Book: Shadow Princess
Author: Indu Sundaresan
What wonderful writing! What a lovely book!
I have just started experimenting with historical fiction, and am enjoying the genre. I am so happy to have discovered Indu Sundaresan! This book transported me right into the Mughal era, and I could see each character, each place, each dress and each jewel described in the story, as if the story were unraveling right in front of my eyes. The author sure does have a way with words, wonderful research capabilities and a special love for the Mughal era.
Shadow Princess is the story of Jahanara, daughter of the much-famous and very-much-in-love royal couple, Emperor Shah Jahan and Empress Mumtaz Mahal. The story begins with the passing away of Mumtaz Mahal, which causes Shah Jahan to break down completely. Princess Jahanara, at the tender age of 16, is forced to take over the reins of the empire in her hands, and provide all the support that her father needs to recover from her grief. The author has beautifully etched the character of Jahanara, who went on to become the most powerful woman in the imperial harem and a wonderful daughter as well.
I have no qualms in admitting that I am weak in history, and have always had trouble remembering the sequence of the Mughal kings. However, this book has caused one generation of the imperial family to be etched in my mind. I wish history were taught this way in school – through stories – which would make it very real and relatable, instead of just being a list of names and dates.
This book brought forth many emotions in me. I felt awe at the grandeur of the Mughal courts, a mix of compassion and respect for Jahanara, and anger at the cruelty that seemed to be meted out to women in those days – even royal women – just because they were women. I always used to wonder how the courts of these kings worked, and this book gave me a fair idea of the same. I couldn’t really relate to the monarchs’ greed for power and their vanity, but then I guess that was how things worked for them then.
As much as Shadow Princess is the story of Jahanara, it is the story of the building of that luminous edifice of love, the white marble Taj Mahal. I especially loved reading the parts about how the land for the Taj was acquired and how it came to be constructed, since I have had the opportunity to see the awe-inspiring structure a couple of years ago.
Shadow Princess is actually a sequel to The Feast Of Roses and The Twentieth Wife, but I chose to read this first. That did not take away from my reading in any way, since this is pretty much a stand-alone book. I am looking forward to read the other books by this author. A real page-turner this one is, full of drama, romance and grandeur. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of reading this book.