Ponniyin Selvan #1: Fresh Floods is the English translation of the first part of the popular and bestselling historical fiction classic novel in Tamil. The book, set in 11th Century Tamil Nadu, was written by Kalki in the 40s/50s, has been translated into English by Pavithra Srinivasan, and is published by Westland Ltd.
Book review in one word: Wow! 🙂
Here’s a short snippet of the story: The protagonist, Vandiyathavan, has been sent on an important mission by the Crown Prince of Chola Empire from Kanchi in the North to Thanjai in the South. He has to deliver an important message (written on a palm leaf) from the crown prince to both the Emperor and his daughter, the Princess.
On first glance, this looks like a courier delivery job, especially considering that the message to be delivered is within an empire. But the author introduces Pazhuvatharas — a powerful vassal King, part of the empire. These men control the ailing King (and hence the Kingdom, indirectly) at the Chola Headquarters in Thanjai.
The traitors will not allow communication between father and son because they plan to take over the empire through cunning and deceit. So this message is a crucial one and the book details the trouble undergone by the protagonist to deliver it. We also get to know about the spies he meets on the way, the cunning plans of vassal Kings, the Princesses who impress him (and their secret agenda), the actions of another powerful dynasty — Pandiya empire — to regain their territories from Chola Kings, friends, enemies, etc.
Except for excessive descriptions at a few places, I feel this is a brilliant book. The characters, the situations, the motivations, the treachery, the loyalty, individual and group agendas — everything is believable, exciting, and draws us right into the story and the period.
This book is a page turner. I, the slowest of readers, finished it within a week! Even through the book doesn’t end (there are six other parts), I am still happy with the experience/journey so far. Can’t wait for the second book to be translated and made available. The translation is very good, BTW.
I listened to the eBook (Google Play Store) via Text to Speech. In spite of the narration by a Robotic UK Voice (Amy – IVONA TTS), I could easily follow the story in English with a few Tamil words and phrases sprinkled here and there. So this book should be easy to read, even for people who don’t know Tamil.
If you want to read historical fiction set in India, this is an excellent option 🙂