The year will end soon. If you ask me which book released in the year 2014 I liked the most, it would not be difficult for me to answer. Undoubtedly Birth of the Bastard Prince by Anurag Anand is one of the most beautifully written book I have ever read.
The book is a sequel to Anurag's earlier novel by name The Legend of Amrapali. Unlike Mahabharata and Ramayana, though people have heard of Amrapali, her story is little known to them. This works in favour of Anurag. The book keeps you intrigued. It is a daunting task to write a book based on history. There is fear of being accused of distorting the history. However, Anurag adroitly weaves the story while sticking to historical facts. The story has all the elements to form an epic – there is love, betrayal, loss of dear ones, friendships broken and finding the ultimate calling of life.
Amrapali was the bride of the city. Yet Anurag portrays her not as a prostitute but as a modern woman who yields high influence in the affairs of the State. Yet, she comes across as an ordinary woman with ordinary desires of having some one whom she can call her own, wanting some one who will love her and whom she would love back. Such is her misfortune that both her lover and her friend fail her at the same time. She is heartbroken, but still stands up and follows the voice of her heart. Conventionally Amrapali's tale may seem to be a tragic tale of exploitation and failure but for her it turns out to be exhilarating and liberating.
The writing is simple, crisp and engaging. Vaishali being a democratic State Anurag makes the writing contemporary with references like the young king wanting to induct fresh ministers. He brings to life the times of Amrapali. The way in which he has written the war scenes show his prowess as a writer. You can see the battle happening in front of your own eyes, you can hear the sounds from the battle field and even feel the pain resultant from the massacre. All the characters including Bimbisara, Ajatshatru, Prabha have been etched well. However, I felt that the character of Devdutt was underused. His character some how doesn't gel well with the narrative. The characters, their relationships and conflicts inter se are high point of this drama and remind you of the greatest epic of all times Mahabharata.
However the reference to tea vendors selling tea on Ganga ghats sounded out of place. The same stands true for use of the word Magistrate. The Britishers introduced Magistrates in our system. I feel Dandadhikari would have sounded better. Also on page 234 the word leant is incorrectly used. The line is “ it was only through the commander who had carried out the Emperor's orders he leant of it.” I feel it should have been learnt and not leant.
Still the book is highly recommended. If you are fed up of reading Dan Brown inspired thrillers and wish to read a gripping thriller set in the Indian soil, this is the book which will leave you satiated. You will never repent buying this book.