Book Review #75: Mohini the Enchantress

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Name: Mohini the Enchantress
Author: Anuja Chandramouli
No. of Pages: 240
Genre: Mythological fiction
Publisher: Rupa Publications India
Price: Rs. 295/-
Published in: 2020

How did I get it? A PDF copy from the author.

THE BLURB SAYS:

Elusive as a fragment of a forgotten dream, fragile as a figment from fantasy, Mohini is perfection made possible.

Distilled from the essence of Vishnu, Mohini the Enchantress is a part of him and yet she revels in the autonomy and extraordinary powers of beauty, magic and enchantment that are hers to wield. She is loved and desired by all in existence and yet, she is elusive tantalizing temptress, traipsing her way across the topsy-turvy terrain of fable and myth. Mohini’s meandering path will see her in the thick of things as the devas and asuras try to get their hands on amrita—the nectar of immortality, blunder into a love triangle that will Spark a bloody war, fulfil the last wish of a dead hero, and traipse into a romantic tryst with Mahadeva. She also becomes the mother of Shastha, a beacon of hope for all who are considered oddities by a spiteful society that recognises only two genders.

Set against the tumult and intrigue of a celestial quest for immortality, Anuja Chandramouli brings the extraordinary saga of Mohini to vivid life. She takes the reader on a dizzying ride through the shifting sands of time, expertly navigating the quagmire of gender, love, lust and desire, deftly untangling the threads of tall tales and terrible truths, while spinning a deliciously entertaining yarn for the ages.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Anuja Chandramouli is a bestselling Indian author and new-age Indian classicist widely regarded as one of the finest writers in mythology, historical fiction and fantasy. She followed up her highly acclaimed debut novel, Arjuna: Saga of a Pandava Warrior-Prince, which was named as one of the top five sellers in the Indian writing category for the year 2012 by Amazon India, with Kamadeva: The God of Desire, Shakti: The Divine Feminine, Yama’s Lieutenant and its sequel, Yama’s Lieutenant and the Stone Witch. Her articles, short stories and book reviews appear in various publications like The New Indian Express, The Hindu, and Femina. Some of her other books are Kartikeya: The Destroyer’s Son, Prithviraj Chauhan: The Emperor of Hearts, Rani Padmavati: The Burning Queen and Ganga: The Constant Goddess. Muhammad Bin Tughlaq: Tale of a Tyrant is her latest work of historical fiction. Her books are available as audiobooks as well. An accomplished TEDx speaker and storyteller, Anuja Chandramouli regularly conducts workshops on creative writing, mythology and empowerment in schools and colleges across the country. She is also a student of classical dance and yoga.

MY THOUGHTS: 

The Writing:

I would say, the writing is definitely purple prose. So much that the matter at hand takes a backseat, more than often. I had reviewed the author’s first book “Arjuna – saga of a Pandava prince” in 2013. And there is a sea change in her writing style. Whereas her first book was way too plain, her eleventh book is way too decorative. At many places, simple words would have also been beautiful.

What I liked and what I didn’t:

I liked that the author shared lesser known stories of women in Hindu mythology like Kavya (wife of Sage Bhrigu and mother of Sukra) Anasuya (wife of Sage Atri), Tara (wife of Brihaspati, the Devaguru).

“But I suppose it will be Vishnu and Indra who will capture the popular imagination by dint of flair and daring. They are the ones who will be remembered, the former with love and the latter with a touch of derision. I still think a lot of the less-remembered stories are the better ones.”

It was interesting to learn that Devas and Asuras were born of the same father, Sage Kashyap and his sister wives, Aditi and Diti. Half the book is about them. The churning of the ocean has been discussed at length.

I liked the fact that the author has emphasized on perennial issues like exploitation of Bhoomi Devi, i.e. the earth, non-aknowledgement of the third gender, prejudices against women and their upheaval on the pedestal of morality.

As for men, they remained men, because hardly anything ever deterred a man caught in the throes of his baser needs. So when women who were kidnapped, raped, and repeatedly abused did not succeed in turning the perpetrators to ash and floating away to safety, they were blamed for their suffering.

“Those who study the scriptures in their unexpurgated form will realize that the members of the other gender have been categorized.”

There are several things that I didn’t like. The book title suggests that Mohini is the protagonist but she is not. You will think that the book is about her, but it is only in part. Mohini is merely the narrator of the book who babbles about herself and her exploits and escapades in between. The narrative doesn’t have a flow and moves here and there The author cleverly warns the reader about this in the very beginning.

I am Mohini. And this is my story. But if you are looking for a simple old story with a beginning, middle and end, you are going to be disappointed. That is not entirely true, because no matter what I do, even if I get distracted and diverge from the straight and narrow path of traditional storytelling to meander off the beaten track, taking frustrating detours into the realms of the
obscure, fanciful or philosophical, in the end you will be just as enchanted as everybody else.

But sadly, contrary to the introduction, it was not her story. At least half the book wasn’t. In the entirety, it was just bits and pieces of her story.

Final thoughts:

Frankly, I was disappointed. I wanted to know the story of Mohini, how it began, her triumphs and struggles, and end. But I didn’t get what the book title promised. And if you are looking for the same, then may be you can skip it.

At times, the meandering thoughts, the repetitive philosophical ponderings and purple prose made me skip paragraphs. The narrative failed to hold me down.

But I liked the unusual stories and only for that, I give “Mohini the Enchantress”

I thank the author for providing me with a review copy in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

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