Ravan: Enemy of Aryavarta #BookReview

Book: Ravan: Enemy of Aryavarta
Author: Amish Tripathi

I have a soft spot for this series by Amish Ramayan series because it was with the first book  Scion of Ikshvaku that I kicked off this blog. I loved that one. I was curious about how Amish would handle this multilinear narrative and that was what made me pick up Sita and now Ravan: Enemy of Aryavarta.

The story

The book traces the life of Ravan, son of Rishi Vishrava and Kaikesi. Disliked by his father and not particularly fond of his mother Ravan, is a lonely child. He has a streak of cruelty that makes him torture small animals and watch them die.

If he has one tender place in his heart, it is for his baby brother Kumbhakaran. Ravan leaves his father’s ashram with his  mother, his uncle Mareech and Kumbha to protect his (Kumbha’s) life.

He knows he is made for great things and he sets out to achieve what is rightfully his, Kumbha and Mareech by his side. From a small-time smuggler he turns into a pirate and powerful trader. Unfettered by the values and principles that hamper others he forges ahead.

However, there is one pure, unsullied memory from his childhood that refuses to leave him – a face, a voice that could potentially steer him away from his reckless path. He seeks out that face but on the verge of turning over a new leaf it is snatched away from him. Filled with rage, he unleashes it on the Sapt Sindhu. Ravan thus emerges as the quintessential villain. He challenges the authority of Kubaera the businessman ruler of Lanka and displaces him to become king.

As he notches up victory after victory he is unaware that he is part of a larger plan, a cog in the wheel rolling towards a greater goal, orchestrated by the great rishi Vishwamitra. 

Ravan was a disappointment

First there’s the voice of Amish. He speaks the language of the millennials and that gets jarring, specially in a mythological setting (Remember Hanu Bhaiya in Sita?). I get that it’s his style and I did love Meluha though it had the same voice. Perhaps it might have something to do with the fact that I’ve grown up listening to the Ramayan and so find it tough to adjust to this pop-version.

My biggest complaint however is that the book turns plain boring in bits. There were too many and too detailed explanations and descriptions – of the Sapt Sindhu, the caste dynamics, the trading system, of traditions and palaces. There are too few dialogues, slackening the pace of the story.

Then there’s the story itself. Amish is known to give his own twist to every tale. I’ve liked his twists, I’ve liked how they tie in neatly with the original familiar story. However here, without giving out spoilers, all I’ll say is that Ravan as an angry lover-boy didn’t seem believable at all, more fantasy than mythology.

Then there’s the reference to Sabarimala. In his previous books he brought in references to a gory rape and then Jallikattu, this time it was Sabarimala. Perhaps that’s an attempt to weave in current events but it seems like a forced addition to the narrative.

The saving grace was the portrayal of Kumbhkaram – the endearing, good-natured giant. He is Ravan’s conscience and emerges (almost) as the hero of the book.

Also, I’m a little curious how Amish will take the story forward now that Ravan knows who Sita is. I’m hoping with all the war-action the next one won’t be a disappointment.

Perhaps the author should stick with lesser-known mythological re-tellings. He certainly has the knack for bringing alive mythological settings, of building up strong characters and of springing surprises.

Last thought: Read it only if, like me, you’ve committed yourself to the series. You might find yourself skipping pages though.

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11 thoughts on “Ravan: Enemy of Aryavarta #BookReview

  1. Ramya Abhinand

    Ah I quite had a hunch that this was going to turn out like this. I am curious about the series, but not really in a mood these days to go through long descriptive narratives. May pick it up sometime later.

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  2. Shalzzz

    My exact same thoughts! I would pick up the fourth book eventhough Raavan was a disappointment. I just want to know how everything will be tied together. Well, Amish can generate that curiosity. I’d give him that.

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  3. Shailaja V

    I am going to be the outlier here and mention that I couldn’t relate to any of Amish’s writing, starting with the Shiva trilogy. Something about the descriptions and the tone that just didn’t sit well with me. Will give this one a miss.

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  4. Reema D'souza

    Ah! I have never been a big fan of retellings of mythology. But yes I agree with what you said – at times you just continue with it because you need to finish the series.

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  5. Rajlakshmi

    Love the honest review. I too find it hard to relate pop culture language in mythological books. It feels odd. May be years of conditioning by B R Chopra did it to me 😅

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  6. Shalzmojo

    Ah my curiosity over how you liked this book, is what prompted me to read the post Tulika.I wasnt disappointed 🙂 Your review is so balanced and fair – I couldnt get over I disappointing I found the Meluha series to be. Amish ‘s writing swings between highs and lows and thats where it got jarring for me. I wish he would be consistent in the voice he is using – I havent read nor plan to read anymore of his books ever. For me he is one step away from CB!!!

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  7. Soumya Prasad

    You know, I have never felt the need to Amish’s work as I was sure I would not like it. I’ll tell you why. I bought Meluha and was just flipping through its pages before I could start it, and I saw Shiva addressing someone as “Dude”. See, I love mythology and I agree that everyone should take their own creative liberties while writing, but this was too much for me to take. It still lies unread on my shelf for now. I doubt if I’ll pick either this one or any other book from him. Yeah, that one word turned me into a cynic.

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  8. the bespectacled mother

    My personal opinion of the mythological fiction is they have been passed on over the ages & over generations, who knows whatever is left to us is true or not or whether it has got distorted in the process of telling and retelling. There shouldn’t be further meddling with retelling them in fictional formats and that too in pop culture language. We look up to Lord Rama and if he ends up saying words like ‘Dude’ then it becomes sacrilegious. Reading the Palace of Illusions, which was a powerful and moving read, I could hardly hold myself from imagining if all of it as in the story happened for real. I had to constantly remind myself it is a work of fiction and Draupadi might not have been in love with Karna.

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  9. Modern Gypsy

    I haven’t read any of the books in Amish’s Ramayana series. I had read the Shiva trilogy, which I liked for its story, but the writing was jarring and the third book was disappointing. After that, I swore off his books!

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  10. Rachna

    I felt that I had left a comment here but apparently it is not there. I haven’t read any of Amish’s work so far for the same reason. Somehow I do not like the epics to be depicted in a flippant manner. Call me old fashioned. And this one just does not seem to cut it for me from the descriptions so well, looks like I won’t be reading this one.

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