The Trials of Apollo [The Hidden Oracle #1] by Rick Riordan: A review

The Trials of Apollo, Book One: The Hidden OracleThe Trials of Apollo, Book One: The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
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Okay, so this wasn’t a great book by Rick Riordan’s standards.

I didn’t have any expectations for this story from the beginning, because the god Apollo didn’t excite me very much. I was right. Apollo’s narcissism put me off completely. I would have enjoyed it for less than 40 pages before I grew tired of it. And to think that this goes on and on and on for the entire book! Seeshsh!!

  • To be honest, I didn’t like the plot that much either. ‘The world is under threat and Apollo and friends are the only ones who can save it‘, is really not such a great plot point, after we have seen Percy Jackson and Jason Grace do literally the same thing over and over again.
  • There weren’t many creatures from the Greek mythology, which was a huge disappointment.
  • Apart from Meg, none of the characters stood out for me (Apollo was an overdose).
  • The humor was really good in some portions but it didn’t carry the story, it felt like a laughter track introduced as an afterthought.

Looks like the only, ONLY reason I’d be reading the next book is because LEO will be in it!!

A story can’t be a great story if the protagonist puts me off and cameo characters (Percy and Leo) excite me more than the eponymous character (Apollo).

The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni: A review

The Palace Of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
My rating: 5 of 5 stars ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
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How can you tell an ancient story in new light? And how can you tell it to a generation, who as children have literally grown up with this story, and as adults will have high expectations of it?

Chitra Bannerjee Divakaruni has the answer in The Palace of Illusions.

The story of Mahabharata is nothing new to me. A kingdom greater than any – cousins fighting for the throne – sacrifices, promises, boons, curses – war – bereavement – atonement. An epic. The Mahabharata is an elaborate story, which can be perceived from any character’s point-of-view and still have a rich storytelling experience. So, why not tell in from a woman’s perspective?

While I was growing up, Mahabharata was always about the virtues of the brave men who went to war. There wasn’t one story about what it was to be a woman during those epic times. This book is the wonderful tale of the woman who was the cornerstone of Mahabharata. Told in first person, this tale takes us to the depth of Draupadi’s soul and shows us her views as the events of the great epic unfurl.

THE MODERN DRAUPADI

The best part about The Palace of Illusions was that, as a modern woman, I felt very connected to Draupadi. How Chitra ji manages to walk the fine line between the old and new interpretations of the character of a ‘strong woman’ is beyond me!

The author mixes the right amount of fiction into the archaic tale without taking away its original flavor. I mean, I have never heard of Draupadi’s love story in the original. The new Draupati falls in love with Karna when she sees him at her Swayamvar. Her love for him is only intensified after her marriage and she yearns for him all her life. Here’s why I think it might be true: a woman with high ambitions would see Karna as an achiever. She would find him capable and deserving of her love not only because he is wise, brave and handsome but also because he would respect her and treat her like the Queen she is. So, despite her fate, every time she sees him her heart gives a jolt. He was her one true love, until the end. Draupadi is a fire born princess with lofty goals for her life. Sadly, none of them come true when she married the Pandavas. It is only fair that she keep thinking of where things went wrong for her and wondering if she married the right guy(s).

Draupadi’s love story arc comes as a surprise because I have never imagined this possibility before! I just assumed that Draupadi accepted her life and marriage with satisfaction. The version that we have all been given has been avoiding a crucial detail about her character – Draupadi is a woman driven by resentment and regret of her own choices. How could she be happy in that miserable married life? Have we been painting Draupadi as a meek martyr when she clearly was much more?

five husbands

It was a new take on Panchaali and I think it fits her perfectly. Brilliant interpretation Chitra ji! It might or might not be true. I don’t know if other interpretations tell the story the same way, but you have convinced me of your interpretation so beautifully, that now I begin to wonder if your version is the original version and if the truth somehow got diluted in the million re-tellings.

DRAUPADI – A CHARACTER SKETCH

Where do I begin? Wow.

Never have I ever read a story with a POV with such strong intentions and inner monologue. The story in The Palace of Illusions is the story of Draupadi from birth to death. She was a woman beyond her times. She was headstrong, intelligent, virtuous (in her own way), ambitious, proud and was a feminist believing that the place of a woman is not just in the back of the palace, but right next to her royal husband.

Draupadi bow and arrow

Emotionally, we see the bitterness that shapes up Panchaali from the start. We see her angry, we see her withdraw, we see her contemplate, we see her lash out in blind fury, we see her curious, we see her loving. As the story progresses, the insight into Panchaali’s inner doubts and fears become much our own. We see the princess who felt like a misfit at her own dad’s place but eventually found a home in The Palace of Illusions. My heart goes out to her.

Panchaali’s story is that of a woman so blindly confident of her unique destiny that she brought about her own misfortunes. Her pride fell. And then, she grew, learnt humility, kindness, surrender and acceptance. She grew to find a woman’s power in her. She grew to identify her devotion to Krishna, and her love for him which is beyond body and mind.

courtroom scene

I admit it. Usually when I think of Draupati, I only think of her shame and her terrible fate at the hands of Dushasha. I was so wrong. I hadn’t given her much credit. Understanding Draupadi’s background and her character was a privilege. It was amazing. I understood the bottled-up rage and fury against her husbands, the shame that befell the pride of the Queen of the Pandavas and the surrender that sparked from desperation and her love and devotion to Krishna.

Understanding Draupadi’s background and her character was a privilege. It was amazing to fill in the emotional blanks that I had of Mahabharata when it comes to Draupadi.

