Book Reviews by a Pioneer: Karna The King of Anga by Kevin Missal

Genre: Fantasy/Indian Mythology
Rating: 4.5/5

This is a retelling of the story of Karna, one of the greatest warriors in Indian mythology. Born out of wedlock, abandoned by his biological mother, and brought up by foster parents from lower caste, he was denied his rightful place in society. He was also ridiculed – the only person who stood by him was Duryodhana, offering him his friendship and the kingdom of Anga.

But what I had read was that the kingdom of Anga was offered to Karna by Duryodhana when the former was denied the right to bid for the hand of Panchali in the Swayam Var. I also thought that Adhiratha, Karna’s adoptive father, was the royal charioteer, and not the king of Anga. I also knew that Duryodhana was the given name to the eldest son of Dhritarashtra. I always thought that Jarasandha was created by fusion of two halves.

Kevin Missal gives his own interpretation to what we have read. Duryodhana was named Suyodhan, Adhiratha was the king of Anga, but was forced into the position of charioteer to Dhritarashtra because of a behind the scenes manipulative treaty between him and Jarasandha to usurp the timber rich lands of Anga. Suyodhan convinces his father to give Karna the kingdom of Anga to defeat Jarasandha in war.

Missal also tells us that Karna and Draupadi had a crush on each other since early adolescence – Karna loved her, but Panchali decides to marry Arjun for the social status. He also tells us that Jarasandha had a twin brother who was kept under wraps. There are many more of such events in this story of Karna from his early adulthood. The story frequently traces Karna’s childhood, adolescence, and his crush on Panchali, in flashbacks.

It is these unusual narrations and interpretations to what we have read that makes the book an interesting story. In a way, the book is also an attempt at narrating what might have happened in the real world as against what might be considered other worldly that we have read.

I have only one grudge against the author – there is an abundance of cuss words. My half point less is the objection of the puritan in me.

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