Kavach of Surya is like reading an Amar Chitra Katha for adults, with similar good morals and storytelling.
KoS has been a long time in coming. I beta-read the book about 6 months back. Surendra Nath has spent a lot of time and care in shaping the book, getting feedback and generally polishing it all round. And the results speak for themselves.
Before we get any further, let me quickly summarise the story. Vasu, an ex-serviceman and athlete, is able to talk to Karna (yes, the same Karna from Mahabharata) and has had an adventure with him in the earlier book – Karna’s Alter Ego. In this book, Vasu has a straightforward quest – gather the legendary kavacha-kundalam of Karna (earrings/armour) that Karna gave away during the Kurukshetra war. While the objective is straightforward, getting there involves traveling all over India, talking to legends from myth, treasure hunts, shoot-outs and philosophy.
There are three really strong points to this book – the amount of Indianness in it, the Amar Chitra Katha feel and a hero who is anything but your typical Indian hero. Let us consider these three aspects one by one.
The entire story is permeated in Indian history and Hindu mythology. With one of the main characters being Karna, what else would you expect. But, in addition to the Mahabharata per se, there are other myths that are touched upon, from all across the country. The author takes us all over the country, the locations of which we have read about in our myths but which exist in the real world too. For example: Rameswaram is one such place. The lore behind the temple is explained since that is integral to the plot. While explaining the lore, the author also seamlessly injects ancient and modern history into it. But do not consider this book to be a treatise on Hinduism – rather there are strong arguments being made for the superiority of spiritualism and other religions get their say too.
The other thing when it comes to the Indianness is the authenticity of the characters in the book. They behave the way we expect normal Indians to and the situations are realistic too. For example – the heavy handedness of the police or the way Indians generally react by deifying people who have accomplished something. I do not agree with some of the things in my culture but I have to laud Surendra Nath for bringing those aspects into the book instead of the taking the easy way and westernising it.
I liked the main character Vasu. Unlike the the typical Indian hero who is super sure of himself and beats the crap out of everyone else, Vasu constantly tries to improve himself. He is sensitive and avoids fighting when he can, but does not shirk away from one. As the book progresses, you can also see the change in Vasu’s character.