PLOT: 4.5/5 CHARACTERS: 4/5 WRITING: 4/5 ENTERTAINMENT: 4.5/5
“Gorakhnath is watching you; whether you have that faith, that burning desire inside you – that is why he is giving you hints. The moments he finds that your faith is shaken or that burning desire has extinguished in the face of extreme adversities – you will stop getting any hints from him…”Vivek Shukla, The Immortal Secret Mantra – The Recipe
It is not every day that you come across a book that serves you a heady concoction of different genres – adventure, mythology, thrill, historical fiction – all of it served with a generous dose of entertainment.
Mythological fiction as a genre, and specifically modern-day mythologically inspired thrillers, have really picked up as a sub-genre, but in the plethora of choices that are now available to the average Indian reader, it becomes all the more difficult to pick and select a decent book to read.
However, the good news is that if you happen to love the genre and have been wondering about what to pick next, I have a great new recommendation for you – Vivek Shukla’s The Immortal Secret Mantra – The Recipe Part 1 offers everything that a reader can hope for and then some more.
The story as it goes
In the year 1803 AD, a young boy Ramanand, inspired by the many lessons imparted by his father – a renowned Sanskrit scholar Pandit Ramdev Shastri, develops an undying curiosity about immortality and its hidden secrets. Thus, what began as a short discourse on the seven immortals mentioned in Sanatana Dharma soon becomes a subject that consumes his day and night.
In search of answers for his insatiable curiosity, he embarks upon a journey that would take him through the length and breadth of the country, during a time when the Indian landscape is fraught with unknown dangers of the worst kind – turmoil that has engulfed kingdoms, and an unparalleled evil that has become a thorn in the eyes of the British.
But these are not the only challenges that Ramanand will face. The most difficult of all is to understand where to begin. For there are no clues, or hints, no end or beginning, no guidance, well at least not yet. In the course of this seemingly impossible journey, he will meet people and aides who will come to his help in this quest.
Cut to the present day, mankind has embarked on a similar quest for immortality, with scientists all over the world making huge inroads into the possibility of anti-ageing and even reverse ageing.
Come the 21st century, and the young boy from 1803 AD, now a man, has hold of one of the three key ingredients of the recipe – Mantra, Tantra, and Yantra.
How did he get to it?
How is he still young even at the age of 228 years?
What lies ahead in this quest?
Who are the Naths? And what ancient secrets are they guiding?
The very beginning starts with a bang. The opening scene sees a young man dying from drinking a concoction of mercury and thorn apple. This scene acts as a teaser that aptly sets the pace for the rest of the book. We later figure out that the man Bhola doesn’t die really… but shhh… that’s for you to read.
The pacing is just right and so is the language. The author makes use of short chapters to keep the pace up and going, and this help to navigate the story smoothly as the reader’s interest keeps piquing as the pages unfurl. There is a frequent change of location and the entire story is laced with sufficient mystery, intrigue, action, and adventure so that the reader is always on her toes and kept wanting for more.
The Immortal Secret Mantra is a book that, because of its language, can be picked up by beginners, however, some basic knowledge of Sanatana Dharma or the Hindu culture would be essential to grasp the concepts and the themes mentioned in it.
The historical, cultural, and religious backgrounds that are so thoroughly infused in the text help not just in educating the reader but also set the correct vibe for the story to unravel. Through the journey of Ramanand and his aides, one takes a virtual yatra to all the twelve jyotirlingas and gets to know about each one of them in vivid detail. A great part of book 1 is about discovering the secret Mantra and the quest which takes place throughout India, mostly in this journey to the twelve jyotirlingas.
There is also a great deal of information available about the Nath sect including their origins, founders, first gurus, learned members, teachings, history, lifestyle, and exhaustive literature. I love how the whole panth, which is often shrouded in deep mystery, has been spoken about in such authentic details.
The only thing, perhaps, which slows down the book a little and which remains my only qualm with the reading experience, is that there is an overdose of scientific terminology mostly in the form of monologues or monotonous dialogues. The science and the technical language could have been toned down a little to make it a much smoother reading experience.
Then there was yet another option – introducing the science through characters or short scenes, with actual science being relayed through real scenes rather than being relayed through cumbersome dialogues. As they say often, don’t tell the reader something, instead show them.
The climax leaves one with the promise of hope and a teaser of more to come. There is sufficient incentive for the reader to look forward to the next book in the series, and that’s why I will be eagerly waiting for it too.
Pick The Immortal Secret Mantra if you are a lover of everything historical, mythological, and dharmic and if you love action, adventure, mystery, and the idea of an impossible quest. It’s a book that doesn’t disappoint.
Can’t wait to read it? Buy your copy of The Immortal Secret Mantra from Amazon.in