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Shadow Princess [Paperback]

Indu Sundaresan
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
Price: 8.94 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

22 Mar 2011
The Mughal Empire is crumbling. With the death of his beloved queen Mumtaz, Emperor Shah Jahan slowly loses interest in everything, confining himself to his bed, while his sons conspire and scheme to gain control of the empire. Princess Jahanara is only seventeen when the weight of the imperial zenana is thrust upon her. Shah Jahan s favourite daughter, she is the most important woman in the harem and is forced to remain at the Mughal court all her life, caught up in the intrigues and power politics of her sisters and brothers, sacrificing her own desires for the sake of her father. Rich in detail and atmosphere, here is another glorious retelling of life in medieval India by the author of several best-selling historical novels.
--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 332 pages
  • Publisher: Washington Square Press; Reprint edition (22 Mar 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416548807
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416548805
  • Product Dimensions: 20.9 x 13.6 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 115,873 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Indu Sundaresan graduated in economics from India and went to the US where she did an MS in operations research and an MA in economics. Her first novel, The Twentieth Wife, won the 2003 Washington State Book Award. Her second novel, The Feast of Roses, is a sequel to the first and continues the story of Empress Nur Jahan --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent book. 22 Mar 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A very well written and most interesting book. I am sure the historical background has been carefully researched and is accurate. I would readily recommend it to anyone, including those who have no knowledge of, or interest in, Indian history. Like- wise the 2 earlier historical novels the author has written on the Mughal Empire.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Indu does it again' 8 July 2012
By ReaderS
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Indu S is such a good writer. She has made historical books very imaginative. After having read The Twentieth Wife and the Feast of Roses, I was really looking forward to reading The Shadow Princess and was not disappointed. More from that period please Indu....
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars ok, not in the lefgue of previous books by Indu 1 July 2011
I was soo impressed with all the other books by this author that I had built up hopes for this latest books - unfortunately for me this book did not live up to expectations....there just isnt enough writing about the actual people and stories and feelings as the other books - I found this more a history and architecture type lesson then a family saga...many places the book seems to drag and then suddenly it feels rushed - like trying to cram a whole chunk of time within a few sentences...
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Amazon.com: 3.6 out of 5 stars  49 reviews
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A journey back in time 22 Mar 2010
By J. Braun - Published on Amazon.com
Readers will find this a stylish novel, giving a fascinating description of how the Taj Mahal was built. Ms. Sundaresan cleverly fills her paragraphs with many vivid descriptions so that when you turn a page you will have experienced sights, smells, tastes, colors, sizzling heat and cooling breezes as she takes you back in time. You are there. You see firsthand the bazaars, the cloistered zenana, the opulence of the palace the lifestyle and indulgence of the emperors. Her writing style is like a beautiful art piece. She "paints" with bold, confident strokes, pulling you in, so that you get the feeling that if you turn around you will be face to face with the characters, close enough to touch them.

The story begins with the untimely death of Empress Arjumand leaving behind her young children and inconsolable husband, Emperor Shah Jahan. They had shared a deep bond of passionate love and after her death he was never the same. The death of the empress left a great deal of responsibility on her oldest daughter, Jahanara who was only nineteen. Princess Jahanara's character and the stresses of her life are well-developed and beautifully intertwined in the story. In fact, this is not revealed until after the first fifty pages or so, giving the reader plenty of time to get to know all the characters and their individual personalities. Ms. Sundaresan's writing is downright elegant; she has taken the time to carefully develop every single character and bring them to life - from the mighty emperors, the young princes and princesses right down to the humble servants who run to obey their every command. Each character in the book is impeccably and cleverly fleshed out so that you are given a look into their minds and hearts to discover who they really are.

Even though the story took place hundreds of years ago, Sundaresan brings it to life and you will find yourself on a breathless journey to see how the story ends. You will "see" for yourself how the glorious Luminous Tomb was built. Lined with gold, silver, and rare jewels, twenty thousand men labored for twenty-two years to build the marble mausoleum, to fulfill Shah Jahan's obsession, to demonstrate his perfect love for Arjumand.

