Book review- Draupadi: The Fire-Born Princess

Book review- Draupadi: The Fire-Born Princess

Today, I will be showcasing a current household favourite by writer and blogger, Saraswati.

V and I were voracious readers, growing up and I am glad to see that Gy seems to be picking up the reading habit too. Currently, she is captivated by stories of Indian mythology and keeping this in mind, V took her to a bookstore to pick out books for her last birthday.

It was then that they chanced upon Draupadi: The Fire-Born Princess, a graphic novel Β written by Saraswati Nagpal and illustrated by Manu.

Although the story of the Mahabharata is a familiar one, what makes this book different is the perspective. It is narrated in the first person and through the eyes of the protagonist, Draupadi.

In a very unique manner, the writer uses the non-linear narrative approach. She begins the story at the end of the tale, with Draupadi walking towards her mortal end. As she looks up and sees her husbands ahead of her, her mind flashes back to the time that she was a princess, her courtship, her life as a queen, the humiliation at the hands of a monster, the agony of exile, the poignant strength she exhibited in the war and the way she dealt with each and every one of those roles.

How does she react to all of the above? With revenge? With compassion? With subdued defiance?

That is what the book covers with fluidity and ease.

Draupadi is depicted as a dark, peerless beauty and that is one of my favourite things about the book. There is, sadly, an obsession with fairness of skin and its equation to beauty in the current, media-controlled scenario. To see a woman be glorified for her strength of character and her humanity is far more beautiful, in my opinion, than the transient physical beauty we can view.

What makes the book stand out:

  • The first page has a simple, yet attractive family tree which traces the lineage of the Kuru clan from Manu, the progenitor till Pareekshit. My daughter knows the relationships between the characters exceedingly well, thanks to this feature.
  • The book has an appeal that cuts across age barriers. If my seven-year-old daughter is drawn to the book, I wouldn’t say that holds much credence. But, when my husband and my mother-in-law also picked up the book and couldn’t put it down, I knew this one was a winner.
  • Its Β comic-book format is a huge plus when it comes to introducing your child to reading Mythology. My daughter started out with the Amar Chitra Katha series and progressed to this one seamlessly.
  • The illustration is bewitchingly beautiful and does complete justice to the gripping narration. Nuanced strokes and bold, sharp lines bring out the fire and passion that embody Draupadi’s nature. Manu is an illustrator to look out for, in the coming years.
This is Saraswati’s second book in the graphic novel genre, the first being Sita: Daughter of the Earth.

You can read more about the author here and check out other books in the Campfire series here.

A more detailed review of Draupadi can be found at this link.

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43 thoughts on “Book review- Draupadi: The Fire-Born Princess

  1. I have read Palace of Illusion and Yajnaseni, both are on Draupadi. I have never seized to admire the role she played as wife of pandavs, a catalyst in Mahabharat and more.

  2. This sounds very interesting. I haven't read any graphic novel as yet. Your review is compelling me to check it out and may be A would like it too! Bookmarked this one πŸ™‚ Thanks Shailaja πŸ™‚

  3. Draupadi is a woman protagonist we never cease to admire. I have always had a “how-will-it-be” attitude to a graphic novel, so this review wants me to read it now πŸ™‚
    Well done, Shailaja.

    And, yes, she was dark skinned, and she was also called 'Krishna', which meant the dark one. And the scriptures say, she smelt of lotus πŸ™‚ I love her as a woman πŸ™‚

  4. The Mahabharatha is evergreen isn't it? I never tire of reading its various re-narrations from different perspectives. I would recommend two more books to you which are written along the same lines – that is Mahabharatha from Draupathi's perspective.
    1. Yajnyaseni – By Prathiba Ray
    2. Palace of Illusions – By Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
    both of them are amazing reads. Do try them out too.
    A very well written review by you. Kudos!

  5. Thanks, Shailja! It's always encouraging to know that your readers 'get' what you were trying to say. Draupadi as a short graphic novel was unbelievably hard to write – how do you condense Vyasa's Mahabharata? I am so glad that it is providing pleasure to so many people. Very grateful.

  6. Saraswati, I am honoured that you visited my blog πŸ™‚ Thank you so much!

    Yes, it couldn't have been easy to condense a massive text into such a taut novel. Kudos to you for that. I also picked up Sita, your first book, for a friend's daughter and I am glad to say she is devouring it. You have a wonderful gift. Keep writing.

  7. What I really liked the most about the review as such is your point that it is age free. In my opinion any book that can cut across ages or genres is a must pick. Of course the fact that it is a graphic novel on a mythological subject is an icing on the cake!

    Richa

  8. The ageless and timeless Indian epic Mahabharat never ceases to spring surprises despite its familiarity with the audience. Draupadi is a bold yet subtle protagonist , a feminist who took the heaps of injustices and insults with an easy calm but reminding her husbands of revenge. Your review of the book makes it more enigmatic.

  9. Oooh Mahabharat is a HOT favourite with all of us.. The Husband, kids and I.. all are fans of that great story. It has such twists and turns! And I love Draupadi – such a strong woman she was. But a comic?? Not sure that would appeal to me. Will certainly look it up when I'm at Landmark next.

  10. Hi! The first thing that struck me about the beginning was the opening chapter of Pratibha Ray's Yajnaseni. While it would be unfair to compare books without reading this one, it does strike a parallel. In addition, I agree and often why there is a need to portray her as a “fair” princess when she was named Krishnaa, clearly stating that she had a dark skin. Summing up, it is a well written review and I will look forward to reading the book soon..

    1. So completely agree. I’ve actually picked up many from the campfire series because they are such a visual treat. Also, I disliked V for Vendetta, the movie, so not sure how much I’d like the book. What do you suggest?

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