A masterpiece made new for a generation of readers who ought to be very grateful indeed to Menon.

THE RAMAYANA

THE GREAT INDIAN EPIC RENDERED IN MODERN PROSE

One of the ancient world’s great verse epics is retold in energetic English prose in this sparkling volume, the work of an obviously accomplished Indian novelist and journalist.

The Ramayana, or “Tale of [Prince] Rama,” was composed in seven books containing 24,000 couplets by the Sanskrit poet Valmiki, around 300 b.c. It’s the “shorter” Indian (Hindu) epic (compared with its massive counterpart, The Mahabharata), a much-loved classic that continues to inspire works of visual art and dramatic performance. Like the epics of Homer and Milton, The Ramayana straddles earth and the unearthly regions, beginning with the bargain that malevolent “demon king” Ravana makes with the god Siva, who gives the mortal supernatural strength (but not immortality). The tale then focuses on childless King Dasaratha of Ayodha, the gift of four sons (borne by four wives) granted him by the god Vishnu, and the exploits of Dasaratha’s favorite son Rama (a “perfect man” who is in fact an incarnation of Vishnu). Some of this rich story’s most dramatic sequences include the contest of strength in which Rama wins the hand of the beautiful Sita (as much a paragon of virtue as himself); the intrigue perpetrated by one of his father’s wives, that consigns Rama to 14 years’ wandering in a vast forest; the abduction of Sita by Ravana, and the arduous process whereby Rama defeats the powerful demon and wins back his bride; and the ordeal by fire through which the ostensibly compromised Sita triumphantly proves her fidelity, and is fully reunited with her husband. A fascinating further dimension is added when Rama joins forces with Sugriva, King of the Monkeys, which creatures, led by their brave general Hanuman, enable the prince to infiltrate and destroy the demon-king’s evil empire. Nor is rousing adventure all that’s offered here. The characterizations of heroic Rama, stoical Sita, Rama’s stalwart brother Lakshmana, and especially the satanic Ravana are unusually full, complex, and preternaturally vivid.

A masterpiece made new for a generation of readers who ought to be very grateful indeed to Menon.

Pub Date: May 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-86547-660-8

Page Count: 732

Publisher: North Point/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2003

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

With its bug-eyed monsters, one might think Dune was written thirty years ago; it has a fantastically complex schemata and...

DUNE

This future space fantasy might start an underground craze.

It feeds on the shades of Edgar Rice Burroughs (the Martian series), Aeschylus, Christ and J.R. Tolkien. The novel has a closed system of internal cross-references, and features a glossary, maps and appendices dealing with future religions and ecology. Dune itself is a desert planet where a certain spice liquor is mined in the sands; the spice is a supremely addictive narcotic and control of its distribution means control of the universe. This at a future time when the human race has reached a point of intellectual stagnation. What is needed is a Messiah. That's our hero, called variously Paul, then Muad'Dib (the One Who Points the Way), then Kwisatz Haderach (the space-time Messiah). Paul, who is a member of the House of Atreides (!), suddenly blooms in his middle teens with an ability to read the future and the reader too will be fascinated with the outcome of this projection.

With its bug-eyed monsters, one might think Dune was written thirty years ago; it has a fantastically complex schemata and it should interest advanced sci-fi devotees.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1965

ISBN: 0441013597

Page Count: 411

Publisher: Chilton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1965

Did you like this book?

A charming and persuasive entry that will leave readers impatiently awaiting the concluding volume.

A BLIGHT OF BLACKWINGS

Book 2 of Hearne's latest fantasy trilogy, The Seven Kennings (A Plague of Giants, 2017), set in a multiracial world thrust into turmoil by an invasion of peculiar giants.

In this world, most races have their own particular magical endowment, or “kenning,” though there are downsides to trying to gain the magic (an excellent chance of being killed instead) and using it (rapid aging and death). Most recently discovered is the sixth kenning, whose beneficiaries can talk to and command animals. The story canters along, although with multiple first-person narrators, it's confusing at times. Some characters are familiar, others are new, most of them with their own problems to solve, all somehow caught up in the grand design. To escape her overbearing father and the unreasoning violence his kind represents, fire-giant Olet Kanek leads her followers into the far north, hoping to found a new city where the races and kennings can peacefully coexist. Joining Olet are young Abhinava Khose, discoverer of the sixth kenning, and, later, Koesha Gansu (kenning: air), captain of an all-female crew shipwrecked by deep-sea monsters. Elsewhere, Hanima, who commands hive insects, struggles to free her city from the iron grip of wealthy, callous merchant monarchists. Other threads focus on the Bone Giants, relentless invaders seeking the still-unknown seventh kenning, whose confidence that this can defeat the other six is deeply disturbing. Under Hearne's light touch, these elements mesh perfectly, presenting an inventive, eye-filling panorama; satisfying (and, where appropriate, well-resolved) plotlines; and tensions between the races and their kennings to supply much of the drama.

A charming and persuasive entry that will leave readers impatiently awaiting the concluding volume.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-345-54857-3

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

more