Book Review: The Secret of the Nagas

August 24, 2011 9:59 am by

The success of The Immortals of Meluha, a novel by first-time author Amish, took everyone by surprise last year. Few had imagined that a story in which Shiva is reimagined as a Tibetan stoner, told by an IIM graduate, had the makings of a bestseller. The book became popular within weeks, and fans have been eagerly anticipating the sequel. The Secret of the Nagas is the second part in Amish’s Shiva Trilogy.

The Shiva of The Secret of the Nagas is not the unsure and ambiguous nomad from the first book, but a happy, confident man. He has left behind his homeland and settled into the role of being the saviour quite comfortably. Sati and he are happily married. The weed in the plains is better. The one dark spot is Shiva’s need to avenge the murder of his friend, Brahaspati, who was killed by a mysterious Naga assassin in The Immortals of Meluha. Despite the snake on the cover, the Nagas have little serpentine about them. They are all humans with physical abnormalities who have been abandoned by their family because the law demands Nagas be exiled. The Nagas have their own kingdom and the exact location of their capital, Panchvati, is a carefully guarded secret. In the course of The Secret of the Nagas, Shiva learns that appearances can be misleading. The identity of the Naga assassin and Panchvati are discovered, and among the new additions to Shiva’s entourage are Kali, Ganesh, Kartik and Parashuram.

There are a number of reasons why The Secret of the Nagas is a disappointment, particularly to anyone who liked the first book of the trilogy. The Immortals of Meluha had two strengths: a reasonably solid plot and unambitious storytelling. The Secret of the Nagas has neither. Amish wrote using simple sentences. His characters were interesting and spoke in modern, everyday English, which actually gave them an air of easy credibility rather than sounding jarring. The Immortals of Meluha sought to tell a story that made you interested in finding out what happens next. In The Secret of the Nagas, there’s little suspense and by the end, one feels little curiosity about the finale.

It seems that while writing The Secret of the Nagas, much of Amish’s attention was upon language. There are obvious and woefully inept attempts at literary flair that make the novel a tiresome read. The book suffers from a rash of exclamation marks and unnecessary italics. Sentences have been sliced to create weak, dangling fragments (“Parashuram charged. Followed by his vicious horde.”). Instead of simply talking, people bellow, scream, whisper and fall silent. They are flabbergasted, they pirouette in the middle of a fight, and use words like “exponentially”, “garagantuan” and “plethora” in their speech. The net result is text that is laboured, trite and awkward.

Amish’s retelling of myths in The Secret of the Nagas is not particularly fun or clever. Unlike in The Immortals of Meluha, getting Amished in The Secret of the Nagas leads to far less interesting versions of both Kali and Parashuram. Ganesh is perhaps the worst hit because so little of his story actually makes sense. The uncomfortable relationship between Shiva and Ganesh in Hindu myths gets beaten to flat simplicity. More subtly hit is the Bengali community. A substantial part of The Secret of the Nagas concerns Brangas, who are Amished Bengalis from an ancient era. The Brangas are clever and rich but are afflicted by a weird plague for which the natural antidote is peacock blood. So, in order to survive, Amished Bengalis have to kill the national bird and drink its blood. Plus, the prime minister of the Branga kingdom is a man festooned with gold jewellery, whose name is Bappiraj, thus bringing music director Bappi Lahiri into the Shiva Trilogy.

Amish’s attempts at philosophy are as half-baked as the characters and plot. For example, he suggests thoughts are radio waves that could be communicated by temples, which were actually powerful transmitters (see pages 111-112). Unlike Bappiraj, who is clearly an attempt at humour, the temple-transmitter theory is elaborated upon in all seriousness. Now, thanks to Amish, we’re seeing the temples of India as the Facebook for ancient priests.

The Secret of the Nagas by Amish, Westland, Rs295. Buy it from Flipkart.com.

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Comments (34)

  1. wow such a wonderful book!!!!!
    i love it :p

  2. Seeker of Truth |

    When i saw the name of this book , i thought it might have some information about the Nagas , which is REAL information … and was hoping to buy it , but after going through wikipedia and after reading the comments of some readers , im really dissapointed . This Amish guy who call himself a so called author should not have used our Hindu Gods and Goddesses to make up a fictional story by twisting the facts of History .

    I mean if you ask me why would an author do such a thing . I can only say , its for greed .
    Greed for wealth and publicity has made this author blind, and thus he played with religious characters .

    If a similar thing was done in the west or middle-east , like making up a fictional fairytale on Jesus or Mohammad , then that author would have been in serious trouble .

    Reading a fantasy novel is fine but not by twisting religious facts . . . Religion and fantasy should be seperate & shouldn’t merge .
    Did this Amish guy mentioned to his readers that its a work of fiction ? I don’t think so .
    and therefore feeding the public with bogus stuffs created by him in his messed up mind.