Am I recommending this book? Absolutely and wholeheartedly. Please get yourself a copy and then get another to give to a friend. Don't rush through it. Take your time. Take a day off. Then sit back and savor the story, the romance, the treacherous conspiring and scheming of the royal siblings in their struggle for power, but most of all Ms. Sundaresan's powerful writing.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Was this then the end of the Mughals?" 28 Mar 2010
By Luan Gaines - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The death of Mumtaz Muhal, Emperor Shah Jahan's Exalted One of the Palace, after the birth of her fourteenth child is the foundation for Sundaresan's beautifully crafted and detailed novel of the Mughal Empire in 1631. With attention to historical detail and compassion for those caught in the great drama of the succession, the author captures the emotional tenor of the aftermath of the death of the empress and the political machinations of the four sons who are heirs to the throne. The man who will eventually erect the Taj Mahal to honor his dead wife, ruthless though he may have been in gaining his throne, is devastated by the enormity of his loss. Suddenly plans to marry his favorite daughter, Jahanara to Mizra Najabat Khan are put on indefinite hold, although the younger sister, Roshanana, covets this particular man for herself.

It is Jahanara who is the star of this piece, a young woman denied the man she loves to serve her father in his time of need. His need will absorb her future; Jahan pays a heavy price for accepting that burden, one she embraces with conviction. At odds with her older and more powerful sister, Roshanara slips easily into her role as Jahan's adversary, secretly aligning herself with a younger brother, Aurangzeb in lieu of the emperor's obvious choice for succession, Dara. While Dara takes his position and his place in his father's affections for granted, Aurangzeb nurtures his own ambitions, active where Dara is lazy and spoiled. Meanwhile, the emperor ignores affairs of state in his obsession with building a monument to his beloved wife.

As she did in The Twentieth Wife, Sundaresan imbues her characters with emotional depth, creating in Jahanara a protagonist of exceptional strength and loyalty, a woman forced to make painful decisions, to choose duty to her father over personal fulfillment, marriage and children. The demands on this woman are extraordinary, called to refute ugly rumors begun in spite by her sister, carving a few stolen moments of happiness into a life rigidly defined by obligation. The political realities of the evolution of the Mughal Empire are significant and thoughtfully explored, the author keeping her finger on the pulse of the kingdom and the yearning in Jahanara's heart, a melding of historical fact and the difficult emotional terrain of a woman trapped forever behind the walls of convention. Intricate and exquisite as the trappings of royalty, the world of the zenana is exposed, its luxury and demands, Jahanara bridging the past and an uncertain future. Luan Gaines/2010.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Power Is a Strange Bedfellow 25 May 2010
By Beverly Jackson - Published on Amazon.com
For lovers of historical fiction, nothing is better than a book that has you immersed in the storyline and engages all of your five senses, so that when you look up from reading it takes you a couple of seconds to re-orient to your current surroundings. Shadow Princess by Indu Sundaresan was just that book for me. When Shadow Princess opens we are transported to 17th century India as the Mumtaz Muhal, the much beloved wife of the Emperor, is about to give birth to her 14th child. Also, in the room with her are her two teen-aged daughters, Jahanara(17) and Roshanara (14). As the birth process continues, it appears Mumtaz Muhal may not survive, and she reaches out for Jahanara, neglecting Roshanara, who also rushes to her mother's side. But, despite the best of care available, Mumtaz Muhal dies, leaving behind four sons, two older daughters, a newborn girl child, and an inconsolable husband. But when the Emperor is finally convinced to resume his morning appearances before the royalty, it obvious that he is in a very fragile state; for a show of unity, Jahanara thrusts her four brothers out into the balcony to stand by their father. At this moment, all four brothers, despite their young age, feel the surge of power of being Emperor and this becomes each of their goals. Roshanara, once again feeling left out, and in her bitterness wonders how to control her destiny in this male-dominated world.

