The Immortals of Meluha: The best part is the unusual setting

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsThe Immortals of Meluha by Amish TripathiThe Immortals of Meluha by Amish Tripathi

The Immortals of Meluha, by Amish Tripathi, is the first of a trilogy set in ancient (about 1900 B.C.) India detailing the conflict between the Meluha empire (the Suryavanshi) and their sworn enemies , the Chandravanshis, who seem to have allied themselves with the horrid demon-like Nagas. What gives the hugely outnumbered Meluha hope is their vastly superior technology (including a special cocktail that greatly extends life) and the arrival of the prophesied “Neelkanth,” in the form of a young man named Shiva.

That last name should indicate to you that we’re working in the milieu of myth here, and demons and gods make some brief appearances throughout. The focus is on Shiva becoming acclimated to the idea that he is “the one” once he’s found and brought back (the Meluhas have been searching for the prophesied one systematically, knowing he would come from an outlying area). He has to learn to navigate the politics of the empire, a process complicated by several issues:

  • his falling in love with the emperor’s daughter (further complicated by her being an untouchable)
  • the increasingly frequent and effective terror attacks by the Chandravanshis
  • his being torn between huge admiration for the empire’s near-perfect society and his dismay over some of its laws (such as those dealing with untouchables)
  • a powerful general who is skeptical of the Neelkanth and whose conservative beliefs are threatened by Shiva’s more liberal interpretation of law

By far my favorite aspect of the novel was its unusual setting. One does get tired after all of the same old same old Western European medieval setting of so much fantasy, so it was a pleasure to read a work set in a wholly different world and with a different background mythos.

Beyond that, unfortunately, I can’t say there was a lot that endeared me to The Immortals of Meluha. Outside of the choice of setting, the world building felt both thin and a bit jumbled. The mix of mythos and science never felt fully thought out/detailed, and references in 1900 B.C. to “oxygen” and other scientific concept took me out of the story.
Language, in fact, was often jarring and overly modern for the setting/characters.

Characterization was thin and often predictable. I’ll also admit to a pretty knee-jerk negative response to insta-love, as happens here. For the most part the characters were two-dimensional and moved down easily seen paths. My favorite was the conservative general, though even he had some issues of consistency and pretty much ended where one assumed he would.

If I had to sum it up, I’d say The Immortals of Meluha mostly felt amateurish in its plotting and craft. I did end up finishing it, but it was a close call. At this point, I’d hold off on starting the trilogy until it’s clear that book two improves on the first.

The Shiva Trilogy — (2011-2013) Publisher: Called “archetypal and stirring” by Deepak Chopra, The Immortals of Meluha heralds an exciting new wave of fantasy writing inspired by the ancient civilizations of the East. Tripathi devoted years to the research of Hindu mythological stories and history, and discussions with his family about the destiny of the human body, mind and soul to create this sweeping and fascinating adaptation of ancient Hindu mythology for modern fantasy readers. 1900 BC in what modern Indians call the Indus Valley Civilization and the inhabitants called the land of Meluha: a near-perfect empire created many centuries earlier by Lord Ram–one of the greatest monarchs that ever lived–faces peril as its primary river, the Saraswati, is slowly drying to exctinction. The Suryavanshi rulers are challenged with devastating terrorist attacks from the east, the land of the Chandravanshis. To make matters worse, the Chandravanshis appear to have allied with the Nagas, an ostracized and sinister race of deformed humans with astonishing martial skills. The only hope for the Suryavanshis is an ancient legend: When evil reaches epic proportions, when all seems lost, a hero will emerge. Is the unexpected, rough-hewn Tibetan immigrant Shiva that hero? Drawn suddenly to his destiny, duty, and by love, Shiva will attempt to move mountains and lead the Suryavanshi to destroy evil.

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BILL CAPOSSERE, who's been with us since June 2007, lives in Rochester NY, where he is an English adjunct by day and a writer by night. His essays and stories have appeared in Colorado Review, Rosebud, Alaska Quarterly, and other literary journals, along with a few anthologies, and been recognized in the "Notable Essays" section of Best American Essays. His children's work has appeared in several magazines, while his plays have been given stage readings at GEVA Theatre and Bristol Valley Playhouse. When he's not writing, reading, reviewing, or teaching, he can usually be found with his wife and son on the frisbee golf course or the ultimate frisbee field.

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