Book Review: Strangely Familiar Tales

This book captured my attention in a way that other books haven’t for a while: The Title. Throw in the general theme (mythological highlights to the fiction tales) along with the title and it all but ensured I grabbed my hands on this review copy.

Book Highlights:

The book penned by Vijayalakshmi Harish consisted of three different tales with three different styles: a whodunit, social justice issues such as coercive weddings & marital rape as well as the chief underlying mythical threads based on which the broader stories are built.

Here is what I liked about the book:

  1. I loved the effortless weaving in of Hindu mythical lore in each of these stories. The Kalpakavriksh tree was as much central to the second tale as is the social justice themes of coercive marriage and marital rape that the author was trying to highlight. The extensive caricaturing of lesser known myths around the yakshis and guhyakas added an aura of mystique to the third tale as much as the inner workings of the protagonist’s mind.
  2. The definition of evil stands out amongst the other tales not just for its eloquent narrative and the underlying strange, lesser known myths but also because of the lack of a dramatic/climactic ending. It’s very hard to be impressed with a fiction tale that doesn’t end with a well rounded adieu to the chief characters but this tale does that effortlessly and quite efficiently.
  3. The fact that the tales used existing myths to blend in with the storyline rather than an entire reimagining. I am not against reimagining old stories against the backdrop of the present but there are only a few authors who do it well without reassigning meanings that never were intended by the original authors. The third tale descriptives of the covenant vividly reminded me of The Seperation of the magical and non magical worlds in The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens.
  4. The almost revolutionary fervour to what is essentially a clash of mythical beings in the third tale which accomplishes a difficult balancing act between beings of lore, exalted ideas of justice, oppression amongst different factions in a soceity and a scheming protagonist.

What could have been better:

  1. The first tale: While I appreciated the references to the Matsya avatar in a whodunit, I found the suspense and the climax of the mystery a little predictable based on the parables that were strewn in the course of the story.
  2. The order in which the tales were presented to the reader: This seems like such a silly thing to write about but honestly I felt that a placing of the third tale as the first would have assured that the entire book would have notched up a few ranks higher in the reading list of an average reader.

Verdict: A definite yay if you enjoy reading blended tales of lore, action, social justice and adventure.

About the author:

Vijayalakshmi Harish is a writer and poet. You can follow her in the blogosphere here and follow her in twitter @GranthaMaven.

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