Oh yes! I did manage to finish 2 books this week, i.e. Week 10 (that covers for my default in an earlier week) and now I am going head to head with my promise of 52 Weeks 52 Books.
Last week if you remember I started with Ashok Banker’s Krishna Coriolis first part ‘Slayer of Kamsa‘, I had the other 2 books of the series also sitting at home and the Krishna stories are ever so intriguing that I thought why not finish the other ones too before moving onto some other genre.
And as I finished both in the same week and both are more or less the same story (instead of one big book Banker broke it down in 6 volumes of Krishna Coriolis, which I think was a good move), so I will review both the books together.
‘Dance of Govinda’ started from the point where ‘Slayer of Kamsa’ left (obviously), the ‘Slayer of Kamsa’ is born and smuggled out of Mathura by Vasudeva and Kamsa’s atrocities continues by killing thousands of infants and children to make sure that his Slayer does not grow up to face him one day.
The focal point of the book I felt was neither Kamsa nor Krishna but surprisingly a lesser known character to all of us ‘Jarasandha’, who is also Kamsa’s father-in-law. Now I am sure not much is said or known about this character in our puranas and other historical book, all I knew about Jarasandha earlier was in context with the Mahabharata.
The character of Jarasandha is so vividly and powerfully described by Banker that at times it dwarfs the character of Kamsa himself and begs the question that why then the God took the avatar to kill Kamsa and not Jarasandha (may be he did for both and may be that answer I will find in Banker’s MBA series).
Another character introduced in the book is of Putana, again less is known about this character too and Banker is so precise and so crisp in his description of characters. That is the hallmark of Banker, he describes each of the character so beautifully that makes the character come alive. I still remember the asura, demons description in Banker’s Ramayana series, how immaculately he described different species of asuras, cross-breed and what not. I hail him for that, no other Indian writer has ever reached so close to describing a character which actually makes you visualize the character itself.
The story goes on where Jarasandha and his aides give potions to Kamsa which makes him weak and he looses all his powers and then Kamsa realizes his folly and make amends, regains his powers by drinking poisoned milk of Putana and gets back to his mission of killing the Slayer, in which Putana helps him and reaches Vrajbhoomi to kill the Slayer but only to get herself killed in the end. Here the revelation of Krishna and Balarama being Vasudev’s son is being made to Yashoda and others and Akrur, Vasudeva’s aide meets leaders of Hastinapur to kick-start an uprising against Mathura and Kamsa.
The story grows upon you and there is hardly any difference I could make out with the first book.
The third book ‘Flute of Vrindavan’ is certainly more enjoyable (if not better) than the earlier two books as it tells the stories of little Krishna growing up and his mischief and pranks along with his elder brother Balarama that become legendary in the entire Gokul. The stories of he raiding dahi-handis, making a vanar sena as a friend, tugging the tales of cows, etc. are so beautifully written. Also as Krishna’s pranks continue he is also faced against different demons and asuras with whom he always comes out as winner.
Even after realizing that their son is a God incarnate, Nanda and Yashoda’s worries about their son never comes to an end and they migrate to the forests of Vrindavan. On the other end Jarasandha tests the increasing capabilities of Kamsa by inviting him to fight in a sports event and after he is confident of him, he tells him the entire story of the Slayer and that how the things have unfolded till now. The book thus shows the hidden powers of the King of Magadha Jarasandha, who in addition of having physical powers also is a master of sorcery.
The book as I said earlier is quite enjoyable and I would rate it one star better than the first two volumes.
The one point where I sometimes get slightly frustrated by Banker’s writing (ironically I have stated it as his strong point too earlier) is unnecessary detailing of not-so-important character (now this is debatable I know) and continuing to do that chapters after chapters, volumes after volumes. For example, the ‘Hijra Army’ of Jarasandha which is described from the first book itself to be very strong and their features, their loyalty, their fighting tactics, etc. are again and again described in the next two books and by the time I came to the third volume I was way too frustrated and wanted to shout out loud that yes Mr. Banker I get it, that Hijra Fauj is very strong, very loyal etc., can we please move forward? This happens a few times in the books, where I felt that some level of detailing (for not so important characters) and some unnecessary events and emotions can be and should be avoided as it starts to make the main story bland.
But that’s just my 2 cents, being an avid Ashok Banker reader, I think I have that much right 🙂
The next 3 books of Krishna Coriolis Series are yet not out (I think) so will have to wait for that but would love to start reading books of a different genre after 3 of mythological genre.
And this review has gone too long and like Mr. Banker I should have thought of dividing it in two volumes instead 🙂