WRITING STYLE: 4/5
ENTERTAINMENT QUOTIENT: 4/5
Historical fiction is one genre which has always interested me. Empire by Devi Yesodharan goes one step further and strengthens my faith in the genre. The story of the book is based in 11th century Chola Kingdom at a time when the Cholas are at their mightiest and richest. Their capital Nagapattinam is the cause of envy in every kingdom. The Greeks are no exception to this and one day they decide to bring in a pirate ship to loot some of the wealth of the Cholas. The only set back is that they are defeated and have to pay fines. Included in the payment is a 12-year-old girl Aremis who is kept as a vassal.
Aremis, a natural fighter, is further trained into becoming a skilled fighter and is finally included in the King’s Guard. But even though this is much better a position than what most fighters get, she is still a stranger, a foreigner. Empire by Devi Yesodharan is the story of Aremis and Anantha, the man who took her captive and had her trained.
To add to Aremis’s woes there is a prophecy that concerns her. There is a greater conspiracy at hand and a war soon to be fought. With her life caught up in the games of the powerful, will Aremis ever find happiness and acceptance?
A woman of courage, with dagger and bow,
Will do countless deeds: dark and light, right and low.
Her armour dark, her armour gold,
Around her red rivers will flow.
The plot of Empire is decent. Though it is complex and intriguing, it has loose ends which have not been addressed in this book. The storyline of the book is interesting too. I loved reading about Aremis’s life and her struggles as a foreigner.
The characters in the book are good. The main characters are exceptionally well written by Devi Yesodharan and they have a certain depth about them. The readers get to explore the depth of their emotions and feelings in a way that is not possible in most other novels. I loved the way the various characters have been shaped – a mix of all shades of grey. Aremis and Anantha are two characters to look forward to. The other characters – both important and unimportant ones, are well developed. I especially loved the evil queen and her diabolical character.
The writing style of Devi Yesodharan is lucid. The story is told from two points of views – Aremis and Anantha. The language is rich and fluid and the narratives are engaging. I loved the way the author manages to set the stage for a saga like an adventure. But will it eventually be so (a saga)? Only time will tell.
From the way the author writes about the Chola kingdom and life in the 11th century Nagapattinam, it can be easily deduced that a lot of effort and research has gone into writing the novel. Further, since this was the first historical fiction that I had read on the Chola empire, the experience itself was fascinating.
The climax of Empire was not as great as the rest of it. There were many loose ends left unexplored, many questions left unanswered but I think that might be the setting for a sequel. But if this is a standalone novel, then the climax was unflattering. The story of Yavani (Aremis) that was so beautifully conceptualized in the beginning was left with a haste and unbefitting end.
Overall though, Empire by Devi Yesodharan is a good read and I would recommend it to all lovers of historical fiction.
Can’t wait to read it? Buy your copy at the link below.