Indian culture and history is so vast, to use that as a platform to jump into a fiction is something that many authors are doing nowadays. But very few have taken the leap from doing Indian historical fiction to doing South Indian historical fiction. As in explore the history of South India too. Last year, I did read two such books.
This year, my first read of such a genre, a Historical Thriller, is this book, The Siege of Madurai by R Venkatesh. The book hinges on the lives of two characters, told alternatively. The two are Malik and Veera. It is strange how characters are many but you feel the story strongly influenced by a few.
I think Malik’s character is well thought of. Through his character, I feel the author takes on more little things. The main cloth is the war and the romance, but through Malik, who was born Ram in a Baniya family, the author talks of caste, which was prominent then, maybe not as much now. That a Baniya can’t fall in love, or elope with a girl who was part of the Rana’s harem, it brings that very much into play. The harshness of the punishment is also not untoward, pulling across an effect of power and domination in ruling. Castrated and sold to a Arab merchant, his new name comes about.
Veera, well his character catches the eye different way. He’s the illegitimate son of the ruler Pandiyan, and when a legitimate son is born, the sibling competition, to see who is the better, that’s what gets him prominence. I felt the opening page of this book, the thoughts of Veera, was wonderfully narrated. Through his eyes come the themes like ruling politics and battles etc.
The novel is well plotted and it is the narration skill of the author that brings it out. It is heavy at times, lucid at others, but overall, a nice pace is maintained throughout. It’s not boring, and engages the reader. The author has put in a lot of effort to not miss any threads that are important and I think it pays off with this book. If anything, the title may be a little off. Is it for every reader. I think not. I feel those who favor historical fiction may enjoy it more.
In A Gist:
Positives: Powerful narration and characterization.
Negatives: The siege wasn’t exactly a siege, would have liked to see more there.
About the author:
R. Venketesh is a Chennai Based Bilingual Novelist from India. South Indian Historical Fiction is his forte. He has Published 3 novels in Tamil, and this book is his first one in English.
Title: Gods Kings and Slaves: The Siege of Madurai
Author: R. Venkatesh
Genre: Historical Thriller
Publisher: Hachette India
Price: INR. 395
(2nd January, 2014)