Replete with nuggets of historical facts, delectable particulars

Kalki was the consummate storyteller who, in his chosen genre of historical fiction, showcased a dazzling skill for resurrecting the past with his immersive style of narration, intricate detailing, humour, masterful plot, and ability to create memorable characters. His beloved series Ponniyin Selvan, a murder mystery and thrilling adventure, focuses on Raja Raja Chola, when he was still Prince Arulmozhi Varman, a remarkable youth with all the potential in the world, but beset by a treacherous web of deceit and conspiracy within his family and the royal court.

Nandini Krishnan has undertaken the task of translating his magnum opus from the original Tamil in a 10-part series, and is doing a tremendous job. Balancing with aplomb on the tightrope between nailing the essence of the original and making it accessible to modern readers, who may not necessarily have the patience for verse and lyrical prose, at its most descriptive. Her decision to transliterate the original verses with the translations beneath so that one may savour the exquisite wordplay achieved by a brilliant wordsmith without fumbling unduly for the meaning is charming. The addition of notes enhances the experience without disrupting the flow; it is replete with nuggets of historical facts and delectable particulars pertaining to Tamil culture and the ancient language itself.

In her skilled hands, River Prince, the third book in the series is unputdownable. Readers who, in the first two books, Here, readers finally get to meet the jewel of the Chola Kingdom at the exact same moment as the protagonist and ever popular Vandiyadevan, who risked his life and limb to come face to face with the prince. The latter is in the thick of fighting at Lanka in order to personally deliver a message. But this meeting would not have been possible without the cleverness, resourcefulness, and daring of beautiful Poonguzhali, the boat girl and fan favourite, whose heart and intentions are as unpredictable as the choppy sea she effortlessly traverses.

Meanwhile in Thanjai, Princess Kundavai crosses swords with the exquisite and deadly, Nandini, who has sworn to destroy the Cholas. The beauties, who are at cross purposes with each other, keep the reader mightily entertained as they battle it out, both determined to outmanoeuvre the other.

A secret from Emperor Sundara Chola’s past, which contains a clue to the identity of the mysterious Oomai Rani, is also revealed. The rip-roaring pace never lets up and every juicy plot twist leaves one hankering for more. Kalki himself was unprepared for the impact the Ponniyin Selvan had, and though he is gone, it would have no doubt pleased him to witness the enduring popularity of the book with succeeding generations of readers, thanks to the efforts of committed translators like Nandini Krishnan.

River Prince

By: Kalki

Translated by: Nandini Krishnan

Publisher: Westland

Pages: 328

Price: Rs 399

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