Prince of Ayodhya By Ashok Banker is the first book in the eight series book of The Ramayana. As the title of the series suggest that it is re-telling of our age old epic Ramayana which we all have grown up hearing and seeing on TV and so will continue our coming generations. Ramayana doesn’t have the kind of diversity which Mahabharata has. So each time when authors re-write Mahabharata a new version of the epic could be read. But same is not true in the case of Ramayana. Nevertheless, Ashok Banker took up this daunting task of telling Ramayana again.
The first book of the series is about Balkhand which has fun and banter of four brothers and Rama and Lakshaman heroic deeds in Bhayanak-van where they kill Tataka Rakshahi under the Guru Vishwamitra. The book follows the original story line as I have mentioned earlier that there is not much depth in the story of Ramayana, so Banker tried to elaborate the events a little more.
While reading I kept having a feeling of Harry Potter like book. Here Ravana is the Dark Lord just like Voldemort in the Harry Potter series and Rama was The Chosen One similar to Harry himself. It is clearly a war between the good and evil and Ravana plots each time to kill Rama just like Voldemort tried to kill Harry Potter.
Regarding characterization, all the characters in the first book are more or less similar to the original Ramayana except two; Kaikeyi and Manthara. Both are completely negative characters of the book. While in original Ramayana, Kaikeyi has grey shades in her character but she loved Ram more than his son Bharat and Manthara was a selfish character but well being of Kaikeyi was her prime agenda. But not in Banker’s Ramayana. Both are evil and hopeless.
The first book of the series clearly lacks the family warmness of epic Ramayana. It is the warmness, love and respect among the family members which we all crave in our family life and finds in Ramayana which is so heart warming. So if you are looking for the similar thing in the book, you will be disappointed. The book is more about rage and revenge, war and bloodshed and less about love and bonding and family values. But if you want some thrill and action then this one is for you.
Ravana in the book appears to be very dangerous and immoral. He is the master of sorcery and illusion. His characterization is best done in the book. He is formidable and unconquerable and Banker has portrayed him such a way that he will generates fear in the minds of reader but then our hero Rama is no less.
Since the original story lacks depth, Banker has no other option but to expand it. As a result sometimes narration and description seems to be out of the proportion. It became tad bit boring and story was pretty predictable but how things unfolded was interesting to read.
It is a good one time read.