Book Review: Shadow Princess – Indu Sundaresan

Title: Shadow Princess
Author: Indu Sundaresan
ISBN: 9781416548799
Pages: 352
Release Date: March 23, 2010
Publisher: Atria
Genre: Historical Fiction, Multicultural Fiction
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 out of 5

Summary:

Indu Sundaresan’s first two novels featured Mehrunnisa, the twentieth wife of Jahangir, the leader of the Mughal Empire.  In Shadow Princess, Sundaresan returns to seventeenth century India.  Emperor Shah Jahan, son of Jahangir, is on the throne.  When his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal dies, Shah Jahan’s grief cripples him, and he becomes consumed with building a glorious tomb for her.  His oldest daughter, Jahanara, takes her mother’s place and his sons begin scheming to capture the power behind the throne.

Review:

I have read everything Indu Sundaresan has published.  From The Twentieth Wife, her beautifully written debut novel about Mughal India, to In the Convent of Little Flowers, her moving and insightful short story collection, every single piece of fiction she has published is simply incredible.  Despite knowing this, I approached Shadow Princess with some hesitation – I absolutely loved the first two books in the series, The Twentieth Wife and The Feast of Roses, so my expectations were sky high.

It’s saying something, then, that Shadow Princess blew my expectations out of the water.  This book was simply amazing.  Sundaresan shows her incredible skill at writing characters in this novel.  The main character in the first two books, and the person with whom the reader’s sympathies lie, is Mehrunnisa, also known as Empress Nur Jahan.  However, in Shadow Princess, the main characters are Mehrunnisa’s opponents, the people that the readers’ minds were set against in the first two novels.  There is a generational gap between Mehrunnisa and Jahanara, the main character of Shadow Princess, but Mehrunnisa is still a very important character in the book, more for her legacy than anything else.

As a result of this turnaround, it’s easy to become concerned that this book might not be as magical as the previous two, that the characters might not be as sympathetic.  And here is where Sundaresan displays her genius – she gives the reader the ability to fully identify with these characters, while not losing their sympathy for Mehrunnisa.  It’s an incredibly delicate balance, yet it’s accomplished deftly and amazingly well.

It’s not necessary to read the first two books in the series before reading Shadow Princess; Sundaresan does an excellent job at delivering the necessary information in order to establish the background of the story.  However, I still would recommend reading The Twentieth Wife and The Feast of Roses because they are such excellent, rich and textured books.

The history in Shadow Princess is also enthralling.  It’s about the building of the Taj Mahal, at least in part, which adds a certain mystique to the novel.  Sundaresan handles very complicated and varied history with a beautiful simplicity.  The book never becomes bogged down in details, yet she provides a vivid look at an amazing period in Indian history.

Shadow Princess is an incredible novel that I will recommend to everyone.  Indu Sundaresan is a wonderful author; I can’t sing her praises highly enough.  I will read anything and everything she writes, and I hope more people will pick up her novels – you won’t be disappointed!

Comments

  1. I love your reviews! I really feel like you give me enough information to decide on whether I want to read the book or not. I’m going to pick these up, starting with The Twentieth Wife-I hate reading a great book only to find it’s in the middle of a series.

  2. I love your reviews! I really feel like you give me enough information to decide on whether I want to read the book or not. I’m going to pick these up, starting with The Twentieth Wife-I hate reading a great book only to find it’s in the middle of a series.

  3. I’ve read so little Indian fiction, but I really need to change that. I think I’ll start by giving these a try.

    Thanks for the great review!

  4. I’ve read so little Indian fiction, but I really need to change that. I think I’ll start by giving these a try.

    Thanks for the great review!

