Ashok K. Banker – Prince Of Ayodhya

I starting delving into the realm of Hindu mythology with Prince Of Ayodhya (2003) by Ashok K. Banker. This is the first book of the Ramayana. Banker wrote a modern rendition of the 3000 year old epic poem. This is quite evident from the start of the novel. The prose is fluent and easy while being characteristically Indian. And that is I think one of the benefits that this novel is written by a native. The story breathes Hindu culture and is full with Hindu words to which there is no English alternative. Often I could only guess at what they meant, although Banker weaves explanations regularly into the narrative as also in India there are many languages. The many foreign words do help creating a wonderful atmosphere that is very different from regular Western or Eastern sceneries. The Hindu universe is quite different. Even so some things remain familiar. The themes of old epic poems do have certain similarities and for one who is familiar with them some elements have been seen before.

I did not pre-read anything about the Ramayana on purpose to let the story be as new and original to me as possible. Still, the story has a modern feeling to it as Banker avoids going old style. He wants to make the story as accessible as possible. I have no doubt a lot of scenes and characterizations have been expanded and added, so that it all feels like any regular novel except for the grand and mythological setting where gods, demons and sage play a large role in the life of humans. A few times Banker did go a bit too far, using references to other places and peoples that were not very plausible to be known in those times. It would not have hurt if he has left it out as much of the geography in the story are hard to fathom for the reader. In contrast to this attempt to provide a better frame in which to place the story, he uses a lot of numbers, distances and times spent that don’t make much sense. I can only assume he followed the Ramayana he more strictly. Making this detail more reasonable and acceptable would have worked much better. To me they sounded at times ridiculous.

There is a lot of detail and story in Prince Of Ayodhya, which basically revolves around two parts which each cover a certain plot development. Each plot development is extended extensively, so all in all there does not really happen that much in the book. I was nowhere bored as the details are rich and it was all very entertaining so there was not much of a disappointment. I do hope the next novels will show more development.

Basing a novel on a mythic epic tale that has proven its success can be a good guarantee for success. The plot and characters are already there, so you only have to worry about the presentation. Overall this is quite good. The minor issues I mentioned before are hardly a bother. It was only the slow plot development and the extended scenes that slowed my own reading pace a bit down. There are moments when you must keep reading. At other times you read leisurely, as I did, for short periods every day. I will continue with the second installment as I’m eager to find out what happens next.


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