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Tuesday, 23 February 2016
Review: River of Ink
River of Ink
Buy or Borrow: Buy
Source: Copy courtesy of the publisher, Bloomsbury
In thirteenth-century Sri Lanka, Asanka, poet to the king, lives a life of luxury, enjoying courtly life and a sweet, furtive love affair with a palace servant, a village girl he is teaching to write. But when Magha, a prince from the mainland, usurps the throne, Asanka's role as court poet dramatically alters. Magha is a cruel and calculating king--and yet, a lover of poetry--and he commissions Asanka to translate a holy Sanskrit epic into the Tamil language spoken by his recently acquired subjects. The poem will be an olive branch--a symbol of unity between the two cultures.
But in different languages, in different contexts, meaning can become slippery. First inadvertently, then deliberately and dangerously, Asanka's version of the epic, centered on the killing of an unjust ruler, inspires and arouses the oppressed people of the land. Asanka must juggle the capricious demands of a king with the growing demands of his own political consciousness--and his heart--if he wishes to survive and imagine a future with the woman he loves.
Oh my God you guys this book! I was completely enchanted by the book, the history, the stories/legends, the customs it was all so rich and fascinating being an area of history and the world that I'm not very knowledgable in! I was transported to the time period, and I was so eager to learn as much as I could from the book. It was a historical novel, but it had a touch of fantasy to it, but then that might have been me!
I also completely loved the way the book was written!
The book is written from Asanka to Sarasi, and I was a bit iffy about how it was going to go with the entire book but it reached a point when I stopped noticing which tense it was written in, and I can't imagine the book or the story being told in any other way! It was an unusual narrative, but it still managed to create a rich atmosphere, and paint a vivid picture. Every time Asanka was summoned by the King, I was on edge. I could feel the tension. Fear is a feeling that you can practically taste throughout the book as the King does more and more awful things during his rule. There was so much foreshadowing as well and it kept you reading because you wanted to know what happened. Considering this isn't as action packed as the books I usually read, that kept me enthralled more than anything!
I had a love/hate relationship with Asanka, because on the one hand I thought he was a bit weak, but then he started to meddle with the translations for the King, and brought about the consequences of that and I admired him for having the courage to do it. Perhaps the weakness he could sometimes display actually made him a more realistic character in the end. Ultimately I was astounded that he kept up defying the King in his own way. Sarasi was definitely my favourite character, I admired her so much. The King was a truly awful character, his treatment of the Queen and the Sarasi and at points towards the end I actually began to think he was crazy. This is only one perception of the King though, you don't really see any other view point on him, considering he's a historical person I was a bit iffy about that. But at the same time, he makes a comment about his life, and his family, and then I kind of understood him. I got him and why he was doing what he was doing. I feel like an authors note or a historical note would have been good at the end of the book, to give you a bit more information about the King and the events described in the book. I'm kind of not sure if Asanka was an actual, real person you see! I have some other questions as well about other characters and events in the story and there's no note with some answers! So you're left with a fair few questions.
The book was so well written, it was compelling and evocative and just completely enthralling. I enjoyed the stories within the story, if that's what I can call them! In the book Asanka is sent mysterious texts by an unknown person (that reveal was mind blowing!), and so every few chapters you get a mini story, that is one of these texts and it was a nice way to break up the narrative as well as adding another layer/dimension to the poem that Asanka is translating, which was also intriguing to read about! I liked how each of these texts was short, but still created such a feeling with you, and fascinated you. I wanted to read more! I was also fascinated by the poem that Asanka was translating, and I'm still wondering if Asanka or someone like Asanka was given that job.
Like I've said, the book is brilliant, and I'm not ridiculously intrigued to know more about the time period in Sri Lanka, to learn as much as I can about the history and the legends/myths, because this was just a taste and I'm so enthralled by it all!