    I am a seeker of truth . I have a huge hunger for spiritual and religious knowledge . I like to read holy scriptures like The Bible , Puranas , Koran etc. and like to read those books which holds REAL information taken from the scriptures and not from any books like this one.
    Such a shame Mr.Amish that you would sunk so low for the sake of wealth and fame .
    I mean pretty much everyone knows that the Nagas are a widely discussed topic in the west . Even on Discovery & History channel the westerner researchers speak of the Nagas . . . and since people in India knows they are studying and researching on our mythology & religion , you took this opportunity to create a false story just to attract their attention.
    and to fill your pockets with big bucks . This is pathetic.

  3. Abhi |

    I don’t know how many reading this book are actually aware of true history/mythology. Mr. Amish has truly messed-up entire base on which history is written. it is pertinent to note that none of the character are shown in the way it has to be. This book can make more sense if Amish has not played with names written in our great history. what is this book “Fiction” or…..

    Well, as far as story telling abilities are concerned it is not bad for a naive writer.

    Honestly, Shiva trilogy has got nothing Shiv in it.

  4. i am presently reading second part – the secret of naga . which i like most and conversation between characters is also good. mostly i like the conversation between lord shiv and panditji the narshim . ……….

  5. gaurav |

    Just completed reading the 2nd book today. The author’s ideas are really worth mentioning. It takes you into that era and paints a beautiful picture in your mind. But the narration is very poor and puerile. While reading the first part it seemed very inadequate. The conversations between the characters sometimes appear a little lame. But it still makes you want to read the 2nd book cause of 2 reasons:
    1. The end is like a ‘to be continued’ part which compels us to find out what happens next.
    2. Although the story was inadequately presented, the characters and the overall story creates an impact and makes us want to read more.
    Portrayal about the various temples and cities can become vary at times. Also if you are a word-to-word reader and enjoy reading the descriptions and imagining the scene in your mind then you may find that a little confusing at times. (Of course this is just my perspective, and it could be due to my inability to decipher it.)
    Lastly the authors seems to like all his characters a lot and does not wish to part with them. There are numerous battle field scenarios in the books and just one (sort of) important character (Drapaku , a very brave soldier) was shown killed. Others just miraculously escape death due to the timely action of the famous doctor Ayurvati. Obviously it could be cause the characters might play a pivotal role in the 3rd book but it still seems a little unrealistic as so many battle fields and hardly any significant character’s death. (Not that am hoping for it)
    The suspense of the Nagas is nice but a little predictable cause of the name – Lord of the People.
    Also sometimes you feel that the author has rushed into things.
    Overall not totally waste a read. You might enjoy it for some light reading. :)

  6. RV |

    History is always unknown..

  7. lohith |

    messing up the history ,,,,,its not good taking lord shiva into the scene…..

  8. chidambaram.s |

    worth of sitting and reading insteading of watching tv or doing some worthless stuff ,, i did not enjoyed the book,, i loved the book,,, i am not a good critic ,, yet i loved the line NOTHING IS BAD , EVERYTHING IS JUST DIFFERENT. FINISHED THE 4 TH TIME READING FIRST PART AND 2 TIMES THE SECOND PART. amish sir., you had created a big expectation in our heart for the third part,, so please satisfy our expectation,,,,…

  9. Jai |

    ” well I want to learn more about the Shiva… Eagerly waiting for third part…”

  10. Nirali |

    Just finished The Secret of the Nagas.. It’s awesome..!

  11. Amit Walia |

    I just finished The Secret of the Nagas and i found it even better than it’s prequel, it was a racy thriller and clever written fiction. Kudos to Amish, well it takes a brilliant creative and supple mind to weave asuch a beautiful fictional story using the larger than life sacred characters of Lord Shiva and Devi Sati. Well done Amish Tripathi.

  12. Ayushi |

    it is awonderful story;

  13. mustafa |

    The book was very interesting ..

  14. Windsor |

    The character of Naga , the Lord of the people, was powerful in Meluha; but his transformation into Ganesha plunged into mediocrity in the second book. The use of the terms like ” oxygen”, “centimeter” etc. seems out of place.

  15. Rohit Pareek |

    Both books make up a nice read. If one tries to compare them with established beliefs, then ofcourse there is disappointment as the books are far from stories that we have grown up with. But overall it’s nice characterization, story. Treat it a completely fiction work without any link with set theories/mythology/history we read in ancient texts like Puranas etc.

  16. Kishore |

    I accidentally bought the second of the trilogy, read about 15 pages and found something amiss. Ran back to the same book shop and bought the first one. Finished both the books in 2 days – no distractions , took leave from job (lucky me!!!!). The books were so compelling that as per my wife, i did not even eat for 2 days. To be honest – I dont remember anything. I was in a trance.
    Amish – Dude, dont keep us waiting for the third book. Yearning for the third for a long time.