While this is the third book in the Sundaresan's trilogy on the Mughal Empire, it is not necessary to read the prior books to enjoy this storyline. Sundaresan's passion and research for this period of Indian history comes through in her exquisite writing and the decoding of the culture. This a tale of the lush life of the royalty and those favored by them. Even for the reader who knows the outcome of the power struggle, Sunderesan weaves an interesting path of getting to this point, focusing the story on Jahanara and Roshanara and the roles of women in shaping Indian history. What most of us know of this era is the building of the Taj Mahal as a tribute of a man's love for wife, Sundaresan took a chance and made the Taj Mahal a character in the book and it is only fitting as the influence of women have often been overlooked in the telling of this period; however, this oversight is corrected by this trilogy.

I recommend this book to not only readers of historical fiction, but also to readers who enjoy reading about sibling rivalry, unrequited love, uncontrolled ambition and adventure.

This book was provided by the publisher for review purposes.

Reviewed by Beverly
APOOO BookClub
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The gorgeous cover of SHADOW PRINCESS holds a deep, dark secret: there's no life inside. 12 July 2011
By faeriemyst - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I have tried, over and over and over again, to get through this book. I just can't and I won't try anymore. There are far better books to read than to waste time on one that's not worth the expense it takes to get through it. Technically, the writing is good, but everything is just so boring and lifeless; I don't care about anyone or anything. Maybe if it didn't often read like a history lesson and had some movement, I would have liked this book better. Good historical fiction incorporates the history seamlessly into the narrative. This book didn't and the history actually came in chunks that disrupted the story. This is an author I'll be sure to steer clear of from now on.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read History to know your enemy 17 April 2010
By Patricia H. Parker - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This was an excellent book for me on several levels. First, there is a love story which lasts a lifetime even though the principals can't marry. Her father, who is Emperor, has ordained that she not ever marry as she is his most favored daughter and is taking the place of her deceased mother who was the Emperor's Shadow Counselor as his advisor. This is the Emperor who built the Taj Mahal for his wife who had died in childbirth, and he never remarried. Remarried is a misleading word here as these men had harems, but he never again created the kind of relationship he had with his wife with any other woman. The Princess' lover is an Amir which seems to mean he was a highly placed noble and soldier. These two people somehow manage to remain a couple through all the machinations of their homeland.

As for the homeland, the reader will see many names with which we, here in the United States, have become familiar. Among them are Quandahar, Lahore, Kashmir and more. They are of the Mughal people and the history which is in this book is very enlightening. I, for instance, didn't know that the Mughal people are Persians who left Persia after a massive revolution made them unwelcome in their homeland. As with the Persians, they are Muslims. There is a map in the front of the book and a glossary in the back. I found that the glossary was not really needed, but the map is very interesting because it shows that this people ruled over most of the subcontinent of India. What we now call India was known as the Deccant and was a very small portion of that country which was mostly, Hindu. The timing on this book is the early to mid 17th Century. The Raj is not yet in place but the men of the British and Dutch East India Companies have visited. Sir Thomas Roe is mentioned as a not very well regarding visitor.

I am not that familiar with the history which took place after this time except that the Hindu population seems to have grown in power so that by 1945 and Independence from British rule, the Muslims, who had been such great conquerors were given a very small portion of the subcontinent in what we know as Pakistan. This book is not all love and romance, the innerworkings of succession to the throne among the Emperor's children make Richard III and Henry Tudor look like pikers. The wars and confusion which these battles bring may have been what made it so easy for the British to take power from the Mughals and give it over to the Hindus.

I loved this book and have already requested the author's other books from the library. By the way, she tells of an incident which may make the land in Afghanistan very valuable in telling of the loss of half of the Treasury from Lahore which was lost down a snow filled mountain crevice during a retreat and has never been recovered. The level of riches and power which these people held will amaze you. This is a fun read, both entertaining and educating.
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