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Sunday, 7 October 2018

Karna's Wife - The Outcast's Queen by Kavita Kane | A Book Review

Karna's Wife - The Outcast's Queen by Kavita Kane | A Book Review
Karna’s Wife – The Outcast’s Queen by Kavita Kane #BookReview
Karna’s Wife – The Outcast’s Queen by Kavita Kane tells the story of the unsung hero of Mahabharata – Karna – the sutaputra through the eyes of his wife – Uruvi. The story unfolds against the backdrop of the epic saga – Mahabharata. In a way, it is re-telling of Mahabharata in the voice of Uruvi but with Karna at its heart.

Indian Mythology happens to be among my most favourite genres when it comes to books. There was a time when I would pick any interesting title themed around Indian mythology. Apparently, that was why I picked up Karna’s Wife by Kavita Kane a couple of years back. I had even started reading it back then, but left it midway due to reasons I don’t remember now. Early this year when I scanned my bookshelf, I was appalled at the number of unread titles I had and then and there I decided some of them need to be read before I bought more books. So, it was time for Karna’s Wife – The Outcast’s Queen by Kavita Kane to be read.

 You may also like (suggested readings on Mahabharata)

The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Jaya by Devdutt Pattanaik
The Seeds of War by Ashok K. Banker

Uruvi is the princess of Pukeya and she hopelessly falls in love with Karna, the Sutaputra and the King of Anga. In her Swayamvar, she chooses to marry Karna over the popular prince Arjuna. A Kshatriya princess marrying a Sutaputra to become his second wife was deemed socially unacceptable, but Uruvi is not the one to cave in under societal pressure. As she ties the knot with Karna, her otherwise perfect world is shaken and in the time to come, she has to bear the brunt of making the bold choice. Through her devotion and intelligence, she wins over the love of Karna but can do little to influence his husband’s blind support to the evil Duryodhana. Karna’s allegiance to the Kuru prince eventually brings about his doom and Uruvi can do nothing but grieve the loss.

I had a mixed feeling after I finished reading the book. Some of my expectations from the book were met, but there were parts of it that didn’t satisfy me as a reader. The character of Karna is explored from many angles – he is a charioteer’s son and though he excels in all the skills that characterize a warrior, he is still looked upon as an unworthy sutaputra. He is shown as a devoted son, a loving father, a caring husband, a mighty warrior, a just king and a loyal friend. But the rebukes he faces for being a sutaputra makes him bitter, especially towards the Pandavas. His friendship with Duryodhana, the insult he faced at the hands of Draupadi at her Swayamvar, fuels his hatred further.

The character of Uruvi is fictional and the author’s own creative license. In traditional telling of the Mahabharata, Karna had several wives and the first one among them was Vrushali. Vrushali does have a role to play in this novel but she never comes to the fore. I wonder why the author chose a fictitious Kshatriya princess over Vrushali to tell Karna’s tale. Also, the fact that Karna is a sutaputra and he always had to suffer due to this has been ranted about over and over throughout the book. I mean – we know that already, so the point is already taken – saying it, again and again, is not a great way to get to the point. I also had a problem the way the author deals with Karna’s behaviour at the game of dice where Draupadi was disrobed. It sounded ridiculous that Draupadi forgives him in the end, but Uruvi is not able to come in terms with his husband’s behaviour. It seemed like the author meant just meant that Karna was a righteous man, but he happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Karna is an enigmatic character in Mahabharata and his persona is explored well in the novel. However, I did find the narration a bit drab and monotonous at times. I think I have read too many books centring Ramayana and Mahabharata, so that might have upped my expectations. If you are a newbie to this genre of books, you might find Karna’s Wife – The Outcast’s Queen by Kavita Kane more interesting.

You can buy the book here:


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I will leave you with a few quotes from the book.

“Princess, you have decided to follow the hard path. I cannot promise you the life a royal princess deserves,' he began slowly. 'I am a wanderer myself, stuck in an eternal search. I am a vagabond who doesn't know where I am going. My past beckons my present, but I can see only a blurred future. All my life, I have been slighted as a person of low birth- and the stigma will rub off on you as well. Yet, I am not ashamed of who I am...”

“Karna a bad man doing good things or is he a good man doing bad things?”

“Condemning and condoning are two faces in the mirror, but it takes more courage to forgive than to criticize someone.”

“The test of courage is not to die but to live. And live with dignity and conviction every single day.’

“How do you decide what is good and bad? The one who sees the bad in what is good is a bad man. Karna is a good man, but he sees good even in what is bad. His seeing it as good doesn’t make the bad good, but makes his goodness look bad.”

“It is valour which defines a Kshatriya; a Kshatriya does not define valour. You are known by the deeds done; merit has no pedigree.”





“The course of morality is subtle and even the most illustrious, wise people in this world fail to always understand it.” 

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