May 22

Ajaya by Anand Neelakantan | Not Just a Book Review – Part 1

Ajaya-by-Anand-NeelakantanIf this is the first time you are reading a book review by me, then you should know that – I am not normally like this; I don’t rant. I am generally able to give a semi-objective opinion on the books that I read. Really! Check any of these if you don’t believe me. But there are exceptions; you are reading the first such exception on my blog.

Important Note –

I did not finish this book. I read about 50% before I quit reading it. And I normally don’t give up on books. It really bothers me to leave them unfinished. This is possibly the only book that I have given up on in the last couple of years or so.

And I did try to power through it- several times. But after a point, it just felt like a colossal waste of time, as I had made up my mind about this one, and nothing could have redeemed it in my eyes.

It’s not that I am a very difficult reader to please, especially if the book is in a genre I like (and Indian Historical Fiction is one of my top genres to read). But this book – it aggravated me! 

However, let me give you some background first. It is important to know this, to understand the book review, so please indulge me, will you?

Mahabharata & Me – A Tale of Addiction

When I told you earlier that Indian Historical Fiction is one of my favorite genres to read, I only said that because there is no genre called as – Mahabharata (there should be though!). But really, that is the thing I mainly read in this genre – Mahabharata – from several different perspectives (My favorite POV so far has been Draupadi’s in – The Palace of Illusionsreview here).

I am fascinated by this epic. There are so many layers, interpretations, and stories within stories, that every single time I read it or see it, I can find something new, or a new way of looking at something. It also makes excellent material for endless debate, and I thrive on a good debate!

But there are 2 things that I love most about this epic –

  • Krishna – A very relatable God.
  • No perfect characters;  everyone has shades of grey – including Krishna.

Ajaya – An introduction, and a concession.

From my earlier gush over Mahabharata, you may have figured out that I will pretty much read anything about/around this epic tale. Having said that, so far, I had only read from the victors’ perspective. So, when I heard about Ajaya – Mahabharata from Duryodhan’s perspective – I was thrilled, and couldn’t wait to read the story from the anti-hero’s perspective.

I had not read anything from the author, but knew that Asura, his earlier book was a national best-seller, and I had read a sample of Ajaya on Amazon, and the writing was very good. Little did I know that, that was the only thing that was good about this book. Books like Ajaya are the reason, why I place story/plot, and logic even, over quality of writing.

But you see, today I am feeling a little generous – so I will make one more concession – Duryodhan is difficult to defend. I must admit that it was pretty courageous of the author to take it upon himself to redeem this guy.

Ravana (from Asura) might have had his faults, but there were many widely known positive traits that he possessed, and while Duryodhan might have had his reasons, and motivations, he was a pretty nasty piece of work. So, yes, brownie points to the author for sheer courage.

Now that I found two positives in the book – writing and courage, let me tell you – these are the only good things about this book, and they are very inconsequential when compared against what is wrong with the book.

Finally, before you think I might be biased, know this – I don’t hate Duryodhan; I dislike Yudhistir way more, but more on that in Part 2.

To be continued…(here)

The second part will be here soon, but in the meanwhile, I would love to hear from you guys. What are your thoughts on what I shared so far? Have you read Ajaya? Or Asura, for that matter? I haven’t read Asura, though I have heard a lot of good things about it, but reading Ajaya makes me skeptical. 

– Shantala

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  1. Happens to the best of us! Even I have that one book that I could not finish. I am not too big a fan of mythology except Shiva and I find that Mahabharata and Ramanaya have been done to death so avoiding books on that right now 🙂
    Inderpreet Kaur recently posted…#BookReview Black Dog Nights Part II by Ren MonterreyMy Profile

  2. Lata Sunil says:

    I am rather sceptical of picking up another book mentioning another point of view. I am happy with the ones I read till now. But they are getting a bit repetitive. I am off mythology and fantasy for some time now except if it is Devdutt Pattnaik. But, I know how it feels to leave a book mid-way. It does tear you. But why 2 parts of a bad review?