  5. Ooohhh I am so excited for this book! I am half way through The Feast of Roses (which, unfortunately, I am not loving as much as The Twentieth Wife for some reason) but cannot wait for this one! I can’t even fully read your review because I don’t want to spoil it 😉

    Best part – it is available on Kindle today, I don’t have to wait 😀

  6. Ooohhh I am so excited for this book! I am half way through The Feast of Roses (which, unfortunately, I am not loving as much as The Twentieth Wife for some reason) but cannot wait for this one! I can’t even fully read your review because I don’t want to spoil it 😉

    Best part – it is available on Kindle today, I don’t have to wait 😀

  7. I had not heard of this author before I don’t think. Such a lovely review you wrote. I’ll definitely be checking out these books. Any book you give a 5/5 need to be put on my wishlist. Thanks for sharing!

  8. I had not heard of this author before I don’t think. Such a lovely review you wrote. I’ll definitely be checking out these books. Any book you give a 5/5 need to be put on my wishlist. Thanks for sharing!

  9. I have CONVENT OF LITTLE FLOWERS coming up on my reading list. Your enthusiasm for this author makes me want to sample a story or two tonight! I’ll make a note of this title as well.

  10. I have CONVENT OF LITTLE FLOWERS coming up on my reading list. Your enthusiasm for this author makes me want to sample a story or two tonight! I’ll make a note of this title as well.

  11. Jennifer B says:

    I agree. This is an amazing writer. I too had the privilege of reading Shadow Princess and have left my review on Amazon. Do read this book — and all her books.

  12. Jennifer B says:

    I agree. This is an amazing writer. I too had the privilege of reading Shadow Princess and have left my review on Amazon. Do read this book — and all her books.

  13. Holy cow! That sounds amazing!

  14. Holy cow! That sounds amazing!

  15. This sounds fantastic – I think that I might consider reading the series instead of starting with this one, since you speak so highly of the author.

  16. This sounds fantastic – I think that I might consider reading the series instead of starting with this one, since you speak so highly of the author.

  17. This sounds like an amazing book! Thank you for such a great review!

  18. This sounds like an amazing book! Thank you for such a great review!

  19. i am definitely adding this to my wish list. your enthusiasm for the author is reason enough to give it a try!

  20. i am definitely adding this to my wish list. your enthusiasm for the author is reason enough to give it a try!

  21. This book sounds amazing! I’ll have to start at the beginning. It’s wonderful to know there are more books to enjoy by this author!

  22. This book sounds amazing! I’ll have to start at the beginning. It’s wonderful to know there are more books to enjoy by this author!

  23. I have both The Twentieth Wife and The Feast of Roses on my wish list. Now I will be adding another. Last year I read, Beneath a Marble Sky by John Shors. It also tells the story of the building of the Taj Mahal. I thought that was so interesting. I look forward to reading a different take on the story.

  24. I have both The Twentieth Wife and The Feast of Roses on my wish list. Now I will be adding another. Last year I read, Beneath a Marble Sky by John Shors. It also tells the story of the building of the Taj Mahal. I thought that was so interesting. I look forward to reading a different take on the story.

  25. Thakurani says:

    I’ve been waiting for this third installment with bated breath since Feb. And to my disappointment it seems that the Bangalore bookstores still don’t have them in stock. But after reading your review, I’m willing to patiently wait it out. 😀

  26. Thakurani says:

    I’ve been waiting for this third installment with bated breath since Feb. And to my disappointment it seems that the Bangalore bookstores still don’t have them in stock. But after reading your review, I’m willing to patiently wait it out. 😀

  27. I have read ‘Feast of Roses’ and have ‘Twentieth Wife’. There are phases when I am obsessed by these kind of books. It just got available in India, so really looking forward to reading it.

  28. I have read ‘Feast of Roses’ and have ‘Twentieth Wife’. There are phases when I am obsessed by these kind of books. It just got available in India, so really looking forward to reading it.

  29. I’m obsessed with the Taj Mahal and the captivating history that lies behind it. I read a portion of chapter 1 from The Twentieth Wife and immediately purchased all three novels in the series. I am desperate to escape into the enchanting world of Mehrunissa and Janhangir.

  30. I’m obsessed with the Taj Mahal and the captivating history that lies behind it. I read a portion of chapter 1 from The Twentieth Wife and immediately purchased all three novels in the series. I am desperate to escape into the enchanting world of Mehrunissa and Janhangir.

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