Shadow Princess

Rating: 3.5/5


Title: Shadow Princess
Author: Indu Sundaresan
Genre: Fiction, Literary, Indian History
Pages: 380
Publisher: Harper Collins India
ISBN-13: 9788172239978

'Shadow Princess' is the third book in the Taj Mahal trilogy. I haven't read the previous two books and I'm glad that this book does not have a continuing story line. So if, like me, you have no idea what happens in the prequels, it is absolutely fine because this book starts anew and is a story in itself.

The story opens with the delivery of Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan's fourteenth child. When she passes away due to compilations in childbirth, the powerful emperor is reduced to a forlorn figure as he struggles to come to terms with the tragedy. So great is the void that he considers giving up the mighty throne. It is then that he decides to demonstrate his love for his most beloved wife by building a luminous tomb in her honour. With the death of Mumtaz Mahal their elder daughter, Jahanara, assumes the responsibilities of the royal zenana and also of attending to her father's every need. She evidently supports Dara, the eldest son, to be the next in line for the throne, should such a situation arise. Meanwhile, her younger sister, Roshanara, envious of Jahanara's popularity in the palace, purposefully backs Aurangazeb, now and then helping him with royal secrets. But the petty vie takes on a nasty shape as both the sisters fall in love with Najabat Khan, an amir in their court. While the politics brew in Shah Jahan's own palace, he is busy over looking the construction of the tomb. Due to many instances of humiliation and skepticism Aurangazeb faces from his own father, he decides to prove his worth by taking over the empire. Even if it was at the cost of his brother's lives and keeping his father and sister captive. The story ends with the agonizing death of Shah Jahan, the mightiest and wealthiest of all Mughal rulers, who would endlessly gaze at his marvelous creation, the Taj Mahal, from the octagonal balcony at Agra Fort while in captivity, remembering his precious Mumtaz.

Although the book is called the Taj Mahal triology, the story is not entirely about building it. Yes, there are chapters dedicated to the construction of the tomb but the bulk of the story is about the life and happenings in the lives of Shah Jahan's children. Not all of them though. And this is where the pleasure of reading this book lies. The author has portrayed the characters as closely as they were in real life which is evident owing to the fact that there has been some extensive research in the subject. And I must say, it is a commendable work. The narration is superb. Of course, not all the events in the story are true, as specified by the author herself in the epilogue. But overall, a good story.

'Shadow Princess' is highly recommended. It is an excellent rendition of the Mughal era finale in India. A must read for Indian history fanatics.


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