  17. Bala ESR |

    I am suprised on the critic..such a page turner and i was not willing to drop it at any moment…Loved writing it…waiting for the thrid installement to be released

  18. Arvind Swarup |

    I have read both the parts. I do agree that second part Naga is quite disappointing. As a reader , I felt that the script is made lengthy ,unnecessarily . like

    1. When Sati fought with some strange animal( Tiger+Line) . Description on origin of that animal,and Fight techniques of that animal. Were that much details required ?
    I felt like.. I don’t want to know about origin of this animal..hell with it .
    2. Concept and character of Parshuram ..Quite unclear..
    3. Fight between Pravteshwara and Barangas was not required in that much detail.
    4. Love scenes/postures between Praveteshawar and Ayoudhya princess were not required when concept is about a great personality SHIVA. It reduces not only interest but make realized like reading a normal novel.
    5. Princess of Ayodhya is portrayed as a filmy character that always thinks and behaves for sex only. Either her double meaning dialogue or her posture and attires. She is presented as sexy symbol which was not at all required. Her affection towards Praveteshwara could be shown in another way with same depth and feelings. As I feel, it does not suit to a character of princess. It just changed the stats of mind of reader from a good story line (book) to a normal novel.
    6. Trip to land of Naga is quite lengthy.

    We want to know about SHIVA and his actions . To read about jungle, TIGER+LINE lots of material is available elsewhere…
    Request to AMISH ..pls try to make next version ‘THE BOOK’ not as NOVEL.. we are waiting..

  19. pankaj |

    One Book for Life Success offers so much of wisdom – just awesome

  20. vel |

    the book badly misses the time and space concepts. being at mumbai for bf, for lunch at delhi like narration fails to impress. the plot to solve the branga’s misery is conveniently forgotten. indian jk rowling is in the making.

  21. Rahul Nachhiketa |

    Have read the both volumes in span of 4 days. First was fine, second not at par with first one. Hope 3 will be best of all. Still a valiant and novel idea. Book and sequel is better than other books coz of simplicity. As every one mentioned, radio waves was great put off, similarly Bappiraj. Mythology if attempted has to be dignified to attract respect

  22. Aishwarya |

    Your review is spot on, the first book was amazing! The second one was a let down and I felt like there were too many characters. And it is a easier to see Shiva as a human rather than Ganesha.

  23. viraj |

    Amish has to be credited for coming out with a novel idea through this trilogy, but beyond that, there isn’t much to say. It truly is an effort to read through the books, second one more so, and the overwhelming feeling is of an opportunity missed.

  24. Ram |

    Completely agree with you. The premise on which the story is based upon is very fresh but the execution is terrible. There is a greater scope of exploring the characters and analyze the world around them in their eyes. But, the author is satisfied with action sequences, mating dances and ‘gasp’ing surprises. The book’s aimed at giving a mythological fantasy for the mass audience and has succeeded in its attempt.

  25. Shilpa |

    Just finished reading the book! I actually read first and second parts continuously.. It was an unforgettable journey, really! I think both the books are at par with each other and Amish style of writing is more matured and logical in the second book.

    Somehow, I think that the entire series of Shiva Trilogy is describing Shiva’s mind. The confused Shiva in the first book led to little ambiguous way of writing. We can actually feel the inconvenience and ambiguity running through Shiva’s mind. The second book is clear and lucid to showcase matured Shiva.

  26. Kam |

    I finished reading it..and yes..the ‘radio waves’ part quite didnt fit into the story…overall enjoyed reading… :)

  27. TJ |

    I am on Page 80 now….awesome reading experience till noe….n it seems like ….it’s gonna be an unfogettable journey…. :) :) :)

  28. SK |

    I am half way through the book did not find it as compelling as the first one , may be this can be attributed to the fact that the expectations were really set too high .Nevertheless Amish has a wonderful story telling way , the language is pretty simple and the book is definitely worth reading .

  29. Tara |

    Very nicely done review – and bang on …the Shiva Trilogy (rather the two books released yet) epitomize the “what happens next” book genre …the plot and the imagination to conjure up the same are commendable ..the rest is well..trite! Loved the “weed is better in the plains” :-D

  30. Meenakshi Batra |

    Good book, just finished reading it. Enjoyed it a lot but a little less than the first one. My biggest shocker was where it ends, I expected a bit more at that point. And Amish will start writing only at end October as I read somewhere and I guess he will be delayed well beyond his target like the second one. Long time to wait to know what happened. Wish he was a bit more faster writer. Radio waves and Bappi thing was a bit of a disappointment but then he quickly moved on to better stuff. These references were unnecessary. If he had got me to review this I would have suggested he removed them.

  31. Sharmistha |

    Read the complete book – loved it…did not find anything amiss. yes the bappiraj name was a hilarious pick… Waiting for the final part now.

  32. karthik |

    Wow! this is surprizing.. i’m half way through the book and am loving it so far.. it takes imagination to script something like this.. while some of the “re-imaginations” are silly, like Bappiraj (really, that was like stumbling upon a reel of an adam sandler movie while watching Godfather). But apart from that every thing was amazingly done.
    And italics and uncommon words?? I guess that’s a little nitpicking…

  33. Yati |

    Uptill now I’ve read half of it but didn’t find it bad at all, who cares if text is italic or standard if you get the gist of it…

  34. Leo |

    Amished. Nice.