new things, we evaluate our past learning at every step and then we accept or reject them. Thus we are constantly evolving to a newer self, and hopefully a better self. After this transformation, after rediscovering our true self, we come back to our home, thus completing the circle. The author manages to bring out these similarities, the analogies between the ancient problems and modern issues so well that anyone can relate to them and wonder whether humans are struggling with the same issues for ages. And this is what literature ever dreams to achieve, be it a fantasy, thriller or literary fiction, to highlight the eternal struggle of human beings.
In writing classes, it is taught that writing in first person present tense is the most difficult, and yet the author manages to handle all the three main characters so deftly that everything seems so now, so real. Quite an admirable feat for a mythological fiction.
One should also notice the choice of character the author has chosen and the time of their lives. They are all adolescent, coming of age, and full of questions and confusion. They all are suffering from the identity crisis people suffer at this age. And they all embark on a journey to find their true selves. Hence, the author rightly has put emphasis on their internal struggles than their outer battles. A teenage reader has so much to take away from this book. I recommend this book to anyone who is interested to find modern meanings in the age-old tale and who enjoy tautly written young adult fiction.
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