The Immortals of Meluha is the debut novel by Indian author Amish and the first installment in his Shiva Trilogy. While Shiva is a key god in Hindu mythos, there appears to be very little about his origins; he simply is. Amish explores the possibility that Shiva was a real person who achieved godhood through spiritual growth and karmic reward during the Indus Valley Civilization. His unique view of how Shiva may have become the creator and destroyer has spoken to readers across the globe, both those intimately familiar with the Hindu god and not alike.
The first few chapters of The Immortals of Meluha were rough going, because the syntax and word choices often sounded odd to a native speaker of American English. Once I settled into Shiva’s journey, though, I could relax into the story and not worry so much about how it was being told. While I was reading I wanted to continue as long as possible, but I never got sucked so deeply into the story that I needed to pick it up throughout the day. The descriptions of the environments around Meluha were absolutely breathtaking though, and they almost could have been used in an ancient travel brochure! I also enjoyed getting a more in-depth look into a culture I’m not that familiar with, although Amish’s Meluha is not precisely ancient India. The book focuses more on spirituality, a few Hindu religious figures, and the concept of karma than accurate historical data. Shiva is presented as a warrior, but the real story follows his spiritual growth from simple Tibetan chieftain to enlightened religious leader.
While Amish’s environmental descriptions painted beautiful mental pictures, many of the action scenes suffered from “telling, not showing.” Instead of describing the action and ratcheting up the tension, readers were simply told that something had occurred, and chunks of time were skipped over without any real explanation. I was especially annoyed that a key battle to hold a mountain pass and protect the rear flank of the Suryavanshi army during the war against the Chandravanshis never got shown, solely because Shiva wasn’t a main player.
My other small gripe with The Immortals of Meluha is simply that I don’t see the evidence for Shiva’s and Sati’s attraction to one another. While their romance isn’t the primary focus of the plot, it does figure heavily into some of Shiva’s understanding of Suryavanshi culture. Being told that they are attracted to one another and desperately love each other isn’t enough for me; I want to see it.
Some readers may struggle with the portrayal of the Suryavanshi caste system as a positive tool for peaceful civilization, especially since modern India has faced internal conflict and criticism for it; however, Amish’s version is entirely merit based even if the idea of giving up my biological children to be raised in a state-run school feels uncomfortable to me. Every child receives the same opportunities in Meluha, so no one should be limited. Shiva doesn’t probe deeply enough for me to judge how true the reality is, but it’s still a much more pleasant option than the historical one.
While The Immortals of Meluha won’t hit my re-read pile any time soon, the reading experience was an interesting journey. I learned as Shiva did in the text, and now I see him growing into a great man. Do I think he’s godlike? At this point in the story, I don’t really know, but he has two more books to complete his karmic journey. Just keep in mind that this one ends on a cliffhanger, so pick up one of the eBook or international editions if you can’t stand being left wondering!
4 Beautifully Beaded Religious Cravats out of 5