Book Review: Lanka’s Princess by Kavita Kané
Lanka’s Princess by Kavita Kané
Surpanakha, Ravan’s infamous sister—ugly and untamed, brutal and brazen. This is how she is commonly perceived. One whose nose was sliced off by an angry Lakshman and the one who started a war but was she really just perpetrator of war? Or was she a victim? Was she Lanka’s princess? Or was she the reason for its destruction?
Surpanakha, meaning the woman as hard as nails was born as Meenakshi—the one with beautiful, fish-shaped eyes. Growing up in the shadows of her brothers, who were destined to win wars, fame and prestige, she, instead, charts up a path filled with misery and revenge.
Accused of manipulating events between Ram and Ravan, which culminated in a bloody war and annihilation of her family, Surpanakha is often the most misunderstood character in the Ramayana. Kavita Kané ‘s Lanka’s Princess tells the story from the vantage of this woman more hated than hateful…
Title: Lanka’s Princess
Author: Kavita Kané
Paperback: 280 pages
Publisher: Rupa Publications India (December 1st 2016)
Genre: Fantasy, Mythology
Buy On: Amazon US | Amazon India
Note: I received this book from Rupa Publication (India) in exchange for an honest review.
Paper and Font: Ebony and Ivory!
Readability, language: Easy
Why I picked Lanka’s Princess
Surpanakha plays an important role in the Ramayana tale by being that butterfly that flaps its wings leading to a world of destruction. She is the instigator of Ravana, her little sisterly act leading to war and the downfall of Lanka. Apart from that very little is told of her in the epic.
But how does Surpanakha get to that point of anger, hatred and revenge, where she wants to kill Ravana and will go to any lengths for it? What in her life led her to here? It was these questions that made me pick up Lanka’s Princess.
Lanka’s Princess is the story of a girl, youngest in the family, named Meenakshi for her beautiful eyes. A beautiful girl marred by life and situations, that bring out the worse in her, and bring forth Surpanakha, one who is hard as nails.
My Takeaways from Lanka’s Princess
Kavita Kané’s books usually have lead female protagonists who haven’t been given much voice in the telling of the epics. This is a first though, where the lead is an antagonist. Surpanakha as we know her has no redeeming qualities, by the end there is no good in her. But Kavita Kané explores the paths she takes though life showing the various little incidents that shaped her mind and soul into the demon she became, leaving me with mixed feelings in the end – animosity and sympathy for another woman dealth a bad hand of cards.
Writing mythological fiction must be challenging, these are age old stories that must be retold as new, with facts and timelines already fixed and the story well known. And yet, Lanka’s Princess got me to see a much neglected character in new light, her trials, her outlook and her choices that made her who she was.
In Lanka’s Princess, Kavita Kané explores Surpanakha’s character in deep detail, not holding back on her angst and negativity that fills the book. She shows up the importance even a dark skinned society gives to beauty and fairness, with Kaikesi, Surpanakha’s mother being the most vocal one, and the impact unkindess can have on a child’s mind and how far reaching it’s impacts are.
Through the book she also delves into the superficiality of Ravana’s love for his sister, Kumbha’s pure heart and his true love for his sister, the wrong that had been done to Surpanakha by Laxmana and the stereotyping of women done by men even back then.
The Book Itself…
Lanka’s Princess was an apt title as it was in her becoming the princess that she became Surpanakha, the hard one. The cover is lovely with an image of a girl in red and yellow contrasting well with the black background. The beauty of Meenakshi is captured in the eyes while her nails remind you of Surpanakha. The blurb grabbed me instantly.
The story begins with one of the rebirths of Surpanakha as a humpbacked woman and ends with another that explains her role in the cosmic cycle. In-between Kavita Kané has set the story in three parts and places, starting with Meenakshi’s childhood in the forest where her transformation to Surpanakha begins, the move and stay in Lanka where she truly becomes Surpanakha, and the forest of Dandak where she returns to start the war and take her revenge.
My biggest complain were the typos, grammar errors and missing words. Another proofread before publishing would have been so helpful. I enjoyed the story but the errors were a put off, and I really felt like knocking off a star for it. But I haven’t because the story is that good.
Lanka’s Princess is a well written story from the POV of much troubled and hated character, following her tale up to her death, telling a story not heard often. Kavita Kané sets a good pace with easy language that makes the book an enjoyable read. A sure recommendation if you are into mythological retellings and feminist writing.
About the Author:
Born in Mumbai, a childhood spent largely in Patna and Delhi , Kavita currently lives in Pune with her mariner husband Prakash and two daughters Kimaya and Amiya with Chic the black cocker spaniel and Cotton the white, curious cat.