Scion of Ikshavaku – An Old Story with a New Face

I seem to have a thing for books about the royalty. After devouring The Forest and some other wonderful books over the last one month, I found myself at Landmark a couple of weeks ago, with Amish Tripathi’s latest offering – Scion of Ikshavaku in my basket. This is the first of book of his new Ram Chandra Series. He has already won our hearts and minds with his depiction of Shiva as a mortal in his Shiva Trilogy. So I was quite eager to read his latest.

I feel that this book cannot have spoilers . We Indians have all known this story since we were toddlers 🙂  Anyone with the least bit of interest in India, would have heard of our ‘Epicly Epic’ Ramayana. Why the interest in this book then?

Amish Tripathi has established himself as the king of popular mythological fiction in India . His characters are well defined and his stories are beautifully woven . It takes some mettle to drive us outside the realm of what we know and make us think of these well known mythological characters as flesh and blood people with a life of their own complete with flesh and blood emotions . And the author has proven yet again that he has what it takes to do it .

We meet Dashrath, the proud ruler whose overconfidence led him to make a grave error of judgement, which he rues daily. He does not think twice before transferring the weight of his guilt to his well meaning wife Kaushalya and little Ram Chandra who just happened to come into the world on the day his father suffered his biggest defeat. We see Kaikeyi , the brave, brilliant and beautiful princess, who is still struggling to come to terms with the fact that her Brilliance is a source of shame to her father . We meet the pragmatic Sumitra, who always tried to make the best of any situation . Even the largely disliked Manthara has a story and a motive to which we can relate ( here we find a strong contemporary reference to a horrific even in recent times). Then of course , there is our favourite Band of Brothers – Ram , Bharath, Lakshman and Shatrughan. Amish has sketched their personalities in meticulous detail as we follow them from infancy to adulthood. Sita’s character is interesting too, and I applaud Amish for showing us that battle scars can be worn as a badge of beauty. We have a generous sprinkling of ancient Rishi wisdom and the ever present familial conspiracy. And then we have appearances from the other Ramayana characters at expected junctures, some of them appearing as Nagas. Even Somras (from the Shiva Trilogy) makes an appearance .

All these are real people and it’s their reality that makes them magical. The author does a fantastic job of delivering this magic to us. Even then, I constantly found myself comparing this book to the Shiva Trilogy . I know that is a different book about a different time and a fundamentally different character, but I still feel that the Scion of Ikshavaku does not pack the same punch as The Immortals of Meluha . At times, I felt that the story was being weighed down by elaborate descriptions of Ayodhya’s past glory and grandeur. Sometimes the narrative stood still for just a moment longer than was perfect , and at other times it ran just a bit faster than I liked . Maybe it’s just the familiarity of this story ( everything in the Shiva Trilogy was brand new to me ). Maybe it’s just that seeing Shiva the God as a mortal was more enchanting than reading about the life of a mythical king I have known forever. Maybe I was expecting a bit more innovation from Amish.

To be fair, this is a good read and a very good effort from the author. It’s only when compared to The Immortals of Meluha, that it falls short of the mark. I am looking forward to the next instalment of this series.

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