Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Book Review: Birth of the Bastard Prince by Anurag Anand

Best-selling writer Anurag Anand has come up with a sequel to his novel, The Legend of Amrapali. When The Legend of Amrapali ended, legendary courtesan Amrapali (who lived during the period of Lord Buddha and Lord Mahavira) had been appointed Nagarvadhu, much against her wishes, Pushp, her lover had been murdered, after having been implicated in a false case of spying and Amrapali was busy plotting revenge against Manudeva, the evil ruler of the Vajji confederacy who was responsible for her plight. Well, in Birth of the Bastard Prince, Anand drives the story forward at a furious pace. Amrapali gets her revenge against Manudeva pretty quickly and everything seems hunky dory, especially when Amrapali’s heart is won over by Bindusen, a seasoned player. Likewise, her companion Prabha’s affections are won over by Suraj Mal, whom Amrapali rescues from the clutches of an evil Raja Udit, the King of Ukkacala Khada, using her intelligence. Things go into a tizzy when it turns out that Bindusen is not the simple traveler he had originally appeared to be. In fact, he is the enemy.

Since time immemorial, consorting with the enemy has been considered to be an offence. After the Nazis were thrown out of France, there was large scale retribution against French women who had had relationships with German soldiers. When Amrapali learns that her lover and the father of her son is none other than Bidusara, the King of neighbouring Magadha, she is shocked. Magadha had always coveted democratic Vaishali and when Amrapali discovers Bindusen’s true identity, Vaishali and Magadha are at war and Vaishali is under siege. Nagarvadhu she might be, but Amrapali knew that the starving people of Vaishali would not countenance her actions. I will not disclose more other than to say that Anand writes well and I stayed up at night to complete this book once I got past the half-way mark.

There are a number of twists and turns, the plot keeps changing constantly and I could not guess how the story would end, though the blurb on the back cover did offer a vague clue. Anand writes in simple English and as is common these days, allows a number of modern day jargon to creep into the narration.

If there was one discordant note, it was in the early part of the book, when Amrapali gets Raja Udit to agree to pay compensation to Suraj Mal in the form of potatoes. The agreement is a clever tactic which allows Amrapali to get the better of Raja Udit, and I will leave you to read this book and find out for yourself what exactly Amrapali did, but the fact is, potatoes were introduced to India by Europeans and until the 17th century, there were no potatoes in India.

Let me stop nitpicking and reiterate that Birth of the Bastard Prince is an excellent read and all those who (like me) enjoy history based fiction will find it a delight.

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