Mahishmathi, an empire of abundance with fiercely loyal subjects and slaves is where the story of ‘The Rise of Sivagami’ by master storyteller Anand Neelakantan, unfolds.
The daughter of a Bhoomipathi – Devaraya, Sivagami’s story is that of a girl orphaned at a very young age brought up with care and kindness by her father’s friend and his family only to be dumped into the Royal Orphanage just six months before attaining the crucial age of eighteen. Perplexed and confused this teenager fails to understand why the family that once protected her has distanced itself from her. Will the reason for the sudden decision unfold or will it still be under wraps till the end? Only reading the book will tell.
Moving on to the protagonist Sivagami, one notices a fire seething within her, a fire that motivates her to move ahead in her mission despite facing various odds. On her way to achieving this mission she befriends some and makes enemies of others. Even when the odds are heavily loaded against her, she is not willing to compromise her dignity. Even though a firebrand by nature, she is compassionate too. Will she see success in her mission or will she fall for the machinations of her enemies? Only time will tell.
Kattappa the slave is another character to look out for. Fiercely loyal to the empire he is willing to sacrifice all, his life, his family and his freedom. The ever loyal one, the story brings out his trials and tribulations as well as his equations with his brother and the royal family well. One can’t help empathize with him at times, as well as feel frustrated with his excessive loyalty on certain occasions.
The book has multiple characters but what stands out is that each one of them is well-fleshed out and contributes to carrying the story forward. Another noticeable aspect is that majority of the women characters come across as feisty and with a mind of their own. They are not easily cowed down and are shrewd.
There are twists and turns. There is love as well as hatred, treachery as well as loyalty and there are shows of strength as well as signs of weakness. In short, the story is not straight. It is like a road that meanders up a hill with hair-pin bends looming ahead of short straight stretches. If you look down you can’t help bite your nail in anticipation of the worst and if you look up you know that the road ahead could be exciting and rewarding.
The story also brings to light some burning socio-political issues – untouchability, the wide disparity in socio-economic status of different classes of society, corruption and lack of political will to address burning issues on time. These issues not only take us back in time but also remind us that as a society we are yet to address these effectively. Years have passed yet the plight of some remains the same.
The language is simple, crisp and lucid with no dams in the form of jargon and wrong usages to check the flow.
The story is even paced, not too slow neither too fast. It is perfect and at no point did I find my interest wane. In fact the story, the style and the language have the ability to engage the reader and keep him/ her hooked till the end.
What more did I want?
Clarity on Bhoomipathi Devaraya’s crime and more time for Mahapradhana Skandadasa to prove his mettle as an able administrator/ minister. These would have added value to the story.
An engaging read, one that ends with some cliffhangers, ‘The Rise of Sivagami’ is a must read.
Reviewer’s Rating: 4/5
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