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Review – “Karna’s Celestial Armor” by Surendra Nath

Karna’s Celestial Armor by Surendra Nath is a fictional take on the famous character from The Mahabharata, Karna, and his supposed celestial armor. The story follows the protagonist, Vasu, Karna’s alter ego and student in the present, almost 5000 millennia after his death, and their quest to locate the divine armor.

Karna has descended from the pitrilok to the mrityulok, and has found his alter ego cum disciple in Vasu Sen, an ex-army officer. The story begins with both the man and the spirit contemplating about the whereabouts of Karna’s celestial armor, taken by Indra by stealth, now after 5000 millennia, and the consequences it would have if it falls into the wrong hands. This leads to the pair embarking on a quest to locate the Kavach-Kundal before it’s too late. The quest is basically for Vasu, since Karna, due to being bound by the pitrilok rules, is unable to help him in any direct way, but he does his best to steer him in the right direction. Their journey begins from the Himalayas in the north, where they meet the immortal Parashuram, who points the way ahead for them. An encounter with the Yeti leads Vasu to the very location of the mystical armor, but to his mixed emotions, it’s just one piece of the Kundal. Along with it, they are handed over a map for the next piece, and to continue further, they land in Rameshwaram in the south. Trouble ensues when Vasu’s mission falls into jeopardy, but as resolute a man he is, he comes out victorious with the next piece, completing the set of Kundals.
The third leg of the quest brings Vasu to the eastern region of the country, though he comes to acknowledge the presence of the Kavach only when he is there for a vacation with his family. Here, Saher joins him to locate the divine armor, and together they find the back-plate of the Kavach in the submerged city of Dwarka. What was until now considered to be a complete piece, on finding that it’s made up of two parts instead, Vasu is a little dejected, as his most difficult test has begun. Without any hint or inkling to where the breastplate could be, Vasu finds himself in a fix.
Will Vasu be able to solve the last piece of the puzzle, or will he give up? What are the chances of him finding the last piece without a single hint of direction? With constant trouble brewing for him, will he be able to find the divine armor in time, before it falls into the hands of the troublemakers?

When I started the book, I had assumed that this would be another remix take on the character of Karna, but I was glad that this wasn’t the case. The story mostly follows Vasu, with special appearances from Karna. Although there is only one major character in the whole story, I found the author has missed out on the characterization part, I couldn’t find any relation with Vasu other than that he is an all-knowing superhuman. The other characters did play small yet important roles, but again, the character sketch was MIA. Narrated in a mix of a first and third person, mostly from the point of view of Karna, the story is quite intriguing and the plot is thrilling, no doubt, especially in the beginning, when Vasu is shown using his spiritual prowess to gain knowledge. But as the story progresses further, I found it surprising that what was set in the previous chapters, has been completely ignored. For example, Vasu’s spiritual learnings are nowhere to be found and used in later stages. Also, a thing that bothered me was the over hero-fying Vasu, though he served in the army, agreed, but how is the ACP of a state shown to be a dumb ass in his comparison! I would have really liked it if there was a continuation of Vasu’s character, from the initial chapters towards the ending.
The thing that kept me going till the end was the pace of the story, fast and exciting. Nowhere had I the feeling to leave the book unfinished. I could sense inspiration from Dan Brown in this book, the over-hyped hero, the race to find something mystical and historic, a young girl, troubles, and dangers lurking on the way, and finally victory, but not in the exact same style.
Suggested to fans of the mythological genre, looking for a change from the hordes of character-specific and character disintegrated books around.

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