Sunday, August 25, 2013

Shadow Princess by Indu Sundaresan

Title: Shadow Princess
Author: Indu Sundaresan
Publisher: Harper Collins India
Genre : Mythological Fiction 
Date:  2010
Price: Rs. 399
Pages: 380

Snapshot: The Shadow princess as the title suggests is the story of princess Jahanara Begum, the eldest daughter of one of the most respected Mughal emperors Shah Jahan, who unlike her father adored and respected by generations as the creator of one of the wonders of the world "The Taj Mahal or The Luminous Tomb" , lived and died in the shadow. Her role in the emperor's life was so important that he did not let her choose marriage and leave him. She too played the obedient daughter and sacrificed her life for her beloved father, the then emperor of India, who as we know from our history had lost the will to live post Mumtaz Mahal's death. The person who brought him back to life was none other than Jahanara Begum, but unfortunately her contributions will not be remembered nor will she have the significance or the remembrance that her brothers (none of whom could prove a true heir to the throne) have received. 



The Story from a Critics Perspective:  The story begins with the death of Mumtaz Mahal during child birth. Shah Jahan is shattered upon the loss of his most beloved wife and it grieves him so deeply that at one point of time he even thinks of giving up the hard earned throne and his beloved empire. Then his biggest support becomes his eldest daughter Jahanara Begum, who has the patience, the wisdom and the love for her father none of his siblings would ever have. Also they were very young then. She makes him understand that he will have to find the will to live and to rule the kingdom he fought battles for as none of his heirs were of age. 

He then concentrates on creating The Taj Mahal or The Luminous Tomb or as it was called then the "rauza-i-munavvra". The story goes on around the time with intricate details of the tomb's planning and construction and their lives around that time. All of Shah Jahan's Children grow with time, each with a character and mind of his own and then begins politics to conquering the throne to the empire of Hindustan. The story is laced with connect the dot episodes of Jahanra and Roshanara (the younger daughter of Shah Jahan) falling in love with the same man, though none was allowed to marry, Jahanara's secret visit to her grand mother, he love affair despite her circumstances which spice up the content. Also there is a detailed description of their visits to Kashmir which is refreshingly beautiful. Above all the history enthusiast in me loved to witness the entire procedure, planning and experimenting that went behind the grand construction of the beloved queen's final resting place.

For more details read the story.

The Review:   
  
Positives: To begin with the literature review for this book is thorough and great. Every chapter begins with lines from the books where the facts are picked up from, that creates and impact on which the author further builds on with her amazingly smooth story telling skills. The use of appropriate terminology is the most important and commendable part, which certain writers now a days have chosen to not do, trying to be cool with the current generation, but to me either its lack of knowledge or an unthoughtful decision. I always believe that the most important part of any book is its ability to drown its reader into the story, this is more challenging for the story set in ancient times. Terminology is a very powerful tool here and Indu Sunderesan utilises it well. 

What is outstanding is how immensely and without partiality she portrayed each character. Aurangzeb had a soft side and deep admiration for Jahanara. Though a ruthless
king as we know about him, some situations that made him so are well described. This book though has a lot of fiction but fills in the gaps by writing about significant characters that have been lost to history.

Summing it all, this was one book I lived through. Brilliant. Waiting to read all the books by the author.

Negatives: None

The Verdict:  A not to miss book. A must read. 5 stars on 5. 



About the Author: 


Indu Sundaresan is an Indian who lives in the United States.
Other books written by her include The Twentieth Wife and The Feast of Roses.
Indu, an economics graduate, went to the United States for her higher studies, and earned an MA in economics and an MS in Operations Research. She has settled in the US and her first novel, The Twentieth Wife, won the Washington State Book Award.


I thank the author and Harper Collins India for the review copy.

 

6 comments:

  1. Can't wait to read this book and the series - I have so many pending books right now, that I feel guilty to buy more books, else I would have got this too :)

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    1. You must read Indu Sundaresan's writing, she is amazing !

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  2. I am a huge fan of Indu Sundaresan's writings. I have read the first two in this trilogy. Thoug this book has been with me for a while now, but I haven't come around to reading it. May be I should read it soon :-)

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    1. I read this one first, something in the title Shadow Princess intrigued me. Will be reading the first two in the trilogy now.

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  3. wow...this surely makes me wanna read the triology...:D

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    1. Thanx...do participate in the ongoing contest The entire trilogy and the latest The Mountain of Light is up for a grab.

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