The best thing about a good mythological fiction is that you know the basic story, still it engages you. Lesser known facts play vital role in making such stories more interesting. It's like you know the destination, but it's the journey - execution - that makes it more exciting.
In The Rise of Hastinapur, the author, Sharath Komarraju, has used his imagination very creatively to introduce several lesser known stories. It's about three significant women characters of Mahabharata - Amba, Pritha aka Kunti and Gandhari - three women who are important pillars of this epic mythological fiction, Mahabharata.
Amba lives for revenge but circumstances and different men disappoint her. Pritha is determined to save his brother Vasudev, and his wife Devaki who are imprisoned in Mathura. Gandhari has to make a tough decision - to save her kingdom but it's her burning revenge that provokes her to make this decision.
And, then there is Bheeshma who is the common string between these three women, and seems to make difficult, sometimes unintentional unfair decisions.
'If happiness indeed lies in the things that you have, what happens when so much is taken away from you that you have nothing?'
First section is about Amba. And, it's my favourite. It's intriguing, bold and skillfully sketched section. Amba's only hope is her unborn son, but she gives birth to a daughter. And, her disappointment, anger and anguish, her feelings of revenge is so brilliantly expressed. The fight between Bheeshma and Parshuram was exciting.
Pritha's story is about her endeavour and determination to save her brother and about her unexpected encounter with Surya (Sun), father of her first son, Karna. I really liked her meeting with Surya, and the realization is beautifully done. But, there's another angle in this section - Devaki's angle that I didn't enjoy much.
"Everything he did, every strategy he implemented for us, he did with the aim of bettering Hastinapur's chances of winning. He was fighting for them, Shakuni, from our side."
Gandhari's section was the one I was most interested in. But, the first half of this story was not that exciting I expected it to be, however the second half is very good.
The book ends on an interesting note - the Ganga's conversation with Kuber where she talks about the future of Hastinapur (silently and sadly, the future of Bheeshma). Bheeshma is one of my favourite characters. I think he (and Karna) is the most selfless characters of Mahabharata, however in this book he has some grey shades.
Overall, The Rise of Hastinapur was an unusual, bold and interesting read. If you like reading mythology, you should read this book. You won't be disappointed.
This book was in my reading list (I haven't read the first part in this series). I truly thank the author for giving me a review copy!