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Friday, November 15, 2013

Davyaprithvi by Rajdeep Paul (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Official Author Page

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Rajdeep Paul was born and brought up in Calcutta (now Kolkata) in the eastern part of India. As a child, he was fascinated by Indian mythology especially the Mahabharata and Ramayana. He later on discovered fantasy via J.R.R. Tolkien, J.K. Rowling, J.M. Barrie, Lewis Carrol, Bram Stoker among others. He then studied computer science and worked as an engineer.

In 2007, he quit his job to follow his dream of film-making and then went on to make several short films, documentaries and also published a collection of novellas titled “3 on a Bed” with co-writer Sarmistha Maiti. Rajdeep currently lives in Kolkata and works as an Independent Filmmaker and writer. This is his fantasy debut.

OFFICIAL BLURB: Legends speak of a Heaven on Earth beyond the River Indus in the land of Sindhu, where gold grows on the earth and nectar flows in the waters. The search for this earthly paradise has led the clan of Aryas out of their homes in the north to take a formidable journey across the mountainous wild led by their King Varuna, the three Chiefs – Agni, Vayu and Surya – and the visionary twin priests Bhrigavangirasa, with the burning desire to possess this heaven for their own.

But in the land of Sindhu, the Dasyus rule supreme and powerful. Under the just and able reign of their high King Pasupati Sambhu and Queen Danu, the Dasyu people live in peace and prosperity, living in magnificent cities and enjoying amenities far beyond the imagination of any other contemporary civilization, thanks to the continuous scientific progress made by the Dasyu inventors called Ribhus and the brewing of the powerful Kalakuta liquid used to fuel their miraculous weapons.

The Aryas’ arrival in the Indus Valley put them in direct confrontation with seemingly invincible Dasyu race, and their only ally in this conflict are the tree-faring hedonistic race of Gandharvas who only care to make music, dance and have wanton orgies of love in drunken stupors of the intoxicating aphrodisiac known as Sura.

Riding fleet-footed horses, and armed with cunning and aggression the Aryas clash with the formidable might of the Dasyu nation to gain sovereignty over the prosperous Indus Valley and in this titanic clash between the force of a tide and the might of a mountain only one shall be the winner. But whatever be the outcome of this contest, one shall witness history in its making…

FORMAT/INFO: Davyaprithvi is 372 pages long divided over twelve numbered and titled chapters with a prologue. Narration is in the third-person via several characters. There is also a map as well as explanation chapters provided about the world and Soma. Davyaprithvi is the first volume of the Indus Valley series.

Davyaprithvi was published by Aether books in the earlier half of 2013. The cover illustration is provided by Pramod Kumar Pezheril.

ANALYSIS: Davyaprithvi is the debut book from an Indian author who also happens to share my enthusiasm for mythology and the Mahabharata. Rajdeep Paul is a friend of mine and I was very excited when he asked me to review his debut. I had warned him that I wouldn’t pull any punches and so here are my thoughts. Davyaprithvi is the first book in the Indus Valley series and promises to look at the evolution of myths. Here’s what the author writes in a preface to the story:

Events become stories, stories become legends, and legends become myths and that’s how men are transformed into Gods and Demons through the process of telling and retelling. With every narrator enriching the same story with his or her unique experience each time the story is told and thus mythologies are formed. The Indus Valley series of novels try to trace the stories of these men and women whose feats inspired poets to weave the myths of Gods around them.”

The main story is set in the pre-historic Indian sub-continent era, before the Vedas were written (roughly five thousand years before the birth of Jesus Christ). The Aryas are nomads, who are on the lookout for greener pastures after being driven out from their homes in central Asia. Their High King Varuna, who is supported by his chiefs Vayu, Agni and Surya, leads them. They however will have to contend with the Dasyus and the Gandharvas who are the current residents of the Indus Valley. The Dasyus are the native rulers of Indus Valley and a technologically advanced civilization. The Gandharvas are the third race, who are a peace-loving tribe that will be forced to choose sides in between these two warring sides.

