The center around which everything else revolves is Pradyumna, son of Krishna. Once again, upon this hero’s shoulders lies the heavy burden of having to rescue the world. The prologue sets the scene, and it was one of my favourite chapters. It made the darkness and despair come to life, and it gave me some background knowledge as I don’t know much about what happened after the Mahabharata conflicts.
Although the story is once again loaded with action, violence, drama, emotions and quests, I thoroughly enjoyed the subtext too. Pradyumna asks intriguing questions that allow the author to spice up the tale with some philosophy and religion, some moral and criticism. When he asks Krishna who represents “dharma”, we can take away lessons from that. We also get to look into different people’s heads and hearts, to experience grief and rage, confusion and desire through them. Throughout it all, Pradyumna stands tall despite the outer and inner battles he’s waging. As does Maya, his true love. The author shines a light on the role of women and goddesses, wives and mothers, as she has done it with Book 1, emphasizing that often it is the women who determine how the men will act, that they are just as strong and dangerous. Pradyumna has endeared himself to me with his support of women.
>>Pradyumna smiled at Maya, knowing that this was just the beginning. Women such as those who had assembled here would provide the stability that the world needed in order to survive. Dharma could not win if half of humanity was denied their rightful place.<<
Pradyumna’s quest to bring Vikarna back from the Yamaloka to his grieving mother in order to make her take back her curse started it all and was terrifying to read about, but also filled with an insistent urgency and energy that made me want to hang on and cheer even louder for the hero. This holds true for every chapter, especially those where Lord Shiva makes an appearance. Pradyumna needs to forget all that is mortal in order to battle with the gods, but in the end, it is his mortal essence that makes him rise above even deities and destiny. Take this excerpt, for example:
>>The warrior wondered if he should run, escape to his own world. But where could he hide from the god of gods? Even if Shiva let him flee, would he be able to live with himself after he had failed so miserably? Did he want to be known as the leader who could not lead, the redeemer who could not redeem his people?
Do all your actions as a sacrifice for the greater good, said Krishna’s voice in his head.
He saw Shiva raise his trident.
Fear nothing, fight for dharma and you will conquer, the voice said again.
Pradyumna crushed the fear that threatened to overwhelm his mind. Planting his feet firmly on the ground, he lifted his head and raised his voice in challenge. ‘I will not give up,’ he declared, his face set in grim resolve. ‘I will stay the course even if you threaten me with your trident, mighty god.’<<
Vishnu was another highlight of the story, lighting the dark. And yes, the books gets dark, darker even than Book 1. Reading about Krishna wasn’t easy, but once again, every tragedy had its reason and ever action its reaction, every cause its consequence. Kali’s appearance was one of the climaxes of the book, a scene imprinted on my mind. And I cannot help but think that embedded in all the thorns and mythology is one rose of wisdom, one reminder that even today we can learn a lot from the past and the legends. Let me quote another passage from this intriguing book to end my review:
>>Kali remained unfazed. ‘This yuga is governed by a new creed,’ he said. ‘Men will laugh at you if you say that you will redeem them from their sins, for they do not seek redemption. They crave power and success, not virtue and abstinence. Follow my lead, Pradyumna, and you too will prosper. Know that I am the Krishna of this age!’<<