Wrath of the Hellfires Book Review - Vikramaditya Veergatha #4

 Years ago, back in 2015, I saw a beautiful cover of the book 'The Guardians of the Halahala' while I was browsing on amazon for Indian mythology books. At that time I was still new to this genre. I had recently finished reading Shiva Trilogy by Amish and loved it so much that I wanted to read more and more books like this. 

The recent editions of 'The Guardians of the Halahala' is different than what it used to be before. But I liked the first one, depicting Vishada's dagger in blue colour and purple background. It instantly attracts attention, prompting anyone to read the book or find out what it's about. After a month of putting it in my cart, I bought the book. 

In my childhood, I used to read a lot of books in Gujarati, about Vikramaditya. That includes Betaal Pachhisi, Singhasan Battisi, and individual stories of King Vikramaditya's adventures. I think I read around 40-50 such books. I still remember a lot of them and I've told them numerous times to my friends during my hostel days at JNV and they, as I can tell from their expressions, equally liked it. In addition, I liked to make it more suspenseful for them. Perhaps more than the Betaal himself? But no, I'm exaggerating a bit more. However, I did ask them questions sometimes at the end of the stories like Betaal. The good thing about it is, sometimes there is no right answer. It depends on your perceptions and there could be arguments on both sides. Vikramaditya's answers were so interesting and amusing to read and at the end it makes you think over and over about the stories and his answers. 

I'm particularly fond of Ramanlal Soni, the author who wrote all those wonderful stories. He was a regular part of Gujarati textbooks too. He lived 60 km from the place I live, although in a different era and different times.  

I'm sure you must have read similar stories in Hindi, English or your mother language. 

There will be spoilers in this review considering that this will be one last time I will talk about this series.

So, coming back to the Vikramaditya Veergatha series, naturally, I was intrigued about this series when I came to know about it and after so many years I got the chance to read Vikramaditya's adventures again. Previously, the series was supposed to be comprised of three books and was called Vikramaditya Trilogy but later on, it was expanded to the fourth book since three books weren't clear enough to tell the story. 

I read the first book of the series in 2015. It was truly an exciting read for me. The story starts with Lord Shiva giving Vikramaditya the responsibility of securing the dagger which contains the deadly Halahala obtained from the churning of the ocean. Lord Shiva drank most of it, but one of the Asuras, Veeshada stole a small part of it. Now, both Devas and Asuras are after it and it is up to Vikramaditya and his nine councillors to secure it from them. The concept was new and fresh. All the nine councillors possessed the special ability, so it was going to be an interesting read throughout the series considering that there were Yaksha and Danavas involved in it in addition to the army of Indra and Shukracharya.

Conspiracy of Meru was the second one that I read after some time, in 2016.  This still remains my favourite book of the series. The first book took time in the narration of characters, kingdoms, and tribes and likewise. The action picked up in the series and it was exciting in the end with Devas and Asuras coming together to devise a plan against Vikramaditya.

Had to wait two years for the third one, Vengeance of Indra which was published in February 2018. There were lesser action scenes in this one compared to the previous two and it was focused more on Vikramaditya, Devas and Asuras trying to outsmart each other and prepare for the inevitable war.

 Finally, I read Wrath of the Hellfires a few days back and there ends the journey of Vikramaditya and his nine councillors. This was Vikramaditya's book in the true sense. The first three books take their time to build upon the final battle that is to be followed in the fourth book. While it was amazing to see how it ended in Wrath of the Hellfires, I feel that the story was very fast-paced. The author had to complete the journey of all the characters in one book and it was a big task. Even though there are 550 pages, it feels rushed. That was the only minor problem I had with the book, that of pacing. For example, Ghatakarpara was an amazing character and in the final battle, he was given a very short time compared to other characters like Shanku and Kshapanaka.

Amara Sinha, one of the councillors, had the ability to transform himself into a half male half-lion form - a Narasimha. In our Hindu epics, Narasimha is an avatar of  Lord Vishnu who killed Hiranyakashipu. Hiranyakashipu was given a boon by Brahma that he cannot die during day or night, in the palace or outside of it, on the ground or in the sky, by any weapon, by human or animal. It was almost impossible to kill him because of this boon and hence Lord Vishnu took the form of Narasimha. He killed him in the twilight (neither day nor night) at the threshold of the courtyard (neither indoors nor out) by putting him on his thigh (neither ground nor sky) using his nails (no weapons). Since Hiranyakashipu was one of the Asura kings in the series, the other being Hiranyaksha his brother, I was expecting that Amara Sinha would be the one to kill him in the end. That would've been a perfect analogy to it. But that wasn't the case in The Wrath of the Hellfires.

Shanku's story did great justice to her character. It was wonderfully done. However, the plot where she convinces the Danava Lord Shalivahana to help Vikramaditya could've been expanded where we get to know about their world. 

I liked the fights in the Borderworld and if Shukracharya had been a little more clever with his plans he would've gotten hold of the dagger. Urvashi, the apsara Indra had sent to Vikramaditya's palace to find the whereabouts of the dagger had a staggering transformation after she failed to seduce Vikramaditya and understood what true love is after he saw Vikramaditya taking care of his beloved Vishakha. 

Battle scenes were there throughout the book, and we indeed saw The wrath of the Hellfires, swinging ferociously in the Samrat's hands. The Vyalas, the Vultures, the Ahi, the Centaurs, the Kinnaras, the Danavas, it was so wonderful to read the battle scenes happening at different places in Ujjaiyini. All the nine councillors and Vikramaditya made sure that the dagger doesn't fall into the wrong hands.

I would've liked it more if Vishakha had recovered in the third book itself and see how the story develops with her and Vikramaditya. But this series wasn't focused on her since the beginning so I had expected that she wouldn't be given much thought in the final one as well.

Betaal was eventually brought into the human world by Vikramaditya and it was mentioned that he would tell Vikramaditya the stories of his adventures bringing the Betaal Pachhisi element into the picture. It was clever. 

But overall, I really enjoyed the entire series. Conspiracy at Meru and Wrath of the Hellfires stands out for me from all the four books of the series. I have been recommending this series in some of my other posts as well. Anyone interested in Indian mythology fiction should definitely give this a try. You wouldn't regret it. Shatrujeet Nath is perhaps writing a similar series right now so I'm looking forward to it. 

Now it's time for me to read some of the other fantasy and science fiction books I've been planning to read. I'm thinking of reading Speaker for the Dead, the second book of Ender's Game series by Orson Scott Card. Or maybe Rhythm of War, the fourth book of the Stormlight Archive? Or a book or two by the 'Queen of Crime' Agatha Christie?  Will let you know. You can check my Goodreads profile here, to know what books I'm reading. 

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Books by Shatrujeet Nath:

Vikramaditya Veergatha Series

1. The Guardians of the Halahala - https://amzn.to/2NGUQvi

2. The Conspiracy at Meru - https://amzn.to/2MlIhVT

3. The Vengeance of Indra - https://amzn.to/3qXh8r8

4. The Wrath of the Hellfires - https://amzn.to/36qqow2