Ashoka: Lion of Maurya (Ashoka #1) by Ashok K. Bankar is a fast-paced historical- thriller and truly impossible to put down. I surely could not put it down. To be frank, it is one of the best historical-thrillers I have read in my entire reading journey. Therefore, do not pick up this book if you do not have time to finish it. Bankar offers an adventurous plot and this plot races forward at a breakneck speed. The book is filled with a number of twists and turns and just about everything you would ever expect from a well-written thriller.
As the title of the book suggests, the book is based on Ashoka (one of the greatest emperors of ancient India). This book is the first of the series based on this great Mauryan king. While this tale is of a well-known Mauryan king, best-selling author Ashok K. Bankar makes it a tale of humanity, valour and faith. I am not going to tell you anything about the storyline as I do not want to act as a spoiler.
Before starting this book, one needs to remember that this book is a piece of fiction and not a history book. Hence, do not compare the contents of this book with actual historical events, and keep reminding yourself that this book is a fictionalised version of historical events. Having said that, it is also important to mention that the author has researched well and he is well-acquainted with the time-period he is dealing with. This has helped him in creating an authentic backdrop for this novel. He takes you back to the Mauryan period and you get to know different aspects of daily life of this period. Additionally, this book exposes you to political, social, cultural and religious context of that period. The author has also tried to be specific about the landscape and terrain described in the book. At the same time, visual representations of different locations in the form of maps could have been added as supporting material. The absence of these visual representations, however, does not affect the book in any way.
The characters of this book are so well drawn that you can easily relate with them. These characters jump off the page and make reading exciting. I loved almost all the characters. The story, nevertheless, belong to Ashoka. His character makes this book memorable. We call Ashoka ‘the Great’, and there is a reason behind that. He not only ruled over one of the largest empires of the world, but became an extraordinarily kind-hearted king in later part of his life. This is his story and his characterisation in this book justifies that.
I chanced upon this book accidently and decided to read a couple of chapters to know the nature and tone of the book. I wasn’t planning to read the whole book but, after a few pages, I was sort of drawn in. And soon enough was keep turning pages. If you are planning to start reading historical fiction, start with this one. If you are a long-time fan of Mauryan history, read this book. If you love reading historical fiction, this is a must for you. You will immediately fell in love with this brilliantly written book.