Book Review: The Book of Indian Kings - Stories and Essays

About the Author

The Book of Indian Kings comprises stories and essays about some of the greatest rulers and statesmen in the history of India. Beginning with an essay on one of the country’s iconic rulers, the Mauryan emperor, Ashoka, by our greatest living historian, Romila Thapar, this volume brings together some of the finest writers of our time on a glittering array of monarchs, including Salman Rushdie on Emperor Akbar, Khushwant Singh on Maharaja Ranjit Singh, William Dalrymple on Bahadur Shah Zafar, Rajmohan Gandhi on Tipu Sultan, Jadunath Sarkar on Chhatrapati Shivaji, and Manu S. Pillai on Krishnadeva Raya. 

The Emergence of Empire: Mauryan India by Romila Thapar The First Hindu Empire by Abraham Eraly Raja Raja Chozhar by Kalki Krishnadeva Raya by Manu S. Pillai The Shelter of the World by Salman Rushdie Shivaji and His Times by Jadunath Sarkar Tipu Sultan by Rajmohan Gandhi The Last Mughal by William Dalrymple Ranjit Singh, Maharaja of the Punjab by Khushwant Singh Madhavrao Scindia by Vir Sanghvi and Namita Bhandare.

India as a country has been blessed with an interesting history, with a rich mix of cultural heritage. From Kings to their infamous wars, we have stories about it all. Mixing facts with fiction, there are many books which tell us their stories from various angles.

In this collection, Aleph books brings together some of the most prominent names in history and literature to write about the stalwarts of Indian History. Picking up stories and essays from their already published works, this collection is promising in every way.

The excerpt from The Last Mughal by William Darlymple needs no introduction. This is one book that tops my favourite historical reads list ever. We have Romila Thapar talking about the Mauryan empire while Manu S Pillai talks about Krishnadeva Raya. It was fascinating to read about Madhavrao Scindia and see him the way Vir Sanghvi and Namita Bhandare saw. He is one of those few lesser known kings whose story is not talked about often.

Tipu Sultan by Rajmohan Gandhi makes for an interesting read as it traces the rise and fall of his kingdom graciously. Khuswant Singh is a treat to read as always as he talks about Ranjit Singh, Maharaja of Punjab in his essay. The beauty of these pieces lies in the way the authors have not tried to simply talk about their larger than life personas and grandeur that defined their lives. Rather they have ensured to talk about the finer nuances of their life are the highlights of the stories and essays. The characters are mesmerizing with their stories of heroic victories and it wouldn't be wrong to call them the real heroes of our country. 

Each of these authors deliver an enchanting read with their unique style of writing and retelling history.  While one essay traces the growth of the kingdom following one conquest after another, the other talks about the plundering the King planned. Interestingly every aspect of these Kings tells us about an unknown facet of theirs till now. History is fascinating. However, it is not a secret that it can be boring as well. It is on the narrator to ensure that whilst the facts remain intact, the engagement of a reader remains the highest till the end. This way the reader is captivated in knowing what happens next. In this case, each one of these authors are par excellence. Every piece included in this powerful anthology is a masterpiece in itself. 

The book also has mentioned the original sources of the essays and stories, leaving behind ample material for any curious reader to hop onto and continue quenching their thirst for knowledge by reading these books. Each essay and story has been carefully picked up as if one weaves a priceless necklace by stringing together precious stones of immense value.

The presentation of the book is superb with beautiful black pages with white text in the beginning of every chapter. Though the inclusion of images might have added more value to these narratives and made them visually appealing tad more than what they already are.  Written in lucid language with an engaging flow to the narrative, these stories and essays are a powerful read. It is a must read by every Indian to feel proud of our cultural heritage and also to know the beauty of our country. 

Overall, a brilliant compilation I cannot recommend enough not only for its external beauty but also for its internal beauty!