Book Title: The King Within

Author: Nandini Sengupta

Total Number of Pages: 224

Publisher: HarperCollins

Publication Date: 26 July 2017

Format: Kindle eBook

Language: English

Genre: Fiction / Historical Fiction



373 AD. In the thick forests of Malwa, an enigmatic stranger gallops into an ambush attack by bandits to rescue a young courtesan, Darshini. His name is Deva and he is the younger son of Emperor Samudragupta. That chance encounter, first with Deva and later with his two friends, the loyal general Saba Virasena and the great poet Kalidas, forges a bond that lasts a lifetime. From a dispossessed prince, Deva goes on to become one of the greatest monarchs in ancient India, Chandragupta Vikramaditya. But the search for glory comes with a blood price. As Chandragupta the emperor sets aside Deva the brother, lover and friend, to build a glorious destiny for himself, his companions go from being his biggest champions to his harshest critics. A sabre-rattling tale of love, revenge, friendship and ambition, The King Within is about the often-difficult choice between the power of passion and the passion for power.




I have never been a fan of historical fiction…or anything that had history written over it. I remember during my school days, I had such a hard time to memorize those dates and events. But, “The King Within” has nothing to do with dates and isn’t a history textbook. When I first read the blurb I thought that it would be an account on Chandragupta Maurya but turned out it isn’t! Another surprise and I am quite happy with it. It is of course based on historical characters but the narrative is very different. I’ll tell you what makes it different in a minute.

Check out my previous review of Happiness is All We Want! written by Ashutosh Mishra

The book begins with a scene where a courtesan named Darshini is being attacked by a group of bandits. She only has two protectors left with her after she had sent some of them to fetch water. Two against six? That is when Deva steps in and shows his mastery skills of the sword bringing down the bandits to the ground in no time. Not to forget he came riding in a horse. Deva saves her and introduces her to his friend Saba Virasena. The three of them form an unlikely bond of friendship. Darshini was on her way to Ujjayni to perform in their festival. Deva and Virasena accompany her on this journey and when they are almost close to Ujjayni, her earlier enthusiasm of participating in the event starts to dissipate as she thinks that she will not meet Deva and Virasena again. At first, Darshini wasn’t aware that Deva himself was Chandragupta but later on she does find out. I enjoyed their friendly banter.

Darshini and Deva get into a heated argument. Darshini calls out on Deva asking him to be true to himself and as to who he really was. Confused and angry, Deva storms out on her. Over the course of time, spending time with Deva had led Darshini to feel the first jitters of love. But, the feeling soon died down when she comes across a revelation. This unrequited love however leaves her with consequences.

The book is based on historical figures, the backdrop of the story is set in the medieval times, 373 AD, the characterizations are that of the time when kings and queens ruled our country. The scenes have that grand and majestic feel to them. Even the characters dress up in royal manner. The setting is regal and magnificent. I loved the portrayal of the characters. They were not perfect neither were they faultless. They had their own struggles to deal with, they made mistakes and they regretted some of the choices they have made. This made them look all the more human than mannequins. They felt real with flesh and blood.

“The King Within” is a story of love, revenge, friendship power and passion. But most of all, it’s the story which shows how difficult it is to choose between power and passion and that you have to sacrifice so many things when you’re of royal blood. You have to think of your kingdom first, you have to think of the people than concentrating on your own life.

Kalidas makes an appearance in this book and I loved his character. He is funny, jokes around a bit, writes poetic scripts like Shakuntala and others. These historic informations have been so easily incorporated into the storyline that they felt a part of the book while Kalidas makes up an entire part of history. The author has focused on every bits and have included a little bit of everything so that we can get a taste of all the characters who were there during the Gupta dynasty and be informed about them. A vast amount of history has been captured in the book. The thing which doesn’t make the book a boring read is the narration. The words flowed naturally and the best part is that the author’s motto wasn’t to just provide us with information instead she crafted a story based on the characters.

I loved the choice of words in this book. The language has that medieval feel to it and the writing is supported with thorough research. The writing style is descriptive. The narrative presents the historical events, the facts and figures in such a placid and mellow way. It’s smooth and allows generous amount of time for the characters to shine.

There were some grammatical errors which I noticed in the book. Overall,the editing was good but yes, some glitches were left out. I really enjoyed the story, the characters, the setting and everything but one thing I felt was that the pace of the book was a bit disturbed. At times, the pace felt fast and at times it was slow. Another thing which I felt while reading was that the scenes shifts were swift and rapid. At times, it felt as if they were overlapping on one another and it took me some time to figure out whether it was a new scene or a continuation of the previous one.


Even when I am not a big fan of historical fiction, the realisation of the fact that I actually enjoyed reading this book surprised me. But, I am really happy that I chose to read this book. I always try to read books of different genre and I am happy that I didn’t let this one slide out of my hands.

If you love historical fiction or you just want to try this genre for a change, you can definitely read this book.




Nandini Sengupta is a Pondicherry-based writer and journalist. After a chance trip to the Ajanta and Ellora caves in 2007, she began researching third and fourth-century India, initially out of mere curiosity and later out of interest, which quickly deepened into an obsession with India’s glorious past. An avid reader of the historical genre, she has been researching for The King Within for the past eight years. Already a published author with several non-fiction titles to her credit, this is her first work of fiction. Nandini is forty-nine and lives in Pondicherry’s quaint French quarter with her little daughter Kiki.




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