Satyavati and Shantanu (Epic Love Stories #3) by Ashok K. Bankar is a short and sweet read. To the regular readers of Indian mythology, there is nothing that we can say new here. Extracted from the Mahabharata, the book presents the famous love story of Satyavati and Shantanu. The approach adopted for narrating the story is certainly fresh and there is no doubt that Bankar has done this job of retelling really well.
However, as I have mentioned in my reviews of previous two books of this series (Epic Love Stories #1 and Epic Love Stories #2), we do not find depth and complexity of characters in the books of this series. While the characters are presented realistically, their dilemmas have not been depicted in a meaningful manner in these books. The author appears to be mostly satisfied with the ironic twist these dilemmas provide. A similar situation can be seen in this book also. Here also the dilemmas are hardly meaningful enough in thematic terms. This, in turn, does not allow the readers to get emotionally involve with the characters. Therefore, this book, by and large, appears to be a museum of minor motifs and nothing else. One explanation for this may be found in the fact that the books of this series were probably formulated to cater a young audience and this forced the author to be mostly satisfied with surface irony. And, depth and complexity of the narrative were clearly elements not quite necessary here. As we can see in Bankar’s full-length books, his irony did mature both in strength and purpose.
The love story of Satyavati and Shantanu is a fascinating tale. In this story, Shantanu (King of Hastinapur) saw Satyavati (the daughter of the head fisherman) amid one of his trips. She was a charming and beautiful woman. He immediately fell in love and met Satyavati’s father with a proposal of marriage with his daughter. Satyavati’s father concurred yet kept a condition before Shantanu that the son of Stayavati would be heir to Shantanu’s throne. It was difficult for Shantanu to accept this condition as his eldest son Devavrata (his son from earlier marriage) was the rightful successor of his throne. This broke Shantanu’s heart. However, Devavrata came to know about this and took two vows to get back his father’s love. These vows were so powerful that these gave Devavrata the name of Bhisma. What were these two vows? I think the answer of this question will be known to you as this story is certainly a well-known one. Read the book if you don’t know the answer.
As an author of a number of retellings based on Indian mythology, Bankar knows his subject as well as he understands the meaning hidden behind these stories. He handles these stories with an ease. He can not only write an astonishing variety of theme and setting, but can also depict different characters without any difficulty. He also knows how to tell a story within a story. And, this is what makes this book a refreshing read. Overall, this book is a good read.