The strength of The Scion of Ikshvaku is the ingenuity of the subplots within a clichéd plot. It's like bringing a large ancestral house down save a few weight-bearing pillars and beams and rebuilding the entire place with a new plan that is independent of the original one.
Ram, believer of law, hater of polygamy, dark-complexioned crown prince of Ayodhya, a man with no ability for small talk, hunter of deer and wild boar, is banished for 14 years by his father. There are two reasons for this: one, he has broken the law by using a strong weapon in a desperate attempt to stop the more-powerful Raavan's army from annihilating Mithila, Sita's kingdom, days before the alliance, and two, Dashrath's favourite queen asks him to do so. Lakshman, protector of Ram, fair-skinned, short-tempered, and built like a bull, the mischievous sidekick in the epic, accompanies him and Sita for this punishment. They wander in the forests of the peninsular India, protected by Jatayu and his soldiers, until one day when Sita is abducted by the sworn enemy of Ayodhya, Raavan.
The timeline moved way too swiftly for my taste, particularly towards the end. For example, it jumped from 6 years to 14 years in just two pages. Also, the English is far too foreign for Indian reading. If it’s a conscious effort of the writer, or the editor, to impress the reader, it didn’t work for me. A lot of words from British & American English have been thrown in unnecessarily and the mishmash, I thought, was unpalatable to a certain degree if not entirely.
Sample this: “In Lord Parshu Ram’s name, Kaushalya, stop mollycoddling me and knock some sense into your son,” screamed Dashrath.
“Dammit!” screamed Dashrath, “Get out of here before I burst a blood vessel.”
The interpretation of the masculine and feminine ways of life was interesting though the author has used it in his earlier books too. Ram says that while the feminine way of life promotes creativity and art, and is the way the devas rule, it ultimately gives birth to anarchy and laziness. It is for this reason, and periodically, that the demons regain the power and bring forth their masculine way of life in which discipline and rule of law are the cornerstones. Though good in the beginning, it too fails over a period of time as tyranny and organized corruption take root, and once again the feminine way comes to power.
About the caste system says Sita to Ram, “We need to destroy the birth-based caste system. It has weakened our dharma and our country. It must be destroyed for the good of India. If we don’t destroy the caste system as it exists today, we will open ourselves to attacks from foreigners. They will use our divisions to conquer us.”
There are similar interesting interpretations about dharma.
That said, on the whole, The Scion of Ikshvaku is readable, has a good place, strong imagery, and is entertaining. Rating: 4 / 5.
Buy The Scion of Ikshvaku by Amish here.