Tuesday, February 7, 2017

2017 - Book 2 - Ashoka: Lion of Maurya Book 1

Ashoka: Lion of MauryaAshoka: Lion of Maurya by Ashok. K Banker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The revised first part of the Ashoka Series of books from India's mythology man - Ashok Banker. This one provides a prequel of sorts to the Ashoka Lion of Maurya Book 2 which was previously the Book 1 of the series.

Much about the Chandragupta Maruya and Ashoka is lost to Indians. The history taught in schools cover only the very basics of the first Indian empire which laid the foundation of a united India. The architects of this great empire are lost to the common Indian due to almost 200 years of rule under the British empire the remanants of which is still felt today in modern India where we are taught more about the recent history than the ancient history. India still looks outwards for its role models than inwards towards the Icons that moulded it into what it is today. Names like Chanakya, Chandragupta, Ashoka, Radhagupta, Bimbisara have just become footnotes in the pages of history.

Ashok Banker seeks to revive the interest in these ancient figures with his retelling of Itihasa - History. Ashoka is the medium he has chosen to start his mighty effort. Much of knowledge about how Ashoka became the 3rd emperor of the Mauryavansha Dynasty is shrouded in mystery. There are some anecdotes about him propagating Buddhism throughout India after being enlightened post the bloody Kalinga War. But not much information is available about his rise to the throne. Bimbisara was known to have had 100 children and close to 500 queens. From this murky, back stabbing and politically charged environment Ashoka rose to prominence.

The first 2 books in the series lay the foundation for Ashoka's ascendance to the top. The politics and the backstabbing happening in the ruling elite is repulsive and intriguing at the same time. Banker seeks to keep the mystery going by throwing Ashoka in 1 perilious situation after another. The Book 1 & 2 end with Ashoka in a very perilious state - betrayed by those close to him and hanging onto his life by a thread.

There is enough facts blended with fiction in tale to allow for the liberties that Banker takes while depicting the courtroom dramas and the palace sex life. The books are spaced easily and make for a breezy read. Mythology has traditionally been Ashok Banker's forte and by blending history with his impeccable story telling skills, the interest is held as you turn page after page to find out how Ashoka triumphs over his trials.

We know Ashoka became the 3rd emperor of Mauryavansh, but if you did not know Indian history and are reading the books for the first time, you would be at the edge of your seat to find out just how the hero survives through a unliveable trial. Book 2 ends in a cliff hanger leaving you gasping for more, wanting Banker to have written just 1 more page to satisfy you that Ashoka has survived, instead you are left pining for Book 3 to release ASAP so that you can continue into this riveting journey with arguably India's most powerful emperor.

My Rating - 4.5/5.

2017 - Book 1 - The Midas Legacy

The Midas Legacy (Nina Wilde & Eddie Chase #12)The Midas Legacy by Andy McDermott
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Another Nina Wilde and Eddie Chase adventure from the stable of Andy McDermott. When the series started with Wilde & Chase it was among my favorite series with lots of action and adventure mixed with archaeology. As time moved on, unfortunately the series character did not move on. The remained the same one-dimensional cardboard cut outs. Yes the story line appeared linear with Wilde & Chase falling in love an marrying, but the depth to the characters was missing.

With so many books released in the series, there was a real chance here for the author to expand on the characters and really allow the readers to relate to them. But I guess that's a missed opportunity. Nina Wilde is now a consultant and an author, she's famous but not very happy with her life. I really did not like how the character of Wilde has developed, she constantly bitches in the book, harangues her husband and is completely miserable with her life as a mother and a non-archaeologist. The character did not develop in my point of view, she came across as a person who took a decision and then decided to spread the misery of it to everybody around her. I would give Chase a medal for just putting up with her in this book.

Being a reader of all the books in this series, the plot was relatively easy to guess, the bad guys were not even one dimensional, the twists could be predicted from almost a proverbial mile away and the baddies were overtly buffoonish in their approach. Other than our lead pair, I guess everybody and their pet must have seen through the twists. As usual when Wilde and Chase are involved in their shenanigans some priceless artifact, site or piece of history gets utterly destroyed because the world is a proverbial hell and only Wilde and Chase have the moral compass to do the right things, the rest of the people are always selfish and utter b******s who like to destroy things for selfish gain.

The books are formulaic and can be read for escapism. I liked to read through the book to understand if I could guess all the bad guys before the author revealed them and then also guess the finale or the things that the lead pair would break or destroy on their way to saving a precious artifact which always ends up getting destroyed.

Overall I would give this 2 stars. I have read better from McDermott and would like to see him write some better ones in future.