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In thirteenth-century Sri Lanka, Asanka, poet to the king, lives a life of luxury, enjoying courtly life and a sweet, furtive love affair with a palace servant, a village girl he is teaching to write. But when Magha, a prince from the mainland, usurps the throne, Asanka's role as court poet dramatically alters. Magha is a cruel and calculating king--and yet, a lover of poetry--and he commissions Asanka to translate a holy Sanskrit epic into the Tamil language spoken by his recently acquired subjects. The poem will be an olive branch--a symbol of unity between the two cultures.
But in different languages, in different contexts, meaning can become slippery. First inadvertently, then deliberately and dangerously, Asanka's version of the epic, centered on the killing of an unjust ruler, inspires and arouses the oppressed people of the land. Asanka must juggle the capricious demands of a king with the growing demands of his own political consciousness--and his heart--if he wishes to survive and imagine a future with the woman he loves.
The first novel from a remarkable young writer, River of Ink is a powerful historical tale set in the shadow of oppression--one with deep allegorical resonances in any time--celebrating the triumph of literature and love.