Publisher: Rupa Publications India
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When I picked up Birth of The Bastard Prince, the titillating title dominated my choice. And it certainly lived up to its name. In this sequel to the widely acclaimed Legend Of Amrapali, Anurag Anand has captured an important fragment of history with his raconteurial abilities. Although written as a sequel, it can be read as a standalone book. The author’s recounting of the first book makes it easy for the reader to connect The Legend of Amrapali to this book.
Birth Of The Bastard Prince is a fictional account that draws inspiration from history. This book carries forward the story of Amrapali after she becomes the Nagarvadhu (the bride of the state), detailing the trials and tribulations that she has to go through. After her bereavement due to the demise of all her close ones, Amrapali has nothing to live for. Sparks fly as Amrapali and Bindusen meet and are drawn to each other. Bindusen is a trader who sweeps Amrapali off her feet and recreates feelings that she never thought she would feel again after the death of her beloved. In reality, Bindusen is the Magadha King Bimbisara, who dons the garb of a trader and infiltrates Vaishali to gather intelligence inputs. During such a clandestine meeting in Amrapali’s Swapna Kakshika (her private chamber), they sire a child. Their mutually desire delivers fruition in the form of Vimal Kondana, the Bastard Prince. Then the story moves on to describe the siege laid on Vaishali (Amrapali’s homeland) by Magadh, a battle in which Amrapali plays a pivotal role. The antics of the court, the surreptitious information transactions and gravely innocent mistakes by her near and dear ones land Amrapali in situations she never thought she would have to face again.
How Amrapali navigates this pandemonium of court politics, war and personal conflicts form the bulk of the book. We see that although Amrapali rules more hearts than she would like, her intelligence and geniality are what help her make true friends and mentors that help her through her tough times.
The fictional plot draws on specific details from actual history and the wonderful amalgamation of both creates a larger-than-life tale. The setting of the war keeps the pace of the book alive as the story moves between betrayals and war stories. Amrapali’s character as a level-headed and beautiful woman has many nuances. Amrapali’s closest aide and confidante, her childhood friend Prabha, is her root, her only reality and family. The camaraderie and deep bond between the two is celebrated and gives Amrapali much need constant support in the ever-changing landscape of her life. The war scenes with their trickery, deceit and the nefarious schemes of enemies of the state give the novel a picaresque edge. The motives behind the various deceptions elucidate very extensive back-stories, which help you understand the actions of the characters.
Birth of The Bastard Prince is an engaging read, which ends on a note that leaves you feeling happy but not quite. The instant gratification I wanted with the ending was hazy. But as they say, “happy endings depend on where you stop the story.”
Buy the prequel, The Legend of Amrapali, from here!