Friday, December 21, 2012

The Secret of the Nagas - Amish

The sequel to the 'Immortals of Meluha' did not not match up fully to the first. It picks up where the first part of the trilogy left off and goes into a tale of vengeance where Shiva is now hunting for the villain who killed his friend Brahaspati. Now married to Sati, Shiva moves to Kashi where Sati delivers their child Kartik. All the while there is a Naga warrior who is stalking Sati and it appears that he loves her and is protecting her. Then there is a new category of people that gets added to the Meluhans, the Nagas, the Suryavanshis and the Chandravanshis - the Brangas. It is decided that the Nagas are the evil ones and they have a pact with the rich and unpredictable Brangas - and that the Nagas must be killed for evil to end. Of course the Nagas also have access to some medicine that has some supreme healing powers. Now where does that leave the Meluhan somras?

To add to this drama we have man eating lions, a bandit named Parshuram who has a battleaxe and who joins the Neelkanth and his band, several twists in the tale, the introduction of Ganesh (can he be left behind with Kartik already there?) and a steady stream of characters. After a while I lost track of who is what and who belongs where really but it did not matter. Shiva is searching for the evil but where the story did not grip me was that there was no real evil that could be felt by me. This in turn makes Shiva that much weaker and normal and not the the saviour he is made out to be. I was being told by the characters that something big was going to happen, that Neelkanth would deliver us all from the mess, but nothing really seems to be happening. The part where the man eating lions attack a village was one of the interesting parts of the story but that looked like an aside, something that was not really relevant to the story save the appearance and discovery of Ganesh.

The warriors and their group move on but where and why was not clear to me. Perhaps I did not pay too much attention as I read it over a period of time but the worrying factor was that it did not draw me too much into it to be concerned. (As one of the characters says - the opposite of love is apathy and that is a dangerous place to be in.) There was just no real and present danger to anyone, no major passions, so things kept moving from one mediocre event to another without much involvement. The love story between Parvateshwar and Anandmayi was rather stretched and unconvincing and perhaps even needless unless it was used as a device to add some romance to the story. But then the sensual Anadmayi is wasted as the romance falls rather lamely once Parvateshwar falls for her. What happened to the passions? The overt sensuality?

If there is one thing I realised after reading the 'Secret of the Nagas', it is that when you have sequels, you must somehow get the plot together mush more tightly than the first. The reader is coming with a set of expectations (which they did not have for the first) and hence it has to be less predictable and more tighter and crisper. Amish plots well and it's an interesting story but we need something more tangible than a man's personal passion to make the Shiva that Amish crafted more credible. There is talk of saving India but that particular thread does not come across urgently nor even convincingly. That could have been an interesting cause and a worthy one for Shiva but I felt that it got lost in his personal vengeance which makes Shiva as normal as anyone else. One other area I would have liked Amish to go deeper as he writes more, is the feeling and emotional part. There are many dramatic moments that he leaves unexplored, which could have been squeezed for more impact on the reader. Overall the 'Secret f the Nagas' was more like a transition between the first part and the last of the trilogy. By itself it did not work for me but as the link in the whole it fits in. The pluses as I mentioned were Amish's plotting, the twists and turns, the many interesting facts he throws about, be it about lions, martial arts, ships and certainly the nuggets of sound philosophy he drops by throughout the book. The minuses were that there was no real villain to match Shiva's carefully built stature, no great cause yet, and it was rather two dimensional for me. But Amish is a fine writer and he could well spring a surprise in the last of the trilogy and I believe, in all that he writes as he moves along on this journey.

1 comment:

Ghalib said...

I read all the 3 books and well the first one is best, followed by second and and distantly followed by the 3rd edition.

This gets boring and lengthy in the middle till the end. The only good aspect about this book was introduction of kali and ganesha and why they are the way they are.