The Thirteenth Day: A Story of the Kurukshetra War by Aditya Iyengar is another retelling of Mahabharata. This book, however, does not throw light on each and every event of our grand old epic. On the other end, this book deals with the events that took place between the tenth night to the thirteenth day during the war between Pandavas and Kauravas in the field of Kurukshetra. While some of the background stories also find place in the main narrative, these stories are brief and added according to the need of the main story-line. The author’s main focus in this book was to deal with the events of only three days of Mahabharata war and he successfully accomplishes that. This was a period when Drona took charge of the Kaurava army. This was also the period when Karna entered the battlefield of Kurukshetra as a warrior for the first time.
The story has been narrated from the viewpoint of three different characters. These characters are Yudhishthira, Karna and Abhimanyu. In recent years, a number of retellings of Mahabharata have been published. Sadly, none of these retellings gave importance to the character of Yudhishthira. Therefore, the fact that Yudhishthira gets an individual voice in this novel is what alone makes this book a worth-read. Additionally, by giving voice to characters from both the sides (Pandavas and Kauravas), the author has tried to show the war related strategies of both the groups. Readers get to know the ways both Pandavas and Kauravas tackled the war.
Though battle scenes look good and impressive in movies and serials, writing such scenes for a book is not an easy task. It requires a certain skill. The task becomes more difficult if you are writing scenes for a large scale battle as it requires writing a lot of visual information without creating confusion in readers’ minds. I am delighted to say that Aditya Iyengar has expertly crafted these scenes. In fact, the battle scenes depicted in this book are the lifeline of this book. These scenes can be termed as brilliant presentation where minute attention has been given to details. These battle scenes take you right in the mid of the action and force you to keep reading the book with abated breaths. Additionally, battle scenes in this book are not only just about the action sequences. The author has tried to show both the inner and outer conflicts of different characters affected by the events of battle. We come to know how different characters acted and responded in the war.
To give this book a realistic touch, the author has avoided the use of both divine weapons and heavenly intervention in the text. As a result, all the characters appear realistic and events believable. Krishna is not a God in this book. He has been simply depicted as a shrewd strategist and an excellent charioteer. The book also does not revolve around the concepts of good and evil. It does not show that the Pandavas were good and the Kauravas were evil. In other words, it does not make a fuss over the issue of morality. The characters in this book are hardened warriors who are fighting a war with the main aim of winning it. All this make this book a refreshing read.
This book is must read for those who love reading books based on Mahabharata. However, I would not recommend this book to you if you are reading a book related to Mahabharata for the first time.