Okay, as promised, here is my book review for the month of September. Though I’m not expecting any readers over here, I’ve come to the conclusion that whether or not anyone reads the reviews here, it’ll still be fun for me to post them here and sort of build up my blog usage and get used to posting on here more. And as I stated earlier on I believe, I’ll be posting the reviews on the final day of each month, no matter what day it’s on. That will give me ample time (hopefully) to finish whatever book, or books, that I’m reading. I will try to read at least one a month, but my goal is to at least get two reads in and maybe even three if I’m feeling particularly bold.
So without further ado, here is my book review for September. You can also see it on Salazar’s blog here: https://14shadesofgrey.wordpress.com/2016/09/28/book-reviews-september-2016/.
After four months of attempting to get through my latest read, Shadow Princess, I’ve finally finished it this past weekend and am ready to write my full review on it. As I think I stated during last month’s review, it usually doesn’t take me this much time to read any book, especially one under 400 pages. But with the crazy, stupid, tumultuous summer that I had, my focus wasn’t where it should have been and it was a lot more difficult for me to really get into this story, especially with a change in the plot from the previous two books, as well as the full cast of new characters that I had to keep all straight in my head so that I could figure out what the heck what going on in the story!
But now I can proudly say that I finished this great book and now I am ready to share it with you, as best as I can. Let’s go!
Shadow Princess, as I’ve mentioned above, takes a slight turn in the plot as the main focus is no longer on Mehrunnisa, but on Jahanara, who is the grand niece of Mehrunnisa and the daughter of Arjumand Banu, who in turn, is the daughter of Mehrunnisa’s brother, Abul. Knowing this mini (and might I add the word “very” mini) family line that I gave you is essential to know if you are to fully understand the story in this book as the author often makes references to previous characters from the first two books and they are more often than not, tied into the family line of Jahanara in some way. The author even provides a handy family tree flow chart at the beginning of her book, which is so helpful to glance at as you’re reading the story to help you keep up with who’s who.
So, getting back to the plot, this story takes place a few years after the events of The Feast of Roses (the 2nd book in the trilogy) and portrays Jahanara as a young teen, the eldest child of the current emperor, Emperor Khurram, or Shah Jahan, as he is often referred to as in this book. If you recall, he was the son of Emperor Jahangir from the second book.
While the first two books mainly focused on the emperors’ sons going after the throne (and doing it in rather grisly ways much of the time), the main focus of Shadow Princess is Jahanara, along with her younger sister, Roshanara, and their efforts to support one of their brothers who is next to inherit the throne. The opening of the story begins with Shah Jahan’s wife, Arjumand Banu (known as Mumtaz Mahal) giving birth to another child, whom we hear very little of, and then dying shortly afterward. This sudden death of his wife totally devastates Shah Jahan and puts him on the verge of nearly abdicating the throne on the spot. Jahanara was able to talk him out of this grief stricken decision quickly, mostly noting that while Dara and Aurangzeb were next in line to receive the throne, both were still too inexperienced to fully handle the Mughal Empire on their own.
So Shah Jahan decides to remain on the throne for this reason, as well as the fact that it was not proper for the son of an emperor to inherit the throne while his father was still alive, and instead, decided to build a grand tomb to honor his deceased wife, what we now know as The Taj Mahal.
But all is not calm among Jahanara and her siblings. Contentions between them all begin to rise, and just like we’ve seen in the previous books, betrayal, mistrust and even murder are very much a reality here and will keep you guessing as to who will come out on top. And while the male siblings, Dara and Aurangzeb, each have their eyes set on the throne, the female siblings are also competing against each other in a way, to see to it that the brother that they support inherits the throne (Jahanara supports Dara and Roshanara supports Aurangzeb). And it’s not just these royal ramifications that are keeping these two powerful women on edge, as their father will not allow them to marry. But that doesn’t mean that their hearts are free of love and that love triangles don’t exists. A noble in the emperor’s court named Najabat Khan, has captured the hearts of both Janahara and Roshanara and they both desire to be his lover and go about it in different ways.
I think that you get the picture as far as how all of this goes. And once again, I am faced with the same problem of having so much to tell but will limit myself in this review as it is simply too much detail to go over and reading the book yourself will serve as the best way to tell the story and letting it unfold to you as it did for me. I will tell you this. Many of the same backstabbing and acts of betrayal that you’ve seen in the first two books do happen in this one as well and one prince (out of a total of 4; Dara, Shuja, Aurangzeb, and Murad) ends up murdering the other three to make inheriting the throne that much easier (seriously, don’t these people have any originality?). And surprisingly, Mehrunnisa makes a brief appearance in this book as she speaks with Jahanara when she goes to see her for advice, much like Mehrunnisa did with her own mentor, Ruqayya Sultan Begam. This leads me to believe that part of this story takes place before Mehrunnisa dies, as she clearly does in “The Feast of Roses”. So it was nice to have mention of her in this story, albeit briefly, as she is often portrayed of as not being very well liked by some of the characters in the story, particularly by Shah Jahan.
But to sort of sum it all up, as this is the third and last book in The Taj Mahal series, I will say that it has been a most unforgettable story to read. It started off with Mehrunnisa’s birth in The Twentieth Wife and essentially ends with Jahanara’s final moments with her father, who (she) is roughly at the age of 64 by the end of the third book. And each character along the way has a story to tell, whether it be a big one or a small one. And though they are based off of real people in history, their stories are, in part, fictional, as Ms. Sundaresan points out in her afterward. But as you read all three books, you, in a sense, feel like you’ve become part of the characters’ stories too and that you are right along there with them as they interact in this ancient world. And once you’ve become a part of their stories, they, in a way, become your story.
Okay, that may sound a little corny, but it was what I felt as I was reading these magnificent books. So now, it is time I rate this one. I give this one a 4 out of 5. I had to bump this one down by one point because to me, I found it a little more difficult to follow than the other two books. I don’t know if it was because all new characters were introduced and there were simply too many to try and keep all together, or the fact that throughout the book, the author gives a sort of intermission between chapters that talks about the building of the Taj Mahal. And while I found those intermissions to be interesting, I felt that they broke up the story too much and perhaps should have been kept separate from the main story; like maybe had it at the end so that the reader could read about it in full without interruption.
But still, it was an extremely great read and I’m so happy that I stuck it out to read all three books in this series.
And there you have it. Be sure to check back next month and see what I’m reading. I’m making a great start on a few books right now to prepare for the next review so you wont want to miss it.
Have a good weekend everyone.