Posts Tagged ‘The Poisoned Heart’

I was eagerly looking forward to Nandini Sen Gupta’s second novel ‘The Poisoned Heart‘, ever since I read the first part of the Gupta Empire trilogy, ‘The King Within‘. I finally got the chance to read it and finished reading it yesterday.

The story told in ‘The Poisoned Heart‘ starts more than forty years after the events of ‘The King Within‘. There is a new emperor on the throne, Skandagupta, and it appears that there was some kind of trouble with respect to the succession, because Skandagupta was not the eldest son of his father. So eventhough he is the emperor now, his own relatives and brothers and uncles are doing things behind his back to bring him down. We learn that something had happened a few years back and it had had a huge impact on the emperor’s life and the way he was now and the way he thought now. The book then takes us back to those years and immerses us in the events of that time. This is what happened.

Skandagupta is on a campaign at the edge of his empire to beat back the Hun threat. One day a woman walks into his camp. She is half Hun. Her name is Rohini. She says she ran away from the Huns to save herself. She catches the eye of the emperor. People in the emperor’s inner circle suspect her. Is what she says true? Or is she a Hun spy who has been planted in the camp to do bad things, including maybe to kill the emperor? As events start moving at a rapid pace, the characters in the story try to find out the truth about Rohini, while we the readers are not sure whether she is a good person or a spy and an assassin, and we love her and suspect her and it is hard. What happens after that and what is the nature of the truth that is revealed in the end – you have to read the book to find the answers to that.

I loved ‘The Poisoned Heart‘. The story moves at a wonderful pace and we can’t wait to turn the pages to find out what happens next. The palace intrigue and the plotting behind the emperor’s back are fascinating to read. One of the things that Nandini Sen Gupta’s fans have come to expect now is that there will be a strong woman character in her books. Nandini Sen Gupta delivers on that front brilliantly by creating Rohini, who is cool and calm and stylish, doesn’t suffer fools, is a warrior and can wield her sword as well as anyone and sometimes even gets the better of the emperor in a swordfight. I loved Rohini. How does Rohini compare to Darshini, the main character in ‘The King Within‘? It is hard for me to tell. Darshini will always have a special place in my heart, but I loved Rohini too. There is a scene in which she and Skandagupta fight together in the middle of the mountains and keep the enemy at bay. It is one of the wonderful scenes in the story. One of the other things that Nandini Sen Gupta’s fans have come to expect in her books is wonderful descriptions of sword fights. There are quite a few in ‘The Poisoned Heart‘ including the playful joust between Rohini and Skandagupta which is charming to read. The dialogues in the story are cool and stylish when the characters are verbally sparring or trying to seduce each other, and they are filled with intrigue when they are plotting against each other. I loved most of the characters in the story. Rohini and Skandagupta are wonderful and complex characters, of course. And Supriya, who is the emperor’s confidante and takes care of him, is wonderful and very likeable too. But even some of the minor characters, who make brief appearances, have unique personalities and are beautifully fleshed out. The story ends with a huge surprise which I didn’t see coming.

I loved ‘The Poisoned Heart‘. It is a beautiful, insightful, poignant story set during an important period of India’s history. I will never forget Rohini – she was a beautiful, haunting character. I can’t wait to read the third part of the Gupta Empire trilogy now.

I will leave you with one of my favourite conversations from the book.

Scenario : Ghatotkacha Gupta is the brother of the emperor. Govind Gupta is his uncle. They are discussing some intriguing, dangerous things which I can’t reveal. This is what happens at the end of the conversation. Govind Gupta is a cool character – when he speaks, it is almost as if Long John Silver or Tyrion Lannister is speaking.

‘Isn’t this a dangerous game?’
‘Politics is a dangerous game.’
‘What if it goes against you?’
Govind smiled. ‘I am an old man. I have lived my life, for better or for worse. I don’t have a future to care about. But I understand your concern. You’re scared it could go against you.’
Ghatotkacha looked away in embarrassed silence. Finally, he mumbled, ‘That’s not what I said.’
‘It’s what you meant,’ said Govind. ‘Don’t be embarrassed, nephew. Self-preservation is a fine thing. Everyone needs it, especially a prince.’”

Have you read Nandini Sen Gupta’sThe Poisoned Heart‘? What do you think about it?

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