Review: Son of Shiva by Preetha Rajah Kannan

Son of Shiva by Preetha Rajah Kannan

(I received a free print copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.)

The asura king snarled and launched an avalanche of arrows at his adversary. Kartikeya countered with his mystic spear, which emitted a flurry of sparks, incinerating the oncoming missiles with consummate ease. The champion of the gods then whirled his discus. The twirling orb of light danced lethally through the asura army, obliterating Surapadma’s hordes. Weaponless, armour shattered and flagstaff severed, Surapadma stood defenseless on the field.

Son of Shiva is the gripping narrative of the warrior-god Kartikeya, commander-in-chief of the heavenly hosts, and epitome of wisdom and valour. The book depicts in mesmerizing prose the monumental battle between the forces of good and evil, as embodied by the devas and asuras.

These are characters I've heard in stories told by my mom and my grandmother. For years, I've heard Hindu mythological stories from my mother and I also grew up reading Amar Chitra Katha comics. Of late retellings of mythological stories has been all the rage in India but one thing I've noticed is how South Indian Hindu myths are always missing from these retellings. Son of Shiva is a retelling of the epic Khandhapuranam that I've heard from my mother a thousand times. It felt nostalgic to be revisiting all the characters from those stories. I also learnt about more characters; minor ones who are generally left out from storytelling sessions.

While I've been calling Son of Shiva a retelling, it's not so a retelling in the sense that the original story has been changed and twisted. It's a retelling in the sense that the author has concised the huge epic and written it in a language we can all understand equally. My overactive imagination went into the book hoping for a new twist and was disappointed at not having got that. The plot is about the events that lead to the birth of Lord Karthikeya and the war that results in him killing the Asura Surapadhma. Despite having no twist to the original mythology, I enjoyed revisiting the whole story especially the account of the war which is celebrated yearly by Hindus in Tamil Nadu as a triumph of good over evil.

The writing style was a little new to me as it read more like a recounting of events that "fiction" prose, if you know what I mean? While the writing style of the book worked for the book, it took me some 50 pages or so to get into it. I enjoyed the vivid descriptions; especially of the true form of the Gods and that of the various lokas (worlds). It really brought back memories of hearing the myths from family members.

- Revisiting Hindu myths from my childhood
- Learning more about the original stories
- The descriptions

- Totally my fault, but I went in expecting to read a new take on the myths and didn't get it
- The writing style at the beginning

It's a wonderfully written narrative of the events that lead to the death of Asura Surapadhma in the hands of Lord Karthikeya. For many south Indian Hindus, these are a collection of stories we grew up with and it was wonderful to revisit those.

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