Narasimha by Kevin Missal is the first book in The Mahaavatar Trilogy. When Hiranyakashyap, the king of Kashyapuri, had gone to Pataal to disperse the ashes of his brother, Indra — lord of Devas — attacked the city. He only intended to show off his power and terrify asuras; however, in a twist of events, a Simha from his army killed Kayadhu, Hiranyakashyap’s wife. Ever since that fateful day, Hiranyakashyap made his mission to avenge the death of his wife. What followed was an endless war between devas, asuras, and their allies.
Having seen more than his share of bloodshed and atrocities of the wars, Narasimha, who was a Simha — half human and half lion, left his role as the leader of Simhas and began living in a village as a physician. Nevertheless, his intention to avoid further merciless butchering of innocents was the very thing that threw him back into the fire of war. Amidst the ceaseless mayhem, Prahlad, younger son of Hiranyakashyap, felt an ineludible pull toward Lord Vishnu. As time passed, he found himself at a crossroads between defending his father’s kingdom and his faith in Lord Vishnu.
In the beginning, Prahlad’s father had fought for nobility for his clan, and then for the protection and survival of the race. But now, he fought for vengeance against the evil of Lord Indra, who had attacked Kashyapuri and killed Prahlad’s mother Kayadhu– Narasimha by Kevin Missal
Reimagining mythology in a way that the core values of the story doesn’t change requires a profound imagination and deep understanding of the storyline. Be it Amish or Chitra Banerjee, both the authors have proved their mettle in Shiva Trilogy and The Palace of Illusions, respectively. Kevin Missal has joined the club by writing fiction around the famous fable starring Holika, Prahlad, Hiranyakashyap, and Narasimha. Like in other mythological fiction novels, the plot in Narasimha, too, has been twisted to mellow down miracles and magical aspects of the mythology. It was a gripping experience to move with the flow of the plot to see how it would connect with the known folklore. The physical description and characteristics of Asuras, Pishach, Devas, Simhas, Danavas, etc ranged from normal to outrageous but never boring.
Nara opened his bag, revealing the golden mane, the golden gauntlets, and the overall skin that wrapped his back and front like armour. He saw his skin. He wore it, first fitting the mane around his head, then wrapping the skin around his tight, muscular body. It fit perfectly. He tied the whole thing with a leather belt.
And then he stood up, breathing hard, He could feel the spirit of the lion in him now. He could feel the power of the animal inside him. He was a Simha now.
And then he pulled off his gloves, revealing his large claws.– Narasimha by Kevin Missal
Several mysteries are spread throughout the plot to engage the readers and keep them turning the pages. Whether it was the apparent immortality of Andhaka or hinted-at-but-never-revealed prophecy of Narasimha, Kevin Missal had the audience eating out of his hands. Even though the conversations could have been more philosophical, those were never bland. Kevin Missal’s regard for women peeks through at several instances and provides bite-sized wisdom for the readers to ponder on. One of the scenes that grasped my mind was Hiranyakashyap’s quest to get Brahmshastra. The tests that he went through were downright brilliant.
Andhaka said just as Kalanemi re-entered the room with a head in his hands … a human head, the top half of which was severed, revealing the brain.
Andhaka pushed his hand inside the skull and tore at the brain. He began to eat it, blood dripping on his clothes and his skin.– Narasimha by Kevin Missal
While the narration of asuras imparted slight fear of their rage, Devas failed to make an impression. Asuras played the role of victims so well that they overshadowed devas most of the time. Having said that, Kevin Missal has undoubtedly breathed life into Simhas. Mighty half-humans and half-lions were the only rays of hope for Devas’ failing cause. Any high hopes for Shiva diminished the moment he opened up about his life to Narasimha.
‘Do you have any daughters? How dare you sell women!’
‘My lord…’ The merchant was groaning in absolute pain, ‘I won’t again … I won’t … I promise.’
Prahlad gritted his teeth. He didn’t know where his anger was coming from. Perhaps because of the fact that for the first time, he felt like he was fighting for something that was right. That was fair. And not for the sake of appeasing a king or appeasing his father or taking revenge. This battle was for himself.– Narasimha by Kevin Missal
The foundation has been laid pretty strong for Narasimha to rise as a hero. It would be fascinating to read the second book in the series to see if Devas’ side received even an ounce of love from the author. As far as the first book, Narasimha, is concerned, devas have been portrayed more as evildoers and selfish beings. When lord Agni began spitting disdainful comments about Kayadhu, it helped to remember that Agni was not the god that Hindus pray to, rather Kevin Missal portrayed him as a trickster who wanted people to believe he controlled fire. Whether it be the numerous deceptions of Lord Indra or despicable personality of Lord Agni, devas’ side, so far, is not looking good. Yet, they are the ones who follow dharma.
If only people understood consent. If only the understood that flirting was not permission to do something sexual.– Narasimha by Kevin Missal
Needless to say, Narasimha – book 1 in The Mahaavatar Trilogy by Kevin Missal is a novel that evokes a range of emotions. The readers who enjoy mythologies spun by awe-inspiring imagination of the narrator would devour Narasimha by Kevil Missal in a day and purchase the next book in the series immediately. Oh, and not to forget, the neverending action makes Narasimha by Kevin Missal an absolute page-turner.
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