Shadow Princess by Indu Sundaresan

As with her other books, Sundaresan brings to life, the Mughal Era, and the lives of the royals at that time.

I had read the other two books based on Mughal history -The Twentieth Wife and the Feast of Roses, and had been dying to get my hands on Shadow Princess.

Shadow Princess chronicles the life of Jahanara, Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal’s oldest daughter, from the time her mother died giving birth to her fourteenth child. Mumtaz Mahal’s death comes as a complete surprise, and nobody knows what needs to be done. Shah Jahan goes to pieces, and the teenaged Jahanara has no option but to pick up the reigns and be strong for everybody else. The role of Padsha Begum, which in normal circumstances would have gone to her father’s other wives, fell to her, and she rises up to the occasion, and proves that she has the ability and the mental strength to handle it all. Not only does she organize everything, she also helps her dad to go back to ruling the country, something he was ready to give away to one of his sons. Knowing that her brothers were too young to take up the responsibility, Jahanara perseveres and gets her heart-broken father to become King again. She navigates through her father’s sorrowful state, her brother’s rivalry and her sister’s treachery.

Shah Jahan comes to depend upon her so much that he even refuses to think about her marriage – he needed her to support him with the ruling of his kingdom. Jahanara, slowly becomes the most powerful woman in the kingdom. The book chronicles Jahanara’s story, bringing to life, the Mughal court and it’s politics. Brothers fighting for the throne, sisters in conflict for power,alliances made for grabbing power, life as a royal, where sometimes what you really want, you never get, although you have the access to all the jewels, the money, and the power that one could possibly want. Jahanara, while she had everything, still did not get to lead a life that she wanted. As Jahanara’s story progresses, we also get a glimpse of the Taj shaping up. The monument of love, which remains the most known symbol of the Mughal Period, and the most recognized Indian monument, even centuries after it was built. While we have all read, and learnt about Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal, this was my first exposure to Mumtaz Mahal’s daughter, who, from reading this book, might have been a far better and fairer empress than her father or her brother would turn out to be. One can only wonder, I suppose, of how India’s history might have turned out, had she been ruling India, instead.

Sundaresan’s descriptions transport you to that era, effortlessly. You almost feel the heat of the afternoon, the texture of the silk that they wear, and the aromas of the food she describes. The grandeur and the opulence of the court, the power play, and the way in which seemingly powerless women of the zenana controlled the kingdom in more than one way is brought to life by Sundaresan’s words.

I loved the book, just as much as I loved all her others. If you like historical fiction, you will love it too!

21 thoughts on “Shadow Princess by Indu Sundaresan

  1. I read all the 3 books in one go and loved them. But somehow The Twentieth Wife is my fave among the three.

    You are so right about Sundaresan’s narrative….you actually feel like you are standing in the palace watching each and everyone as their life goes by.

    I heard she is about to publish her fourth book and can’t wait for it.

  2. okie! I must be the only idiot who read THIS one first and then read the other two AFTER that…!! but I loved all the three πŸ™‚

    Goes away grinning to glory because RM read ANOTHER book before Smitha..yipeeeee….taking out the wine glasses now πŸ™‚ but decides to be honest and reveal the truth – I read your review on the Twentieth wife and then search the library got the Shadow Princess first and so read you introduced me to the author..thanks πŸ™‚

  3. I have heard a lot about Indu Sundaresan’s books. I shall pick it up soon. I so love the Mughal era. Sometime back I read Nurjahan’s daughter by Tanushree Poddar. Have you read this?

  4. For once I read a book before you. I think I got this book after reading about it on Mad Momma’s blog (not sure) and ordered the others on flipkart. I enjoyed them. Certain parts got boring unlike the ones about Mehrunnisa but enjoyed it nevertheless. I wonder if she wrote about the other princess (Roshanara who figures in the “Shadow Princess”), I would like to read about her too πŸ™‚

  5. Beautiful review!

    I have had this book lying with me for quite some time now. Somehow, not been ready to read it yet. The large list of Mughal princes and princesses and emperors scares me off, I think. πŸ™‚

    This one sounds good! πŸ™‚

    Has Indu Sundaresan written a book about the Taj Mahal, Shah Jahan and Mumtaz? Would love to read that first – I think – because I have been to the Taj Mahal and wondered about its history.

  6. well shadow princess was my first, i used to hate historical novels, but this novel changed my opinion,its just awesome…its so interesting that you if you start you can’t leave it in the middle,we can feel all their emotions.

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