What I loved about this story that even though it was supposedly taking place in an ancient time, there are a lot of modern ethos and geo-political concerns that are brought to the fore via this storyline. The author makes this story a multivariate one and there is a big character cast to go with it as well. The characters come in all shades; there are no classical heroes or villains but simply humans who face hardships and do extraordinary things to survive and for the benefit of their clans. In this regards, the author throws an nod to one of his heroes Joseph Campbell via his various characters. The character cast is also a diverse one and I enjoyed how the author showcased various lifestyles and philosophies through his characters.

Going on to the main plotline, the story is similar in scope to the Shiva/Neelkanth trilogy by Amish Tripathi however with many solid differences. While the former series focused on an individual and was more akin to Terry Brooks’ stories, this one focuses on many characters and nation/clans and is in the Robert Jordan-mode (this is the best analogy I can come up with for western readers). The story is spread across various characters both male and female that undergo profound changes in their social and personal lives due to the plot twists. Lastly a word about it’s pace, the book has a slightly uneven feel to it and often the tempo switches from a rapid pace to slightly sedate one and then back again.

I’m being a bit ambiguous with the plotline as I can’t reveal much without spoiling the story, however be prepared to be engulfed in a world that will feel alien (at least to those not familiar with Indian mythology) and to help the author has also given a detailed appendix that expounds lucidly about the races, the world and the societies within. This is very helpful and often I used to refer to it for help with certain points. One thing that the book doesn’t have is a character listing and this is a major drawback as many of the names sound similar and with a vast character cast, it would have been helpful to provide a character listing. Something which could be done differently in the sequel perhaps. I didn’t have any other issues with this book and I think that while this is a rough-edged debut, there’s a lot to it that makes it a good one.

CONCLUSION: Davyaprithvi by Rajdeep Paul is an interesting debut; it manages to highlight several important points about the human condition, our minds and about geo-political warfare. It’s a smart book that encapsulates mythology with philosophy while being packaged as an epic fantasy one. All in all it’s a solid gem that will have different meaning to different readers, come discover what it might mean to you.

NOTE: This review is part of A More Diverse Universe 2013 blog tour, for more information about it, read the original post over HERE. To read the other reviews of A More Diverse Universe 2013 blog tour, go HERE.


Liviania said...

Great review! It's a small thing, but I like that there are multiple female characters in addition to male - the women are so often hugely outnumbered in big fantasy books.

The Reader said...

Thank you Liviania, the point you make is an absolutely important one. I'm hoping more books are released with equal if not more female POV characters.


Anonymous said...

This book looks fascinating, but I can't seem to find it for sale anywhere. Has it been published in digital format?

Hélène said...

Hi! I see the book is sold in India. Do you know if it'll be available elsewhere soon?

JDBlog said...

I personally have interest in Indian and Greek mythology. History always turns me on. Do remember Rajdeep has an excellent grasp on that subject. He not only just knows the stories, but does have a analytical mindset towards each fascinating events which might have (or have not) happened in past. I salute his try to bring this subject for his readers. Sure, it will be a great read. Unfortunately I did not find it available here. As soon as I will be back to India I will buy this. Best of luck Rajdeep!

Aarti said...

I LOVE that Indian authors are digging into the country's mythology and history to tell fantasy stories in new and exciting ways.

This sounds a bit like the Govinda series. Which of the two do you prefer? I didn't get very far with Govinda...

The Reader said...


Unfortunately, there's no digital edition to it & I think the publishers are working on it.


I don't know if it will be able available worldwide, but again I think the publishers are trying to work it out.


The Reader said...


This is similar to the Govinda series because of the subject matter and but thematically, both are very different books.

I prefer Govinda simply because of the inherent Mahabharata connection. However if this was also based on the Mahabharata, then it would be a harder choice :)


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