It’s been pouring historical and mythological fictions lately, and there are quite a few that really stand out from the rest. R. Venketesh’s book Gods, Kings & Slaves : The Siege Of Madurai belongs to the latter category, and shall be cherished by book lovers and history buffs alike.
Story synopsis (as on the book’s jacket):
War is coming… Peninsular India, fourteenth century. The Pandyan empire is at its peak, its enemies subdued and its people at peace. Having left behind his step-brother Sundar in the race to the throne, Crown Prince Veera Pandyan is set to rule from Madurai, reputed to be the richest city in the subcontinent. But invisible fractures within the kingdom threaten to destroy it, and a new enemy approaches, swifter than anyone can imagine. In Delhi, Sultan Alauddin Khilji’s trusted general, the eunuch Malik Kafur, has trained his eyes on the distant south, fabled for its riches. A slave captured by the Khiljis, Kafur is renowned for his ambition and cunning. None, not even the mighty Mongols, have defeated him – no empire can withstand the trail of destruction he leaves in his wake. And all he wants is to see Madurai on its knees, its wealth pillaged, its temples destroyed. As an ancient city combusts in flames of treachery, bloodlust and revenge, brother will battle brother, ambition will triumph over love, slaves will rise to rule, cities will be razed to dust, and the victor will be immortalized in history…
I understand I haven’t given away the plot much, and that’s what I intended to do- the story is much better if you get to read it firsthand. The beautifully decorated proses lift the spirits of this book to a all new high. Also, the characters are brilliantly done. Their royalty is not exaggerated, and they’re all normally human. Malik Kafur, the eunuch serving Sultan Alauddin Khilji, is my favorite character in the book. Another plus in this book is the strength bestowed upon the female characters, and the equally lengthy footage they enjoy in the narrative. The other supporting characters who enjoy much lesser screen time make their mark too. The final chapters of the book slap immediate consciousness, and the final curtain falls down naturally.
The way the author has developed this story, it could as well be the Indianized version of Game Of Thrones (premised in South India), and I’m not overstating here. I’m not too much into South Indian history, but the script here doesn’t demand a great deal of that knowledge from you. It just demands that you remember a few names of the kings and the names of cities they rule, and nothing else. A map given at the beginning of the book shall make this an easier task for you. Also, the battle strategies and the statecraft described in the book exhibit the amount of research that went behind this book.
Love, lust, treachery, ambition, friendship- the regular ingredients that make an appealing read are all here, and they’ve been churned wonderfully into the plot. This is a historical fiction that I’d recommend you all to read.
Overall Rating: 4/5
About the author:Hailing from the old zamindari family of Devakottai from the southern tip of India, R. Venketesh has a deep interest in history. A bilingual author, Venketesh writes in both Tamil and English. Of the three historical novels he’s written in Tamil- Kaviri Maidan – ‘The Son of Kaveri’ – is a sequel to the greatest Tamil historical novel ever written – Kalki’s Ponniyin Selvan. Venketesh is deeply interested in the science of Vaastu Shastra and helps design buildings all over the world. He lives with his wife Lakshmi in Chennai, and they have an architect-son named Akshey. ‘Gods, Kings & Slaves : The Siege Of Madurai‘ is Venketesh’s first novel in English.