Publisher: Harper Collins
Published: June 2019
Rating: 4/5 stars
Narasimha, once a brave soldier, has left the war and lies low as a physician in a village. But a familiar face from his past seeks his help to stop the tyranny of the blind usurper Andhaka. If Narasimha refuses, the world might just end. What will he do? And why did he leave the war in the first place? Prahlad, the interim king of Kashyapuri, is torn between the ideals of his unrighteous father and his love for Lord Vishnu. Whom will he choose? Hiranyakashyap, the ruler of the Asura Empire, wants to avenge the death of his wife. To do that, he must go through the Trials and get the ultimate weapon – the Brahmastra. But the Trials have sent so many others to their death. Can Hiranyakashyap survive? as always the same dream, a dream that began with darkness and blood.’
We Indians have been brought up on a healthy dose of mythology. Of good always winning over evil. Of dharma and adharma. But who decides who or what is good and what is evil. What if the asuras had won the war? History is written by the winners (or rumors).
Narasimha by Kevin Missal, the first book in the Mahaavatar Trilogy is based on the concept of dharma and adharma. A retelling of the fourth Vishnu avatar, it is centered around the story of Narasimha, Hiranyakashyap, and Prahlad.
I had taken a break from the mythological fiction genre for a while since I found most of them repetitive. I am not a fan of retellings from x, y or z point of view. Since I picked up the book right after an excellent read, Beast by Krishna Udaysansankar, on a similar concept of Narasimha, I was a bit skeptical but the book did not disappoint.
The book not only follows the story of Narasimha, Hiranyakashyap, and Prahlad but also has a number of supporting characters as well. Holika, Andhak, Anuhrad, Narad, and Bhairav. Each character is layered and there is a justification for their actions. This gave the characters more depth. I particularly liked Narasimha’s and Andhak’s characters and found Prahlad’s the weakest. Perhaps we will get to see some character growth in the next book.
I also liked how the author incorporated the topic of consent (using Ahalya’s story) without being in your face. Similarly, it delved on the aftermath of nuclear weapons and the futility of war.
I must mention that the book pays homage to Game of Thrones that I found quite amusing. Direwolves (lion cubs), the “red” tree, walk of shame, incest, just to name a few. Or perhaps I am still hungover from the series.
What did not work for me was that there were too many characters. It takes time getting into the book since the pace is initially slow to establish them. Perhaps the author could have introduced a few in the next book. Also, the narration is at times abrupt switching from one character to another.
Overall I quite liked the book. It is not an out-an-out retelling from an individual’s perspective but is a fiction built on it. I am looking forward to the sequel. The quote from the book sums it up for me.
A man never sees the actions he commits as something evil, however wrong they might be.
Narasimha (The Mahaavatar Trilogy #1) by Kevin Missal is available for purchase at Amazon
I received a copy of the book from Writersmelon and Harper Collins India in exchange for an honest review.