Sunday, May 14, 2017

Book Review: The Rise of Sivagami by Anand Neelakantan

Book: The Rise of Sivagami (Baahubali: Before the Beginning #1)
Author: Anand Neelakantan 
Genre: Fantasy Mythology
No. of Pages: ~500 

Introduction: Chances are that if you are living in 2017 (even if you have been living under a rock!) that you have heard of S. S. Rajamouli's Baahubali. The movie made more than a ton of money and has now grown into a huge franchise with 2 Movies, 3 Novels, Graphic Novel, Animated Series, Mobile Games, and Merchandise. You've got to take a look at its website to get an idea on how big it has become.

I did enjoy both the movies (the Conclusion more than the Beginning) and the Graphic Novel - So I jumped at the opportunity when Westland Publishers got in touch with me. And, am I glad I did!

About the Book:
The story is from when Sivagami (played by the charismatic Ramya Krishnan in the movies) was a teenager and when Kattappa (SathyarajIn the movie) was a 20-something. It is primarily their story of survival.

Here are a few things you should know about the book:

  • First and most importantly - No, you do not have to have watched (or liked) the movies to read the book. The story, as the subtitle says is from Before the Beginning!
  • This is just Part 1 of a trilogy. I was unable to find any details on when the next two parts are expected
  • There are numerous reports confirming that Rajamouli is planning a TV Miniseries based on them - and knowing him, you can expect it to change the face of Indian TV Shows altogether
  • The Author, Anand Neelakantan, is a veteran at writing Fantasy Mythology and was approached to pen this one due to this very reason (unfortunately, I have not read any of his other works)

My Views:
This book made me realise that I have been recently reading some very average writing until I picked this one up. The story is exciting, the imagination is vivid, and the language is beautiful. 

I loved how the most important character throughout the book is Mahishmathi, the kingdom itself - Not Sivagami, Not Kattappa, and not even the King - Raja Whats-His-Name! Everything that happens, revolves around the love, loyalty, and survival of the Kingdom and how it affects its people.

There is a perfect blend of everything that you would find in any typical empire - Corruption, Love, Greed, Lust, Innocence, Revolution, Violence - all at the right proportion to keep things interesting enough without going overboard or losing control over the narrative.

The success of a sequel is in how big a cliffhanger you can conjure up in the end of the current book - on this point, the book was a letdown. There was a cliffhanger alright, but it just wasn't chest-banging, hair-pulling "cliff-hanging" enough to crave the next book!

Far too many new characters were introduced in the book. Few characters were built with enough depth to let the reader relate to or feel for them.

The author's job was probably a little easier because, having see the movie, it was easier to picturise the setting, landscape, and people - but the author has not cut corners due to this - his descriptions are beautiful.

I rate the work a 4 out of 5

As I mentioned, I loved it that the book is not dependent on the movie. Mythological fiction is always fun to read. Especially, when it is this well-written. Hope that the next one comes out before all the excitement over the Movies die out or even better if it comes out in parallel to the TV Show!

Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided by the Publisher.

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