“Queen of Ice” by Devika Rangachari is the story of the beautiful and intelligent princess Didda of Lohara. Despised by her father because she is lame, she survives because the astrologers predict a great destiny for her.
Growing with her jealous cousin and apparent heir, Vigraharaja, she gets bullied till she meets the strong Valga, whom she appoints as her carrier. Valga and Naravahana, a stable-boy, keep her company during her childhood.
When her father gets Didda married to King Kshemagupta of Kashmira, in return for some land, it is considered an ill-match because of the King’s wayward ways, non-royal bloodline and the fact that Didda would be his second wife.
But Didda decides to go ahead with the proposal with courage and find her destiny at Kashmira. After her husband Kshemagupta’s death, she refuses to get into the pyre and establishes herself as regent to her son Abhimanyu. Following her son’s death, she is regent to her grandsons as they take the throne and die sequentially (hinted as her doings) to eventually crown herself as the ruler.
She does establish her greatness with the help of her two trusted aides and Tunga. She turns her fortune around with her determination, despite her physical disability and that is her greatness.
A parallel narrative from the points of view of Didda and her carrier Valga, this is an interesting tale merging facts and fiction of a queen who ruled the area of Kashmir and in medieval North India.
In this compelling tale are woven incidents that show her intelligence and shrewdness, her strong friendship, her ruthlessness and ambition, and her tough personality.
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- Full credits to Devika Rangachari for deftly weaving in facts to give us a compelling tale. The pace and the intrigue are maintained throughout the book. It was so un-put-downable that I finished it in half a day.
- The characterization of Valga, which the author says she has developed from a single line mention in the ancient text is very strong and credible.
- The story of Naravahana, his loyalty towards Didda and eventually his end caused by his inability to handle her coldness towards him is touching.
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- Imagine a woman ruler in ancient India who kills her own blood for fulfilling her ambitions! It sends a chill down my spine.
- The title “Queen of Ice” had me thinking. Is it because she was queen to the snowy, icy region of Kashmir or is it because she was tough and cold as ice?
An exquisite tale.