The King Within – Nandini Sengupta.
I am not much into Historical Fiction but this book came very highly recommended from a dear friend and she told me that this was her friend’s debut work hence I had no expectations from it. Also, this is one of those very few books that can very well be judged by its cover as they say “Never Judge a book by its cover” it works totally opposite for this one. As beautiful its cover is, the writing is way more beautiful, a very intriguing account of four friends told in a riveting manner such that I kept asking for more as it ended. Another co-incidence if I may call it is that the story starts from a town called Ujjainy 🙂 that fortunately happens to be my hometown as my parents and siblings still stay there and we visit it twice a year religiously. Also, I did my schooling from an institute which is named after one of the main characters of this book. That was like WOW! I had no idea what I had in store as I started the book. But this book made me realize how hard it is to rewrite a story which is 16 Centuries old, just imagine. One has to take care of so many things, not only the timeline of the story or the characters but the Geography, attire, weapons, what they eat, how they talk, how they fight and so much more. But this one, even after being a debut work does not only full justice to the narrative, it actually sets a standard so high for the Author herself that I will be hooked and waiting eagerly for her other works or you may call a sequel if she ever writes.
Story is set in the year 373 CE and about four main characters. Deva (The Prince and soon to be a king), Virsena (The Warrior), Kalidas (The Poet) and Darshini (a girl they save from savages) and who joins them for the journey called life. Right from the word go, the story is so amazing that I just couldnt put it down and had to finish it in flat 24 hours with a couple of breaks in between. The way they save her and the action which follows sets up the course and she follows them on their journey to Ujjainy. Even the introduction of the prince in the very first chapter, the way it is done and how his identity is revealed actually gave me goosebumps, I had to read the para thrice for that amazingly unbelievable title and his full name. And I realized there was no looking back from thereon. It has its own twists and turns too as it couldnt be that simple as I expected it to be. How it goes forward and the Prince even after having his own past and life, keeps up with Darshini and his friends is a superb tale with so much packed in it. Story the way Author has told is so smooth and transforms from one scene to another brilliantly, from regular fun life to the Kingship is totally amazing. I loved the part Kalidas plays in the story and almost all the Epics that he has written get not only a mention, he actually throws some light on them himself as when he was writing them what all he was going through and even that gels so well with the story , thats totally commendable on Author’s part and hats off for the research she must have done to make it that way.
I totally didnt expect that a book with mere 224 pages will pack in so much punch in it. Also, two sequences that I must mention without forgetting is a terrific action sequence between the Prince and his elder brother (not only fighting for the throne but for a lot more), the way the entire sequence is done and the way it ends – it actually reminded me of visuals from “Lord of the Rings”, I will not call it an inspiration but if you read it, I am sure you will agree with me that the sword fight and the ending totally reminds you of one important sequence from LOTR and imagination is terrific. Second is another fight sequence towards the end done in full public view, Man! that sent me back in time and reminded me of the “Gladiator” fight, not so much action but the arena that came to my mind was almost as good as that. Hats off to the way it was done in the book, totally Goosebumps moments and that made me wonder if this ever gets made into a movie, it will be a superb watch. I have no doubts on the books historical accuracy too in depicting the times of Samudragupta and the making of Vikramaditya as it is so convincingly and terrifically done. Even the support cast and their own stories are given their own dues and hold up pretty well. I loved the Buddhist, Chinese and SriLankan connections too.
If you have read it, do tell me how you liked it and if you haven’t, you’ve got to read it as soon as you can. Do not miss this epic of a book which is too short to my shock, surprise and pleasure as I never wanted it to end. Pray that the Author does comes out with a sequel as I am really keen to know what happens to the four friends in the end an their next generation :).