Monday, July 6

Amish Tripathi's 'Scion of Ikshvaku' is both entertaining and bland at the same time.

Book: Scion Of Ikshvaku
Language: English

might contain some spoilers...

If you've been born and brought up in India, there's not much I can spoil with my Scion of Ikshvaku review. We all have heard or read or seen some variation of Ramayana, the story Maryada purushottam Ram, the epitome of perfection, and his struggle to revive Ayodhya its past glory.

This sort of book (a re-telling of a previous classic) is easier to write, I believe, as you already have a well-established plot to base your story on. You have all the situations handed over to you, the struggles of the family, the dual-lives of an emperor, the throne succession, the politics of it and everything else. Amish didn't have to sit and ponder over any character arc, he knew how Ram was going to be, how Dasrath was going to be and so on. What I give Amish credit for is, he stayed entirely true to his idea of the world that Ram and Ravana lived in. There were no shortcuts (read: magic), like a person couldn't just disappear to save his live with some old mantra. And hence, I am going to judge it purely on the basis of how Amish handled this subject, his own interpretation of the work and not Ram's story itself.

This recent trend in Indian Literature where classic mythological literature is held against the lens of modern world is fascinating as it gives us readers a new perspective about the whole thing. Though I’m sure it’ll be cash cow-ed till the last drop and soon we will have stories from the point of view of soldiers and peasants and businessmen of those by-gone eras with their own interpretations of their Ram-and-Ravana-led world. ‘Our future king could’ve stayed and ruled but he was so much for the laws that he left us for a fourteen years exile’. ‘I wonder what he must be doing right now’, ‘I think this was just a clever plot so he could’ve had an extended honeymoon’. I don't have a problem per se and I know they will write all this, I just hope they write it well.

Sidenote: I want someone to write Urmila’s pov about the whole thing (she’s Laksman’s wife). You come to your husband’s home after marriage leaving everything for him and then he leaves you for fourteen years. I mean, I know everyone’s great and all, but that’s a massive burn even for the Gods, nahi? I mean, it is just sad. The most underrated struggle in the whole Ramayana Epic.
amish latest book scion of ikshvaku review

Now coming to this particular interpretation of Ramayana:

This book 'Scion of Ikshvaku' is first in the series of three books about Lord Rama. In this book, we see Ram's journey till sitaharan (kidnapping of Sita). The thing about this book is, you'll like its creativity if you keep on comparing it with the original epic, because the situations, where in the original epic, magic and supernatural powers were used are totally replaced in this book with real life believable instances, there's no hint of magic in this book, no flying people, no one saying a mantra and launching a missile with it, no one using those disappear-and-reappear-at-will portals. Everyone is a normal 3D world human being. Amish has made this whole world believable, like he did with his previous series as well. Anyway, so when you read this novel knowing where it came from, you find it enduring and appealing because of the fresh take on the subject. But stop comparing and read it as a solo book without any history attached to it, this book fails to inspire. Then it becomes a story that seems a little half baked, the character struggles are unnecessary at times and the steps taken to resolve them are immature at best. For me, it got a little confusing as well, but that’s me not being attentive while reading.

Ramayana itself is a little bland (personal opinion) when compared to Mahabharata. Ramayan shows the world as it should be, while Mahabharata shows the world as is. Ram is too idealistic to be true, Kekayi (?) reminds me of Cersei, whose only objective is to see her son on the throne, all the brothers are in perfect harmony with each other all the time. This is the world of Ramayana and I do not find it that much interesting. And because this book gets its inspiration from such an epic, it suffers the same problem as the original (please judge it solely as a story and promise to not get hurt). Anyway, Amish attempts to correct this as well in parts, we see why Ram is like he is, the childhood hurt, the ‘I-never-belonged-here’ feeling. There’s some sort of character development going, which is nice. But it is not enough.

When we, I and you, last met during our Chetan Da's book review (here), we talked about language and simple English. Bhagat keeps on talking about how he writes in simple English for the common masses and things like that. But I think, this is the novel I'd show to people when they ask what this simple Indian English is. This is about 350 pages long, yet reading it is not brain straining. It is simple English as it should be. It has its flaws, but it's certainly not Bhagat's mockery of English by terming his shortcomings as a novelist as simple English.

In the end, I don’t really know what to feel about this book. It is good when you consider the fact that it made a mythological world believable (scientifically) and you can go and say to your atheist friend ‘see? bhagwan the!’. It is not the story of the Lord Rama, but of the Emperor Rama. But but but, I do not like this book because in its struggle to stay true to the source material it loses out on a lot of developments, a lot of depth. The world of Lord Rama was full of wonder and amazement while the world of Emperor Rama is a little boring to a commoner like me.

It is good, but it could’ve been so much better...

My ratings: 3.5/5
Despite my opinion, I really think you should give this book a try

---The End---

*When I said Lord Rama, I meant, Bhagwan Rama, the incarnation of almighty.
*I have used Ram and Rama, I don’t which is the correct spelling. Dasrath and Dasratha. Ramayan and Ramayana. Someone correct me? Please?
*i will post this on my blog and earn some ad-revenue.

Read my other reviews:
Chetan Bhagat's Half Girlfriend is Full Nonsense! Here
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  1. I read your review on goodreads yesterday.
    I haven't read any of Amish's works simply because I have one rule - popular mainstream Indian writing sucks.
    My opinion may be due to Chetan Bhagat's mockery of English, but in my mind, that's how I classify those whose work sounds like "Someday, maybe, they'll make a bolly movie based on my book."

    1. Hey Sreesha!
      Trust me, I feel the same about the mainstream Indian authors. I read Chetan Bhagat so I could talk about it really. And I hold strongly against his kind of writing so I felt the need to review his work. Amish is not like Chetan Bhagat, I can assure you of that. He's not the knight in shining armor himself, but his work is decent.