Book Review: The Guardians of the Halahala
Halahala – Hindu mythology. Vikramaditya – Indian history. Did I tell you I am a mythological & historical fiction fan. Shatrujeet Nath just went ahead and blurred the lines between the two, and the result is a book that gave me a reason to return to reviewing books 🙂
Coming to the book, The Guardians of the Halahala takes us to Avanti and it’s illustrious king – Vikramaditya accompanied by his council of nine gems. To the inhuman terror that lies in wait just beyond the frontiers of Vikramaditya’s reign waiting to gain supremacy yet again. To the depths of Patala where the asura kings and their conniving learned guru Sukracharya are forever plotting to gain an upper hand over their nemesis. To the various allies of Avanti and their fluctuating political balances. To the devas and their unrelenting and ambitious king Indra. And finally to the dual attack on the humans by the devas and asuras for the possession of Halahala – individualistic yet unified – just like they were eons ago when the Halahala was exposed for the first time.
As per the story in Hindu mythology, the book takes us to the time when both devas and asuras seeked the primordial ambrosia – amruth – for their personal consumption. Competitive and seeking one-up-man ship they only wanted it for themselves. But like all phenomenons in nature, the equal and opposite forces have to coexist and work together in balance. For the amruth to be extracted from the depths of the ocean, the devas and asuras had to be on the opposite sides of the churning pole – mount Meru. Keeping their individual gains in mind and sure of deceving each other, the ocean churning for the amruth begins but to everyone’s horror out comes the primordial poison – Halahala. When the poison starts spreading, threatening the very existence of the universe, devas and asuras together seek the refuge of the only god simple enough and powerful enough to stop the annihilation of the universe – the hermit god – Shiva. Shiva is seeked, he consumes the poison, keeps it in his throat and in turn earns the name – neelkanth – one with the blue throat. Problem solved. Everyone goes back to seeking the amruth.
But here The Guardians of the Halahala has a twist.
An asura makes sure that the primordial poison, which possesses the power to destroy the entire creation, isn’t destroyed completely. In a bid to give his clan an upper hand over the haughty devas, a part of the Halahala is smuggled and put into a drager before the poison reached Shiva. Thereafter the dragger goes missing. The competing forces give up on ever possessing the Halahala. The world moves on. But eons later it resurfaces – in Avanti. Lord Shiva seeks out the monarch of Sinddhuvrata -Vikramaditya – to accept the responsibility of safe guarding the Halahala from the devas as well as the asuras. Halahala in the possession of either of the forces would mean a universal disbalance and that would be an irreversible catastrophe! Vikramaditya accepts, Lord Shiva expects the king as well as his council of nine gems to come good on this mammoth responsibility and thus are born the guardians of the Halahala.
Being a mytho-histo fiction fan means I have read a few in the genre and am also decently aware of the stories that Hindu mythology has to offer.
Inspite of that I would say this book is not your conventional ‘twist-mythology-twist-history- and use creative license’ fiction, it has something new to offer – that extra edge.
There is a leak proof plot, tight storytelling, the right amount of intrigue and the perfect mix of magic and meance. But most importantly two features worked more for me – firstly that for a layperson, Vikramaditya and his identity lies in the stories of Vikram and Beetal. We have grown up on those stories. In there Vikramaditya is the wise, just and compassionate king. So he’s been only that for us – a King. But in this book the author introduces us not only to the valor and accomplishments of the much loved monarch but also to Vikramaditya the person and his personal equations. Shatrujeet brings us Vikramaditya – the husband, the stepbrother, the friend, the student and a passionate leader to his council and allies. Secondly, the author has built a fantastic launchpad for the story to take off in the future instalments of the book. He has told us enough to end this book well without any uncomfortable loopholes but at the same time has left hints to many secrets and intriguing tales that may come in the next book.
Inspite of the fact that I am looking forward to the second book in this trilogy, there is a factor that stops me from giving a 5 on 5 to The Guardians of the Halahala. And that factor is -predictability. The way the book progresses, towards the climax of the book it became very predictable for the reader in me to foresee how it was going to end. The surprise/ shock factor was missing. And that kind of took some of the thunder away from a book I throughly enjoyed.
All in all, a recommended read for all you mythological historical fiction aficionados. It is not in the un-put-dowbable bracket but definitely a story waiting to unravel loads. Should be fun!
Title: The Guardians of the Halahala
Author: Shatrujeet Nath
Publisher/ Imprint: Jaico Publishing House
Genre/ Sub-Genre: Fiction/ Histrorical – Mythology
Rating: 4.00 of 5
Reviewed for: Author
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