Saturday, June 1, 2019

Book Review "Matsyagandha" by Pooja Gupta

Matsyagandha in my humble opinion has conventionally been depicted as a supportive character in popular media. To show her riding a gryphon dressed for battle, the tagline of “A story of a Princess. The rise of a queen” and to base an entire plot around her was enough to pique my interest.


Book Blurb
Long before the Rig Vedic period, many exotic and mystical tribes lived together. The royals of the Matsya clan, who once ruled over all, were now struggling to keep the unity between their Garuda, Yakshin, Naaga and Kimpurusha brothers. All the more, Matsyagandha, the Matsya Princess defies a sacred but a sexist custom to pursue be the first queen out of wedlock. As a result, she is challenged to prove her merit in each of these kingdoms to seek their approval.

Will this little mermaid be able to rise to become a queen without a man by her side?
"Matsyagandha" is a coming of age story of a female protagonist of the same name and her journey to prove herself in a traditional patriarchal society spinning from the events when she chooses to break her marriage.

The book is written in third person narrative. Pooja Gupta successfully captures the scenic beauty of an ancient world and makes it appear in front of your eyes. Every kingdom is described superbly. The chapters are short well placed, and connected. The use of simple language aids the story-line and keeps the readers engaged. 

The author makes use of creative liberty to reimagine the lesser known characters from Mahabharata with fish, snake, eagle and monkey like abilities. Matsyagandha stays in centre throughout the story and plays her part well. Her rebel and free spirit, innocence, self-doubt, never-giving-up attitude and her mermaid appearance flawlessly visualize with the plot. Sheshnaag as an antagonist is depicted superbly as well. The author makes good use of his misogyny and sadist nature to depict a similar society which according to some might relate to today’s world as well. Massendra as the rejected lover-prince place his part well but could had been given more depth.
The rest of the characters like Garuda, Queen Meenakshi are used aptly.

Personally I loved the recreated versions of few Mahabharata stories. However, it was the rushed ending to a well-paced plot that disappointed me the most. Being the first in the series, the ending could had been open making readers eagerly await next. The use of term “Out of wedlock” felt misplaced. But nevertheless the author makes the proper use of every character and incident, regulating the pace where need be, thereby keeping us mostly engaged in this fairy tale world.

Overall, Pooja Gupta starts off reasonably well for her 5-part saga and creates a lush world spanning the ocean, the forests and the sky.
My overall rating for this unique take on Mahabharata would be 3/5.

Overall Verdict:- Fresh outlook to an age old characters

Book can be found at Amazon & Flipkart
Review from other readers can be found at GoodReads
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