 

draupadi-mahabharat-star-plus

Throughout the story we see other women of her age – Sudheshana, Banumati, Subadra, Uttara. None of them even compare to her. None of them even come close to The Fire Princess! Not even Kunti, who after a point accepts that it isn’t her place to rule over what the Panchali says. And that is the most inspiring part of Panchaali’s story for me.

CHITRA’S WONDERFUL STORYTELLING

The author/poet has a way with words. Her words flow like honey and read like a poem. I was completely in love with her words while reading the book.

Chitra ji’s art of storytelling comes out in the most unlikely places. Her idea to interpret Mahabharata from a new perspective is seen even in short snippets. For instance, we all know the part where Arjun and Duryodhan ask Krishna to join them in the war. In this story, this incident is told from Duryodhan’s point of view, meaning we are privy to his arrogance and utter confidence in his victory, in contrast to the third-person, moralistic tale we have been hearing so far.

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While telling a tale of this magnificent scale it’s impossible to avoid villains. Sometimes, flawed characters need to remain flawed. Chitra ji’s story had the compulsive need to seek goodness in flawed characters, and that felt far-fetched. It is okay for the characters to have chinks in their armors. I felt that the reasons the author gives to justify them were mere excuses. I just feel that when writing POV, it’s okay not to idolize everyone.

Chitra ji brings out the chemistry between Panchaali and Kunti (the original Saas Bahu drama!) in a few entertaining pages. She has an ease of telling didactic incidents with a funny twist. She just told a convincing Mahabharata in less than 400 pages. I admire that. Well done!

PROS:
1) A fresh viewpoint
2) Intense
3) Unapologetically human
4) Short, quick chapters
5) One-word chapter names (I love one-word chapter names)
6) Stays true to the original Mahabharata

CONS:
1) Difficult to read as a Mahabharata virgin. Should be familiar with the original story.
2) Glorifies almost everyone

The Palace of Illusions insures a place for Mahabharata in the modern bookshelf by baring a story that is incredibly true to humanity and intensely inspiring.

For graphic novel lovers, find a similarly intense (but not quite there) Draupadi: The Fire Born Princess

Krishna – Defender of Dharma: A review

Krishna: Defender of Dharma: A Graphic NovelKrishna: Defender of Dharma: A Graphic Novel by Shweta Taneja
My rating: 4 of 5 stars ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
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I’d like to start off with the reading progress of this Graphic Novel on Goodreads.

Krishna Defender of Dharma Reading Progress

As you can clearly see, I was’t very impressed with the storytelling. Dialogues were filled with large words and very little emotions. And the script wasn’t compelling enough. It was no match to the grandeur of the illustrations that accompanied it.

Krishna is a character I’ve adored all my life. I’ve heard numerous stories of him as the butter-thief, the prankster and the undeniably wise guide of Arjun. As a Hindu, I grew up amidst stories of Kannaiya. I have sung bhajans in his praise; I have danced to his ‘leelas’.

So, when Krishna is such a big part of my life, I had huge expectations for this graphic novel.

And I was disappointed.

That said, I think that the artwork itself is mind-blowing. See, I know all of these stories already. So I would sit late at night, propped against my pillow, open this graphic novel and ogle at the artwork with starry-eyes. It’s worth it.

I think that Indian graphic novels can be done in a much bigger scale and scores better quality-wise. We have the stories. We just need the storytellers to do it right.

Other reviews:

Click here for more on the 2015 Reading Challenge

The Crown of Ptolemy by Rick Riordan: A review

A quick Saturday pre-siesta-brunch read.

The Crown of PtolemyThe Crown of Ptolemy by Rick Riordan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
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Hilarious, as is Rick Riordan’s signature writing style. It seemed like he didn’t put any effort in the way of the plot. He took liberal references from the internet slang, like selfies and ‘Stahhp’ and made a funny story out of it. It was enjoyable and laugh-worthy.

laughing gif
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More 5 star-rated books:

Click here for more on the 2015 Reading Challenge

Goddess of the Sea [Goddess Summoning #1] by P.C.Cast : A review

Goddess of the Sea (Goddess Summoning, #1)Goddess of the Sea by P.C. Cast
My rating: 3 of 5 stars⭐ ⭐ ⭐
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This book was an original idea that could’ve been molded better. I liked the overall plot and the rendition of P.C.Cast.

Since it was my first time with the author (I haven’t read House of Night series, thus I can’t say) I had no expectations, but it was a pleasant surprise when the book kept me hooked on.

The sweet passion between Dylon and Christine was nothing unique but it left me feeling warm and cosy on the inside. The portions where CC ( cool nickname for Christine Canday btw) refers to “from where I come…” are quite funny.

At times it did seem like all the Earth mother God did was look after the one “spirit” child. I’m sure Gaea has much better and more important things to do that answer every whim and fancy of the child [and sometimes even the much sensible and admired Dylon 😦 😦 ]

I mean, it’s not like the end of the world is it ? :/
I guess I would still stick with the series…I hope the other books will have the same kind of romance but a tad bid more of plot in them.

The Krishna Key by Ashwin Sanghi : A review

The Krishna KeyThe Krishna Key by Ashwin Sanghi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
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The Krishna key is a book that everyone must experience once. It was an amazing read right from the beginning till the end, without a moment of ennui.

Though I have to agree with the popular opinion, that the book is loaded with innumerable facts that one cannot digest in the first read, I have to say that this was what kept the plot going.

Prof.Saini wouldn’t be qualified enough if he wasn’t aware of the significance of 108, or of Kailash. What felt a little odd was that even Mumbai Dada’s(local ruffian) knew secrets of Krishna and his key. That was a slight hiccup in the screenplay I would say. Other than that,, wonderful characterization of the self-made Priya and the devoted disciple Taarak. Every character had a good back story that weighed heavily on their actions and reactions.

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