  3. Personally I feel that everyone is trying a hand at Indian mythological fiction. There’s a lot of material, granted, but I feel some authors think it’s some shortcut to success and they don’t even do their research properly. I like hard facts in mythological or historical fiction. I like authors that question established facts so that we see things from a different angle. Too many authors don’t bother and don’t bring anything fresh to the table.
    I’ve heard of Asura cos of an online contest. But you know me and my apprehensions. Never read it.
    Sreesha recently posted…We Should All Be Feminists, by Chimamanda Ngozi AdichieMy Profile

  4. Debraj Moulick says:

    Anand Neelkanthan is a missle.His “Asura” broke my childhood nostalgia and I think it one of the most powerful book of our time.I agree to his point that no character is purely good or bad..but shades of Grey.Oh yes apna Krishna ji also.I enjoyed your technique of narration.yaba yaba do

  5. I agree when you say Mahabharat itself should be genre because there’s a new book based on the epic every other day. But, my favorites, one as you mentioned above, are The Palace of Illusions and Arjuna: Without a Doubt. These books not only project a different perspective but also a new way to look at the epic.

    Also, I too never abandon a book but some books do that so it’s not your fault. We’ve all been there.

    I am waiting to read your views on how the author failed to defend Duryodhana, please make it fast.

    In the meantime, do take a look at my blog. Would love to get feedback from you. 🙂

  6. I’m always a little skeptical of reviews of books by Indian authors, especially after I read Ravi Subramanian’s book and then found it strange how bloggers were fawning all over him and his writing, which was mediocre to say the least.

  7. Oh,boy! That’s quite some review! Or should I say non-review 🙂
    Sid recently posted…Confessions of a Hotel KleptomaniacMy Profile

  8. Cleaver first part I ‘d say. It makes the reader curious. Mahabharat is very interesting indeed and way ahead of time. Bheeshm and Karn are my favorites apart from Krishna of course! And, Even I dislike Yudhisthir, more than Duryodhan. Looking forward to the next part.

  9. One of my pet peeves is an insufficiently researched book! I can’t wait to read the rest of this review 🙂
    Hema recently posted…Book Review : Before We Visit the GoddessMy Profile

  10. Wow! Not being able to read through the book tells me a lot about it. You were fair in still giving it two positives. But l guys all the gloss fails if the storyline and research don’t do justice especially for a mythological. Written from the POV of Duryodhan is quite fascinating though.

  11. You are not the first to leave this book midway..A few days back I chanced upon a couple more who did that…I can imagine how it must be nagging at you.. I have read your book reviews and there’s no other blog in my knowledge that does completely objective reviews than yours..So, don’t fret..some books are just like that.. I’m reading ‘A Tale Of Two Cities’ these days and for some reason I’m finding it really hard to finish..and I normally don’t take so much time to finish a book..and I thought I loved Dickens..
    Nabanita recently posted…Every College Has A Pancham #CanteenChroniclesMy Profile

  12. I loved Palace of Illusions. Asura was a great read and that was my first book where Ravana emerged a hero and I began to question things that we know from the winning side. Asura was an eye opener for me.
    I agree with your point that this genre is overloaded now and everyone seems to be writing about it. Looking forward to Part 2 🙂
    Parul recently posted…A Chance EncounterMy Profile

  13. I just downloaded a sample of Ajaya and was planning on reading the book. I was intrigued by the idea of Duryodhan having a point of view just like you. I love mythological retellings. Some of them are great reads and like you said I enjoy the varied perspectives, the different sides to well known characters that these books explore. This is such a downer – I was hoping Ajaya would ‘open my eyes’ to Duryodhan.. so to say. Waiting for part 2 now.
    Beat About the Book recently posted…Me Before You – A ReviewMy Profile

  14. I have came by reading different versions of mahabharata. I found this retelling more annoying.fed up by reading it.

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