First Impression Friday will be a meme where you talk about a book that you JUST STARTED! Maybe you’re only a chapter or two in, maybe a little farther. Based on this sampling of your current read, give a few impressions and predict what you’ll think by the end.


In the wake of an unimportant battle between two long-forgotten kingdoms in fourteenth-century southern India, a nine-year-old girl has a divine encounter that will change the course of history. After witnessing the death of her mother, the grief-stricken Pampa Kampana becomes a vessel for her namesake, the goddess Pampa, who begins to speak out of the girl’s mouth. Granting her powers beyond Pampa Kampana’s comprehension, the goddess tells the girl that she will be instrumental in the rise of a great city called Bisnaga – “victory city” – the wonder of the world.

Over the next 250 years, Pampa Kampana’s life becomes deeply interwoven with Bisnaga’s from its literal sowing from a bag of magic seeds to its tragic ruination in the most human of ways: the hubris of those in power. Whispering Bisnaga and its citizens into existence, Pampa Kampana attempts to make good on the task that the goddess set for her: to give women equal agency in a patriarchal world. But all stories have a way of getting away from their creator, and Bisnaga’s is no exception. As years pass, rules come and go, battles are won and lost, and allegiances shift, the very fabric of Bisnaga becomes an ever more complex tapestry – with Pampa Kampana at its center.

Brilliantly narrated in the style of an ancient epic, Victory City is a saga of love, adventure, and myth that it is in itself a testament to the power of storytelling.

After five days of toiling hard at the office, the weekend is finally here! Congratulations on making it through yet another work week! We all survived, gracefully I hope. Thankfully, the past five days have not been that eventful; my month-ends have not been as hectic as it was previously although I will get busy in the coming week. I hope everyone survived the past week. I hope that you are ending on a high note. I hope that you were able to achieve everything you set out to achieve at the start of the week, perhaps the year. If the past week went awry, I hope you get to spend the weekend resting. More importantly, I hope everyone is doing well, in mind, body, and spirit. After chalking up another work week, I hope you get to enjoy the weekend.

But before I can dive into the weekend, let me cap the work week with a new First Impression Friday update. My 2023 reading journey commenced by catching up on novels published in 2022; I guess this is going to be a tradition as this was how I started 2022 as well. After that, I spent the second month of the year reading works of British and Irish literature. I opened February by reading two books by Irish writer James Joyce, back-to-back: Dubliners and Ulysses. The former is my first short story collection in nearly four years while the latter was my 1000th novel. Since then, I have traveled to Scotland through Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting to Ireland again with Emma Donoghue’s Room, to England through Iris Murdoch’s debut novel Under the Net and Thomas Hardy’s breakthrough novel Far From the Madding Crowd, and even to the outer space with Douglas Adams’ The Restaurant at the End of the World.

I am again deviating as my current read is taking me to the Indian subcontinent; there is still a British connection as Salman Rushdie is a British Indian and he once lived in London. So yes, my current read is Rushdie’s latest novel, Victory City. When I learned about its release, I was up on my toes as Rushdie has earned a fan in me. However, this news was also sad as it came after the stabbing incident that happened on August 12, 2022, when he was about to start a lecture at the Chautauqua Institution in Chautauqua, New York. Rushdie managed to survive the incident but he lost sight in one eye and the use of one hand.

But as Rushdie has demonstrated over the course of his life, he is resilient and a survivor. He survived several attempts on his life rooted in his controversial novel, The Satanic Verses. Anyway, Vivcory City is his first novel since the Booker prize-shortlisted book, Quichotte. It is also the tenth book written by Rushdie that I read; this makes him the twelfth or thirteenth writer who I read at least ten works. So yes, I was really looking forward to Victory City and I was happy when it was already available in my local bookstore. Without more ado, I obtained a copy of the book and immediately delved into it. This also makes Victory City my first new book this year.

The novel transports the readers to the fourteenth-century Indian subcontinent. At the heart of Rushdie’s latest novel is Pampa Kampana, a sage or an oracle of some sort. She lost her home kingdom when she was nine and when she was eighteen, she was possessed by a goddess, Parvati. The goddess-possessed young woman then spent nine years in the cave of Vidyasagar the priest. During this time, she was also mute until she encountered two cowherds, brothers Hukka and Bukka. They were carrying seeds that Pampa Kampana asked them to scatter on the ground. From these seeds grew the city of Bisnaga. Hukka would be appointed the king of the city while Pampa Kampana was its overseer. Vidyasagar was also a trusted advisor to the new royal court.

During its infancy, the city actually had no name. Pampa Kampana refused to have the city be named after her as she thought it was too narcissistic. It was then named Vijayanagar which literally translates to Vicotyr City or City of Victory. Domingo Nunes, a Portuguese traveler and horse trader, however, was the one who would christen it Bisnaga. This was despite King Hukka’s silent opposition to Nunes’ proposition. Pampa Kampana, who was in love with the foreigner, however, gave her stamp of approval. So the city was then called Bisnaga.

On the surface, the novel seems like a typical story with elements of magic and fantasy. But then, as the story advanced, I kind of figured that the book is grounded on historical events. It was when the book mentioned Delhi and Beijing did I make the connection. I even tried to recall my memory of the Indian empires; I did a research paper in high school about the rise and fall of world empires. The Mauryan and Gupta empires were two of the names that came to mind but they were older than the empire in the story. It was only later that I learned that Vijayanagara was actually an empire in itself.

Just like any empire, Victory City had its ups and downs. It had moments when it showcased its strength. However, it was continuously undermined by internal strife and power struggles. To his credit, Rushdie sheds light on seminal subjects such as gender roles, the patriarchy, and the rising feminist voice. Pampa Kampana was a powerful character who sets out to dismantle a highly patriarchal society. Her progressive ideas, as can be expected, were met with heavy opposition and criticism. If there is one thing that can easily escape one’s notice is the fact that Rushdie returned to the origins of his stories: the Indian subcontinent. His latest novels, The Golden House (2017) and Quichotte (2019) were set in the United States and examined relevant subjects that can be called more American – politics, opioids, and television, among others – rather than universal.

It is easy to see why the book is considered Rushdie’s form of defiance. From what I have read so far, I can say that this is one of his books that I appreciate and understand more. I can’t wait to see how Pampa Kampana seizes control and steers the story. It has feminist underpinnings which I can’t wait to see how Rushdie explores. How about you fellow reader? What book or books are you taking with you for the weekend? I hope you get to enjoy them. Again, happy weekend everyone!