02 April, 2014

#BookReview :: Mistress of the Throne by Ruchir Gupta

1631. The Empress of India Mumtaz Mahal has died. Yet, rather than anoint one of his several other wives to take her place as Empress of India, Mughal King Shah Jahan anoints his seventeen-year-old daughter Jahanara as the next Queen of India. 

Bearing an almost identical resemblance to her mother, Jahanara is the first ever daughter of a sitting Mughal King to be anointed queen. She is reluctant to accept this title, but does so in hopes of averting the storm approaching her family and Mughal India. Her younger siblings harbor extreme personalities from a liberal multiculturalist (who views religion as an agent of evil) to an orthodox Muslim (who views razing non-Muslim buildings as divine will).

Meanwhile, Jahanara struggles to come to terms with her own dark reality: as the daughter of a sitting King, she is forbidden to marry. Thus, while she lives in the shadow of her parents unflinching love story, she is devastated by the harsh reality that she is forbidden to share such a romance with another. 

Mistress of the Throne narrates the powerful story of one of Indias most opulent and turbulent times through the eyes of an unsuspecting character: a Muslim queen. It uses actual historical figures to illuminate the complexity of an era that has often been called Indias Golden Age.

Welcome to the drama of the... Mughal Dynasty!

History has remembered Shah Jahan as an Emperor and as a loving husband who built Taj Mahal in memory of his wife Mumtaz. But it is Shah Jahan’s daughter, Jahanara was, and still is through this book, the Mistress of the Throne and this is her story.

When Mumtaz died, Shah Jahan named Jahanara as the next Empress of India instead of naming one of his other wives. On one hand, as the daughter of a ruling she is forbidden to marry and try and find the kind of love that her father had found with Mumtaz. On the other hand, she has her duties to the throne as her siblings war each other. And let’s not forget her duties as a sister and a daughter! It is not an easy task for anyone to shoulder such responsibilities at the age of seventeen. She struggles and overcomes each hurdle that is put in front of her and emerged as this strong woman of much grit. 

For people like me, who has only the basic knowledge of history, Shah Jahan was an Emperor who built the Taj Mahal, Aurangzeb was the Emperor with extremist mentality and Dara was the brother that Aurangzeb killed to gain the throne. Beyond that any knowledge that I have is through Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay’s “Rajshingho” novel. There were mentions of Jahanara and Raushanara there and that’s all I knew about Jahanara. So stepping into the past with Ruchir Gupta was an experience that I thoroughly enjoyed. I was introduced to new characters, got reacquainted with familiar names and learned nuances of the politics of those days.  The author has done extensive research and it is evident in this book. From dates to events, the author has stuck to the real history as closely as possible. I did google a few names and dates randomly to check them out and they did check out. 

The author has crisp language and flawless narration style and added to the fair experience of this book. Even after reading over 300 pages, I felt that the book should have gone on. I didn’t want to let it go and accept that I was done reading it. One of these days I will pick it up again. And my, isn’t the cover just gorgeous? 

I really hope that the author is currently hard at work on another exquisite novel. In the meantime, every time another Chetan Bhagat book is turned into a movie, I am left wondering what happened to reading ‘Good Fiction’! Its time like those that Authors like Ruchir Gupta restores my faith in IWE. People… there are authors who work hard, do research and come up with genuinely good fiction… why do you have to go buy trash when you can buy books like these to encourage them a bit?

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