River of Ink

River of Ink

Book - 2016
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All Asanka knows is poetry. From his humble village beginnings in the great island kingdom of Lanka, he has risen to the prestigious position of court poet and now delights in his life of ease- composing romantic verses for love-struck courtiers, enjoying the confidence of his king and covertly teaching Sarasi, a beautiful and beguiling palace maid, the secrets of his art.
But when Kalinga Magha, a ruthless prince with a formidable army, arrives upon Lanka's shores, Asanka's world is changed beyond imagining. Violent, hubristic and unpredictable, Magha usurps the throne, laying waste to all who stand in his way. Under his terrifying rule, nothing in the city is left untouched and, like many of his fellow citizens, Asanka retreats into the shadows, hoping to pass unnoticed by the tyrant. But it seems his new master is a lover of poetry...
To Asanka's horror, Magha tasks him with the translation of an epic Sanskrit poem, a tale of Gods and nobles, love and revenge, which the king believes will have a civilising effect on his subjects, soothing their discontent and snuffing out the fires of rebellion he suspects are igniting across the island.
Asanka has always believed that poetry makes nothing happen, but as each new chapter he writes is disseminated through the land and lines on the page become cries in the street, his belief and his loyalties are challenged. And, as Magha circles ever closer to the things Asanka treasures most, the poet will discover that true power lies not at the point of a sword, but in the tip of a pen.
Publisher: London : Bloomsbury Publishing PLC, 2016.
Edition: ExportAirside.
ISBN: 9781408862223
1408862220
Characteristics: 304 p. ; 23 cm.

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wyenotgo
Mar 02, 2019

And now for something completely different!
We find ourselves in exotic 13th century Sri Lanka, a sleepy kingdom drowsily awaiting the monsoon to bring the relief of rain. Ill-prepared, the island swiftly falls to an invading army led by an ambitious, despotic King from the mainland who proceeds to murder and brutalize both of the island's ethnic populations.
But strangely, this book is not really about that at all. This book is about ancient classical Sanskrit poetry; the presence of an occupying army is just a sideshow. What the protagonist Asanka is most devastated about is the invader's campaign to burn all of Sri Lanka's books, an act of cultural destruction; and that the King has decided to expropriate Asanka's mistress for himself as one of his temporary queens.
Mr Cooper is an ambitious fellow. It's surely an act of breathtaking audacity for an English writer, a man who had only lived in modern day Sri Lanka for a short while, to undertake such a story that focuses entirely on ancient Sri Lankan culture. Whether he really understood what he was writing about and how much of it accurately reflects that society of 700 years ago is impossible to say. I'm inclined to consider it a bit of speculative fantasy, not intended to be taken at all seriously. Perhaps the subject matter might have been more appropriate as a "graphic novel" to entertain teenagers.

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