"River of Ink", the debut novel of Brit Paul M.M. Cooper, is a marvel. I'd not heard of the man until he did his Reddit AMA a few months back, but the book was an easy sell on me: I'm quite partial to historical fiction and also enjoy reading debut novels.
The book is set in 13th century Sri Lanka and while the backdrop is the invasion of the island by Kalinga Magha, a prince from mainland India, it's actually about this one thing many good stories are about: two star-crossed lovers.
First-person narrator is the dead king's poet Asanka, and the whole tale is addressed at his lover, a servant girl employed at court.
Meticulously researched, Cooper opens up a world to us which, at least to me, was foreign not only in it's geographical but also historical scope.
Powered by prose that's both poetic but never flowery and also to the point without feeling terse, Cooper weaves an intricate narrative of the island's history and centuries-old mythology, while never losing focus on the humanity - and the flaws - of the story's protagonists.
It's a triumph, not only as a debut.