Recently I came across a book named Garuda and the Serpents: Stories of Friends and Foes from Hindu Mythology by author Arshia Sattar. The book proves that religion (of the author) has nothing to do with the knowledge (he/she possess). Though, I found many of the elements of various stories are explored quite differently than I know, but at the same time, one needs to understand that all the mythological tales has many versions. In different areas of the state/country/world, different folklore are popular for the same base story. So, we can give the author the benefit of the doubt for some of such elements (but not all).
|Book Title||:||Garuda and the Serpents: Stories of Friends and Foes from Hindu Mythology|
|Publisher||:||Juggernaut; Published: (31 May 2018)|
|# of Pages||:||224|
|# of Chapters||:||18|
Let me start with sharing the fact that the book was provided by Juggernaut Books (the publisher of the book) in exchange of honest and unbiased book review, and as always, the review is uninfluenced by all means.
Let us take a look at the book cover.
If I am asked that whether the cover of the book has any influence on any of my reading/purchase decisions ever? Then, my honest answer will be “Yes”. Of course, the influence is then rationalized with many other attributes of the book like some of the reviews for the same, the genre of the book, book blurb, book author,… to name a few. But, the cover page is definitely an influencing factor. At least, for most of the normal readers.
And, there is nothing wrong in it. By nature, we love attractive things which are neat and tidy. And, an attractive book cover makes a good impression.
But of course, the book content is the ultimate factor. And, if the book isn’t rich with quality content, then, it will result in negative reviews afterward.
As you can see, the cover page of Garuda and the Serpents is attractive and it reflects the book title quite well. The book title and the cover page illustration reflects one of the interesting stories explored in this book. The illustration quality is really good and so does the finishing of the book cover. The cheerful colors make it more desirable. And at the same time, the presentation (of various elements on the cover page) will give you an impression that the book is primarily written for kids and young adults, so don’t consider it for very serious reading :). The language should be easy and sentences should be smaller. But, let us check, whether the book content actually reflects our assumption or not?!
Normally we separate “the book plot” and “our views and reviews” as two different segments for a book we review. This book, however, is a short story collection and some of the stories are interlinked in a way that 3 or 4 consecutive stories are actually pieces of a bigger story. Or call it the dots of a line, which again is part of even bigger line :).
For a book structured in this way, exploring plot, in short, will not be possible. Actually, we need to talk a little about each and every short story. And, it will ultimately lead to more spoilers. And, spoilers, as you know, definitely affect the reading experience of a curious reader. So let me share the list of stories from the book and present you my views for the same, without talking much about the plot of each story separately.
The book explores 18 short stories.
- The Churning of the Ocean
- Garuda and the Serpents
- Bhagiratha Brings Ganga to the Earth
- The Magic Cow
- Takshaka’s Revenge
- Shukra dn Kacha
- Jambavan, King of the Bears
- Vali and Sugriva
- The Death of Vali
- Hanuman Leaps for the Sun
- Hanuman’s Adventures
- When Bhima Met His Brother
- Vritra Swallows Indra
- The Cursed Immortal
- Trishanku’s Heaven
- Prahalada and the Magic Cloak
- The Wondrous Story of King Ila
- Mahishasura and the Goddess
What I like the most in the book is the way it is printed. The pages are of good quality and the fonts are comparatively a little bigger. The fonts are not that bigger that it will give you an impression of a children’s book, and yet, they are not very small. So, a normal reader can easily enjoy reading the book in that aspects. And the content is infused with some really nice illustration about the incident(s) mentioned in the respective story. These illustrations are done by Ishan Trivedi and he did a fantastic job here.
The way the author describes the things and builds the scene will really amuse you. She is good at description. And, in some of the scenes, it looks like you are reading the English translation of some Sanskrit Shloka. Eg:
Mohini’s waist was slim and supple, her eyes were like lotus pearls, her skin gleamed like soft moonlight, her lips were the colour of forest berries, and when she smiled, it was as if the three worlds held their breath.
Some of the descriptions are not less than a poetry in its own. The following is rather a sad and emotional scene, but still, you will find it easy to read.
Blood boiled, eyes popped out of heads, feathers were scorched, bodies were roasted, limbs were charred, fat bubbled and bones and muscles snapped in the heat. Never had Agni been so hungry, never had Fire devoured so much with so much pleasure.
The writing style of the author is simple and the target readers will enjoy reading it. At the same time, the adults will find it interesting too. This is a rare achievement to be seen otherwise.
The author got many things wrong considering the most popular versions of the respective stories. The churning of the ocean is associated with both Rahu and Ketu, however, in this book, only Rahu’s reference is there! The cow in the possession of sage Vashishtha was not Kamadhenu, but her daughter Nandini! By the way, when Vishwamitra and Vashishtha had their first face-off, Vishwamitra was King Vishwarath. He became Vishwamitra much later!
Actually, there are many more points to talk about in both aspects, but they will definitely lead to spoilers. So, let us stop here.
we cannot deny the fact that the stories come up nicely and will definitely help the young aspirants to know Hindu mythology. All the stories convey some important message, and it is quite possible that young readers may not get it properly when reading it for the first time. But, eventually, when they grew up, they will surely understand. There are a few punctuation mark errors which could have been avoided with better proofreading. Eg:
(who was to become the gods’healer) – Page: 9.
[Missing space after ‘ ]
In the flood of stories (including fantasy fiction and mythologies too) from the western world, and with increasingly losing the habits of hearing moral and ethics based stories at the bed-time from grandparents; the new generation is less aware with very rich Hindu mythology. This is a genuine attempt and despite its own letdowns, the book is a good choice for reading.
The book is written in simple language and quality illustrations make it more interesting. It has its own share of let downs (especially those who are familiar with Hindu mythology), but definitely a recommended read.
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