‘Our Empire had an abundance of everything- except trust and loyalty.’ says Jahanara. Daughter Shah Jahan; sister to Aurangzeb; wife to none and as aptly titled, lonely Mistress to the (Cursed) Throne.
Steeped in debauchery & deceit; forbidden lusts & chilling cruelty. The Mughal Empire has always been a source of curiosity and wonder at their culture and their architecture.
However, there is a turbulent atmosphere within the palaces. There is deep insecurity for personal safety; burning ambitions and raging envy that lead brother to kill brother; sister to torture sister and son to imprison father!
Particularly deep chilling moments burst out, surprisingly, not from the blood-lusty men…***Spoiler alert…but from the frustrated and ill-fated women of the Empire. (Raushanhara’s lovers are boiled to death by the creator of Taj Mahal! Equally blood-curdling is the cruelty that drives Raushanhara to roast alive her younger sister’s lover!) Spoiler ends***
In spite of the female protagonist, the men get a fair deal in terms of character development, emotions and bravura. Especially noteworthy, Aurangzeb is not reduced to a sinister caricature. Instead we see his lonely childhood, under the relentless misguidance of NoorJahan. We also see his martial exploits and competent generalship; and yet see him facing constant ridicule from Shah Jahan.
If anything, it made me want to re-read the superb Marathi novel, Shahenshah by N.S Inamdar. (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16204056-shahenshah?from_search=true).
Note: I have not read Indu Sundareshan’s Mughal series. So no scope for comparisons there.
Verdict: Ruchir has evidently researched thoroughly and sifted through emotional depths instead of skimming the surface. Recommended, especially for Mughal era fans and History buffs.