Writing the second part of a planned trilogy is a pretty tricky thing. In the first part one can blast off from the starting point and run amock. In the second part, you have to move the story forward enough to keep your readers interested in looking out for the final part and at the same time you cannot divulge much, so that the reader loses interest. (Think 'The Girl Who Played With Fire' which pretty much killed the interest in a promising series). Amish Tripathi's 'The Secret Of The Nagas' the second part in the Shiva trilogy and coming after the unexpected success of the first part (The Immortals Of Meluha. http://wordsbeyondborders.blogspot.com/2011/08/immortals-of-meluha-amish-tripathi.html) has come with bigger expectations.
The first part ended with Sati, Shiva's wife being attached by the masked Nagas. This books charts the journey of Shiva through various regions of India as he tries to find the secret of the Nagas and also to find answers for other events that happened in the first part. The book is a by and large enjoyable and fast paced read, in fact at some points it looks pitch perfect to be made into a movie. The series itself is well suited to be made into movies. Some relevations like the identity of the Nagas are bound to capture the reader by surprise (not the part about the nagas also being good people, that one can guess pretty easily, but the part about who they actually are). I guess most of the readers would not have seen that coming. The intention is to give a readers a thrill ride and there are enough twists turns in the story, peppered with action sequences to keep most happy. If you get into the book with only that expectation you will not be disappointed. Personally, what I like the best about the series is how the author tries to show how bigoted one can be with someone who is different from us. As the author shows through the events of the novel, with just a bit of open mind one can perceive that what we think of evil may not be so evil at all. If in the first part, it was the Chandravanshis who were the target of such insinuations and rumors and in the turned out to be merely different and not evil, here it is the turn of the Nagas.
There are some irritants too. Amish seems determined to plugin nearly all of the Gods of the Hindu pantheon in the novels and that sometimes sticks out like a sore thumb. There is a pirate named Parasurama, whose story is similar that of the mythical Avatar. Now, I don't have any religious beef with naming a pirate Parasurama, but he could very well have been named, Balrama, Krishna or any thing else. The character's back story does not serve any purpose other than to plugin the avatar and to introduce to western audiences. The help he does to Shiva could very well have been done with any other name. The twist at the end is again one is something once can pick up easily, in fact it's the reverse on the relevation about the Nagas.
It's not proper to comment upon what an author did not attempt to write, but I cannot resist here. As with the first part my main grouse here is that the book promises much, could have been much much more, but insted of creating something epical that is unique to the Indian ethos, it ends up being only a fast paced actioner. Maybe, Amish could have forsaken a few thrills and created a much tighter, enduring work that may not have got such a huge reception, but would have stayed more with anyone who read it. At the end of the second part, the reader does not feel any connect with any of the major characters. Even the secret of the naga, whose story should have had an instant connect with the reader remains on the fringes of our emotional involvement. In fact, the emotional investment the reader does is pretty much minimal through both the novels. Actually, in some ways, its not a bad thing at all. When you look from the author's point of view, his objective of writing a fast paced book has succeeded quite well. It sure marks a new path in the mythical/fantasy genere in India. I for one am still looking forward to the final part of the trilogy.