Saturday, May 14, 2011

Book Review

Name: Swayamvara
By: David Hair
Pages: 313
Publication: Penguin Books India

Rebirth and the evil force chasing the good souls is the theme of Swayamvara. How does it end? Predictably, with the good spirit's triumph over the evil force. But, almost 8000 years later from when the chase first started.
The Swayamvar is the second book in the “The Return of Ravana” series and since I haven't read the first one, I don't know what exactly happened in Mandore, where the story first begins with Aram Dhoop (Vikram Khandwani), Madan Shastri (Amanjeet), Darya (Deepika), Padma (Sunita Ashok) and Ravindra (Shiv Bakli).
What begins in Mandore continues in the 12th century Rajputana, Delhi, British India and 2010 Rajasthan, Mumbai and Delhi. Aram Dhoop and Madan Shastri keep meeting each other as Chand Barda and Prithviraj Chauhan and in modern day as Vikram Khandwani and Amanjeet. Darya is Prithviraj's Sanyogita and Amanjeet's Deepika. Padma meets Chand Barda as insane Gowaran and in 2010 is Sunita Ashok's whose hand Vikram tries to win in the reality TV's swayamvar.
In all the previous births, except the last one, Ravindra has defeated Vikram in his other avatars. Vikram, in all his rebirths, has tried to reunite Madan Shastri and Darya. Sometimes he has been lucky, while in most cases he was not successful.
In this janam too, he tries to woo Sunita to draw out Ravindra. He succeeds. But the chase doesn't end. Vikram, Amanjeet, Deepika and Sunita (who is alive in Rasita's body)
are now being chased by the police for the murder of Shiv Bakli and Sunita. That's the plot of the third book.
To go back to the second book, it can be an enjoyable read if you are a student of history and mythology. Historical events and characters are linked to the present day happenings like the reality TV and all the histrionics associated with it.
In addition to so many references to the past and the characters from the pichle janam, the author also throws in supernatural, demons, gore and macabre. While that may be still believable, I found it hard to digest that Vikram fells his enemy with arrows.
The entertaining bit, of the book, is the back stage happenings of the reality TV's swayamvar. References to the elimination round, fixing of the show, the newspapers lapping up the gossip fed to them and “milking” the moment are very accurate descriptions of the what we see on the television these days.
The book would have made a coherent reading if the author had tried to introduce less number of characters. Or read the books in series to make sense of them.

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