This second book in the Shiva Trilogy The Secret of the Nagas by Amish was probably the most awaited book since people read his first book Immortals of Meluha that still continues to be a bestseller. If I were Amish, I would be as much excited about the record breaking pre-orders that the book has received as I would be nervous about meeting the expectations of thousands of readers. It is not easy to live up to expectations you have built yourself. Author’s facebook updates are a clear indication of the impatience that his readers had to read this book. They wanted to know,what will the Shiva do now? after He was discovered by the Meluhans and winning a war for them. Will he continue to be on the side of Suryavanshis or will he switch sides to Chandravanshis? Who are the Nagas really? And many many more questions…
Well, the author answers all these questions in this book and leaves new questions in the minds of the readers. Which I think is safe to assume, will be answered in the next sequel. Amish continues storytelling in a very compelling way, you do not want to leave the book, are willing to postpone your lunch or dinner for some time till you reach a logical point in the book which does not appear until the end. The language continues to be simple and colloquial but is immensely toned down. There seems to be a very conscious attempt at controlling the language that is natural to the author.
The story in this book moves from Ayodhya to Kashi to Branga (Bengal) to Dandakaranaya. Dandakaranaya is the forest to the south of Narmada River, which is supposedly the abode of Nagas. The descriptions of the places have been reconstructed from what you can identify about them from the present and from what the legends and stories from the past tell us about them. The Author kind of recreates the India for you, as it probably existed 3-4 thousand years ago. Living south of the Godavari River, I could actually visualize the dense forests that would have dominated this area.
The beginning of the book is a bit slow but it gathers pace and by the end it becomes racy. In the book, there are long descriptions of the many fight scenes during the story that I did not enjoy as much. They are difficult to visualize, they were too lengthy and there are too many of them. There are some gaps in the story that need to be answered like that of peacock blood being used for the cure by Brangas and at the same time depending on Nagas for medicine, which I am not sure if they are intentional and would be answered in the third book.
There is an isolated attempt at humor by calling the king of Branga as Bappiraj, which does not gel with the rest of the characters and their names. Mystery and surprise elements are a little low in this book compared to the first book. The element of philosophy a little high this time. I do not remember if he used the word India in his first book, in this book it has been repeatedly used and without really defining the boundaries of it except in the map at the back of the cover page.
The author adds new characters to the story to Shiva’s family and entourage. He also introduces Shiva and Sati’s sons Kartik and Ganesh along with Kali, Parshuram and Anandmayi. There is an Uma as well, now will we get all the forms of Devi in the third book.
The cover of the book The Secret of the Nagas shows a serpent but the Nagas mentioned in the book are not snakes. They are people born with deformities and hence stay in seclusion from their respective communities. In Dandaka forest they live as a community in themselves in their capital city of Panchvati. The author keeps Nagas as as mysterious characters who wear masks and keep killing people in the first book. They killed Shiva’s friend Brahaspati and in this book Shiva is on a mission to avenge his death. And hence he runs in the direction of their kingdom. Nearly everyone around Shiv is related to Nagas in someway or the other. Including himself through his wife Sati.
The persistent theme of this book is nothing as it seems, there is always more to what meets the eye.
After all the analysis paralysis, it is wonderful and enjoyable read. Read it.