Author: Shri Arun Krishnan
Published by : Garuda Prakashan
Genre: Historical Fiction
What thought came to your mind when you read the words "Genre: Historical Fiction" above? Well, it might wary due to the different kinds of literature you have been exposed to. This trilogy of books is set around 640 CE, around the time frame of the actual Battle of Vathapi, which involved The Pallavas and The Chalukyas and their allies. This book is a set-up for the war. The Pallavan King, Mammalla (also known as Narasimhavarman), wants to fulfil two promises he has made to his dying father, the former king, Mahendeavarman. The first wish is to complete his dream project of building wonderfully sculpted temples along his kingdom's shorelines (present-day Mahabalipuram). The second wish is to reconquer Pullalur, which they had lost to the Chalukyas a decade or so ago. In this book, we see the Pallavas gathering all their allies and (re)building connections for the upcoming inevitable war against the Chalukyas. Commander Paranjyothi(Commander-in-chief of the Pallavas) sets Elango, Muthuvel and Kannan on different paths to meet with rulers of different kingdoms and others to build alliances. Their journeys and the setbacks they face is the plot of the book.
Every second book has an endorsement from someone well known and credible these days. I recognise some names and more often than not, I don't. What surprised me here was that I recognised all the names that have given an endorsement to this book and I respect them all very much. That made me want to read the book without even reading the blurb.
One of the author's biggest strengths according to me, is world-building. The book literally grabs and transports you to the 7th century along with the characters. The book is really descriptive, I remember reading about the ongoing constructions at Mahabalipuram and I felt as if I have been transported to the place. This is an incredible feat, especially as this is the author's first delve into fiction.
The book is a fast-paced multi-narrative, with a LOT of characters. If you are a beginner, you might have a problem keeping up with the characters and the characters list at the beginning of the book does help to an extent. But if you are a fairly advanced or even intermediate level reader who reads Song of Ice and Fire or Ponniyin Selvan, this should not at all be a problem. The book is mostly written in chronological order, but I did get confused where one incident is repeated from different perspectives.
The battle planning and strategy is something that blew my mind. I will not discuss this further, read the book to know what I am talking about.
The characters are fantastically written as well. The three central characters, their side characters, everyone is written about brilliantly. I personally liked the two female characters as well. Sanghamitra and Indumati, are actually very essential to the plot and don't only act as masala for the plot. Sanghamitra is kind of a bad-ass actually, pardon the language.
The book has everything, history, story, thrill, romance everything. But none of it seems forced. I have read books that try adding several elements to one book but the attempts are very half-hearted. This book on the other hand does not feel so. Even the romance (which in general I'm not a big fan of) builds naturally and doesn't feel forced.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book and I am eagerly waiting for the next part. I can even see this trilogy potentially developed for the big screen, it certainly has the potential. Will highly recommend it if you enjoy reading the genre.