Book Review – The Secret of the Nagas

After reading Immortals of Meluha, I was fairly hard pressed to pick up Secret of the Nagas. Finally, I decided to give it a go. Maybe it would be better than the first. But since when have sequels ever trumped the glory of the first?

In Secret of the Nagas, we finally get some answers. Who are these Chandravanshis? What are the Nagas? We follow Shiva as he leaves the haven of Meluha to enter into the chaos of Swadeep. Now for a description of Swadeep: Here’s a place. It has many kingdoms. Each kingdom has its own law, culture, rules, people. It’s a place of poverty but freedom. People can do what they want, however they want to and when they want it. A perfect foil for Meluha. A poor metaphor, I thought, for West vs East; Order vs Chaos; Masculine vs Feminine.

In the Secret of the Nagas, Amish spends a good amount of time talking about Evil. As the Neelkanth, Shiva is expected to find out and destroy Evil. For the beginning bit, Evil was personified through the Chandravanshis. The Suryavanshis, as the inhabitants of Meluha call themselves, led by Shiva lead a battle against them and win. However, Shiva realizes his mistake when he learns that the Neelkanth legend exists in Swadeep too. Evil, we read, is relative. The Suryavanshi and the Chandravanshi way of life need each other to exist. If not, one becomes too rigid and oppressive and the other becomes too wild and uncivilized. They are the perfect balance.

But where is Evil then? Shiva’s next target is the Nagas. Accused of having killed his ‘brother’ and having attacked Sati numerous times, the Nagas for Shiva take on a demonic aspect. Though Amish, in a very unsubtle way, leaves various hints that the Nagas are NOT indeed ‘Evil.’ This, then, is the journey of the protagonist. Helping Shiva in the discovery of real Evil are the Vasudevs – the sages at various temples. Again, the journey seems tired and cliched. The main discoveries for the reader come from the revealing of the characters. Who are the mysterious, hooded Nagas? The story hinges on this aspect – how the characters we know in mythology are recreated in this world. And that’s it. That’s where the mystery lies. That’s where the drama lies. And unfortunately, even here it fell flat. The new characters revealed in the novel are flat and uninspiring. The ‘revelation’ doesn’t come with excitement.

What I liked? Good ideas and a decent plot. What I din’t like? Everything else. What I missed? The feeling of discovery, the subtle moment where the book ‘enlightens’ instead of just telling.So here’s the sad thing. The author has definitely hit on a best-selling idea. The concept is interesting and can be made grand. That’s where something like Game of Thrones succeeds – intricate plot, great writing, thoughtful characters who pull you in to their head space. Instead, bad writing leaves the reader emotionally disconnected. The ‘teachings’ on Evil are presented as long discourses, which get boring and monotonous. I would definitely have had more fun discovering this through narrative, rather than reading about it as a lecture. So my question. Where were the editors?

This book remains in my bathroom. This is the reason why.

  The Secret of the Nagas
Amish Tripathi
Westland
Pages: 414. Rs. 295

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