Author : Adithya Iyengar
Publisher : Hachette India
Genre : Historical Fiction
Source : Publisher
Rating : 3 Stars
Summary : Kingdoms are built by men. Legacies are built by emperors. It is 1025 ad. The mighty chola empire that controls much of southern bharatvarsha is helmed by emperor rajendra chola i – a man as enigmatic as his kingdom is renowned. Known for his might and vision, he has now set his sights upon the southern seas, governed by the powerful srivijaya empire. But his victories also bring forth stories of those affected by his ambition. Of an unnamed princess forced to fend for herself among enemies after everything she has ever known is destroyed by the ravaging chola forces. Of maharaja sangrama, captive in an alien land, who is torn between his enmity tempered by an unusual friendship with the elusive rajendra chola and his fierce determination to return to his kingdom. Told through the eyes of a prisoner of war and a princess without a kingdom, the conqueror is a magnificent narrative – of war and conquest, of loss and death, of kingship and legacy.
The book is something that intrigued me because it isn’t often that you come across a book about a south Indian ruler, let alone one that doesn’t show them as a dark, hairy and uncivilised people. The Chola kingdom, despite it’s patriarchal nature, was one of the most celebrated periods here in the south and it is about time someone wrote a book about it that suited modern audiences and didn’t bore our boots off. And if you are looking for the same you will find this book satisfactory.
The story starts off with an invasion. The Cholas attack the lands of Maharaja Sangrama and take him captive. His wife, the queen, the daughter and their help flee but they find their path to be worse, much worse. Bought and sold like slaves despite cries that they are royal till they finally land up in the palace of a king in a faraway land where one of them is spotted for her intelligence and beauty. Soon she becomes a confidante and more. This is the part that the story gets interesting and so I shall stop telling you what is going to happen. Needless to say it was well done.
WHAT I LIKED
The women in this book are well written. I wouldn’t say they were perfect but it was such a pleasure to see a book, written by a male author, mainly about a male character, give credit to it’s female characters. The Chola clan, of course, do not have any important positions for women but the narrator’s daughter is a wonderfully written character who is enjoyable to read about. Apart from this I loved the unity of some siblings here. It comes as a pleasant change from constantly reading about rival siblings.
The relationship between the kings, both ruling and captive, was very well written. The narrator ruined it a bit for me but if you manage to see beyond that it is very differently done. A friendship of sort develops between them leaving both the captive and us, the reader, in the lurch about what this relationship really is. Who holds the power and what is going to happen.
WHAT I DISLIKED
The narrator. Why tell the tale of a heroic king and his ilk through the eyes of a failed king who cannot stop talking about his greatness when in fact he is a prisoner of the former. If this was a tactic to make the reader amused, I wasn’t amused. It put me off reading the rest of it and honestly it was a bit of an effort to get past the boring pages to the interesting part.
If you are aching for a book about south India this will fit the bill.
Available for purchase on Amazon India and Flipkart.