Review by Shwetha H S
Imprint: Harper Collins, India
The Queens of Hastinapur is third in the Hastinapur series. First two were Winds of Hastinapur and Rise of Hastinapur. Hastinapur series is a retelling of Mahabharath. This retelling shows how humane and materialistic the characters of the epic saga are compared to their depictions in the original and other versions.
Gandhari is striving to secure her chance to be the queen and the future queen-mother of Hastinapur. Pritha is striving to secure her place in the heart of her husband, the king of Hastinapur, Pandu, who has taken Madri as his second wife. The gods on Mount Meru are striving to resist the flourishing of Hastinapur to prevent the great empire, under the aegis of Devavrata, invading their abode on the holy mountain. Devaki is striving to keep her new-born alive so that he can grow up to kill his uncle Kamsa. King Kamsa is striving to keep his kingdom Mathura safe by coming into an alliance with King Jarasandha. The gods on Mount Meru have to now strive to keep themselves safe from the strong alliance of Kamsa and Jarasandha because Kamsa will definitely try to avenge the theft of the black stone magic by the gods from his kingdom. Jahnavi, Ganga’s apprentice, sent by the gods to Mathura, along with Kubera and Nishantha, gets caught by Kamsa and they all strive to get out out of the prison. What happens to all these women who are striving in this game of power? What happens to the men whose lives are entangled with the lives of these women? Ganga continues to tell you the epic story of Mahabharath.
Since the Queens of Hastinapur is third in the Hastinapur series, you need to read the first two books too to understand what is happening. After watching B R Chopra’s Mahabharath on television, this fresh retelling that shows each character in a different angle is welcoming. But, compared to the first two books, the Queens of Hastinapur’s narration seems pale, especially the part of Jahnavi, Kubera and Nishantha. Rest of the book’s narration is tolerable.
Hoping that the birth and upbringing of Krishna will not make women suffer more, hoping that the fourth book in the Hastinapur series will have a better narration than the third one, do give the Queens of Hastinapur a read.
Review by Shwetha H S
Following the events that occurred by the death of Vichitraveerya in the Book #1 of Hastinapur series, The Winds of Hastinapur by Sharath Komarraju, The Rise of Hastinapur starts with Amba who becomes a priestess, then takes you to Pritha, the princess of Kunti, and at last Gandhari, the princess of Gandhar. Devavrata is now renowned as Bhishma, and Satyavati is not mentioned much in here, but Ganga is still there. And you get to meet Shakuni, the prince of Gandhar and younger brother of Gandhari. Hastinapur has grown to be a juggernaut and so does the number of people scheming for the downfall of Hastinapur and Bhishma.
This book, more than the first one, leaves you wondering if Bhishma was truly a visionary or just a happy-go-lucky chap for the time being. More than men, he has women scheming against him and he has no idea like ever. The celestials are present as usual and they play their role whenever necessary. There are lust-filled, power- hungry people everywhere who may or may not be truly brave. As the story continues, it is easier now to see these characters from Mahabharata to be more realistic than magical as they are told to be. Of course, magic is there due to the Celestials, but this retelling doesn’t have magic for everything; like magic to bring shoot arrows and burn people.
As the story moves forward, there are more and more characters brought in. I am sure there are more to come. Why? Because this is Mahabharata! There are numerous characters meant to be in it. But for now, the royal ladies are paving the path to where they go and lay the foundation to one of the epics that mankind has ever witnessed (ahem, read). So, brace yourselves people. Sharath Komarraju is here to stay narrating his version of Mahabharata.
Review by Shwetha H S
We grew up listening to tales of Mahabharata and sub-stories related to this epic. Many of us must have even watched the telecast of B R Chopra’s and Ravi Chopra’s Mahabharat and its many re-telecasts. The epic is etched on our minds so well that we can’t imagine anybody else for all the characters apart from those who portrayed them. But Sharath Komarraju manages to cast away those familiar images and instil new ones in their places through his first book in this Hastinapur series, which is a retelling of Mahabharata, called The Winds of Hastinapur. You certainly won’t think of Mukesh Khanna when you think of Devavrata while reading this story.
The Hastinapur series is not only about Mahabharata, but about women of Mahabharata. True to being the first in the series, The Winds of Hastinapur tells you where and why a path was paved for this epic. There is a great man at the beginning of every epic and behind every great (replacing successful) man, there is a woman. And that woman is none other than Ganga, and many other women who were the Lady of the River before her. Then came Satyavati followed by Amba and her sisters. The story in the first book mainly revolves around the age-old concept, you know what they say, hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Well, this applies only for Ganga here. Satyavati is more of “I am the woman.” Amba arrives towards the end of the story and that makes me guess it is from her the next story starts.
There are men too in this story. Apart from many celestials and sages, we have many kings here. Out of them, Shantanu and Devavrata, who goes on to be known as Bhishma. You will take pity on both the men as the story moves ahead.
From what is depicted of this epic in sculptures and paintings on ancient architectures, we already know that men were brave and women were sensual. But imagine them to be making out with each other? Oh, they were more human than divine. Or did divine blood too crave for intercourse? This retelling is more realistic than completely magical; like babies popping out of nowhere. Nonetheless, this retelling of Mahabharata is worth reading and it keeps you waiting for the next book is the series, The Rise of Hastinapur.
Review by Shwetha H S
It is enough to have the Mughals to lure you to read The Crows of Agra by Sharath Komarraju. On top of this, it is a murder mystery that involves Birbal, back when he was still Mahesh Das. Of course there are other less heard of characters like Ruqaiya Begum, Shamsuddin Khan a.k.a Atgah Khan, Gulbadan Begum and Salima Sultan Begum, along with the characters made famous by the movie Jodha-Akbar like Jalaluddin Akbar himself, Bairam Khan, Adham Khan and Maham Anga, sans Jodha. This is a refreshing take on Akbar-Birbal duo. The author succeeds in staying away from the depictions that have been present in the minds of Indians since the times of Mughal-e-Azam and Jodha-Akbar movies, and also paints different ideas about how they actually were. Kudos to the author for this feat. Of course, there is that disclaimer from the author that the descriptions in the book may not be anywhere near the actual situations. So, it would be better if you keep aside your history knowledge to enjoy this fine narration of a murder, no, two murders in the imperial palace of the Mughals. To help you imagine the scenes, the author also provides you with a map. Go on, read it and have fun. This story keeps you at the edge of your seat. Remember, refrain from combining this story with historical facts.