23 June, 2017

#BookReview :: Abhaya by Saiswaroopa Iyer

A tale set in the times of Mahabharata. An assertive and idealistic Princess Abhaya meets the enigmatic Krishna Vaasudeva. A bereaved Dhatri, hounded by her own family is saved by Lord Bhauma. When subverted religion becomes a tool in the hands of power thirsty and strikes Bharatavarsha, the land of Aryas, Abhaya finds herself face to face with the impending doom. 

“Can we combat the fear with faith? Can we keep our faith undeterred when the last traces of hope melt away? Can we receive blame and adulation, accept them and yet not give in to them?” 

‘Abhaya’ by Saiswaroopa Iyer tell us the story of Abhaya, daughter of King Dharmasena and the princess Anagha. King Dharmasena has brought up his daughter with great care and as such Abhaya believes in honour and duty. Now there are two parallel stories being told in the book. On one hand, we have Bhauma, the lord of Kamarupa, who is the leader of the Shakta Cult and his exploits. And on the other hand, we have the kingdom Avanti attacking the Anagha. When the king is killed, Abhaya leads her people to safety. At a point, these two parallel stories merge and become one. From then on, we follow Abhaya and her journey.

There is something to be said for strong female characters. I absolutely love them and any book that offers a strong female character leading from the front always has my full attention. Abhaya shows her strength and honour time and again as she is tested through a set of difficult times. Of course, she has Krishna by her side to counsel her, but it is also a sign of strength to know when to seek counsel from more experienced or wiser people. She goes from strength to strength and stick to what she believes is her ‘dharma’. Bhauma represents almost everything that Abhaya is not. Deception and misguidance are his tools. In a way, he is a worthy opponent for Abhaya as their personalities and characters clash on almost everything.

Though it is a mythological novel, I can’t help but relate to it in many ways. Especially Bhauma represents the enemy that we still face today – misguided people claiming superiority and killing innocents in the name of religion. We also need more people (both men and women) like Abhaya who will stand up for what is right and fight for those who are oppressed or misguided.

Saiswaroopa has woven a wonderful story with beautiful and strong characters and an interesting plot which is only further complemented by her delicate language and smooth narrative. 

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