I just finished reading Shadow Princess, the third book in Sundaresan's series about the women of Mughal India. Unlike the Feast of Roses (which shoul...moreI just finished reading Shadow Princess, the third book in Sundaresan's series about the women of Mughal India. Unlike the Feast of Roses (which should be preceded in reading by the Twentieth Wife), this one stands on its own.
It begins with the death of Mumtaz Mahal, the woman for whom the Taj Mahal was built, and ends with her husband's death. In between, the life of their eldest daughter, Jahanara, is told with love and historical accuracy. Part history, part travelogue, and part fiction, Sundaresan weaves the smells, sights, and sounds of India into the human stories of larger-than-life historical characters.
When I read Sundaresan's novels, I feel the heat on my skin, the cool breeze wafting through marble halls, and smell the cool smell of apples or the warm scent of naan. She writes a fairytale world of jewels and elephants, wars and stone monuments—but it's not a fairytale. The best part about getting lost in this world is that it's real.
Inlaid into this world, like precious jewels into a marble slab, are the women of the imperial zenana (the Persian word for a harem). Clad in wisps of silk and heavy jewels of all kinds, they move history with a soft word and a strong will. Women in Mughal India (according to the history I've learned from Sundaresan's books) were not allowed in public; but women in the imperial zenana, who had the ear of the most powerful men in the empire—the emperor himself and his sons—had the power to have their presence felt beyond the walls of the zenana. Sundaresan's series is about these amazing historical women and the changes they made to their country.
Jahanara, after her mother's death, finds herself at the head of her father's zenana. He had other wives, true, and one ought to have taken Mumtaz Mahal's place. But because of his love for both Mumtaz and Jahanara, it is his daughter who becomes the most powerful woman in the greatest empire in the world. And she is equal to the task. Though she is seen by few men in her life (besides the eunuchs who are her servants and guards), her presence is felt by nobleman and commoner alike. To find out in just what kinds of ways, you'll have to read for yourself.
Throughout the book, which is chiefly her story, are little chapters on the building of the Taj Mahal. From its birth in the imagination of Jahanara's father (and in the shape of the tomb built by the star of the other two novels, Mehrunnisa, Jahanara's great aunt), as the site is leveled in preparation, as it slowly begins to rise, gleaming white, from the ground, to its completion.
The relationships the women have are why I read these books. At a time when women had little to no power, Jahanara (in Shadow Princess) and Mehrunnisa (in the Twentieth Wife and the Feast of Roses) stand out as intelligent women who use their power to get things done. The men in their lives—fathers, husbands, lovers, and sons—have great love and respect for them because they defy convention, rather than in spite of that fact. Here are women (women!) who are their intellectual equals (sometimes betters), a welcome rarity. These are not coddled women who live only for the feel of silk on their skin and the weight of jewels in their hands, but real people who participate actively in the politics of their country.
It's a great read and a great ride. It makes me want to travel to India, to buy a copy for every woman I know, and to act to change my world for the better. These are not books filled with happily-ever-afters; they are books filled with the real humanity of their characters—the joys and sadnesses alike. Perhaps that is what attracts me the most: these books tell the Truth without having to sugarcoat it.
- - Obligatory fine print:cmp.ly/1 and cmp.ly/2 (because legally, I can't distinguish between them): Indu sent me a copy of the book through her publisher with the express request that I review it but without any request about what the contents of that review might be.(less)
I read this book in approximately one day. When I went to the library to check it out, the library *gasp*ed and told me I should be getting all of the...moreI read this book in approximately one day. When I went to the library to check it out, the library *gasp*ed and told me I should be getting all of the books since I'd want to read them immediately. She was right.
My major criticism is that the teenagers aren't really realistic. 17 years old and no one has had a date yet? Hard to believe. There also seems to be a "sex is dangerous" undertone to all of the main character's encounters with the vampire. He's trying to keep himself in check so he doesn't eat her, but it feels very "don't lead a guy on too much, they can barely control themselves from having sex with you when you're alone together!!!" which gets distracting.
I'm enjoying the descriptions of the Pacific Northwest & wishing I was up there. It's the perfect book to curl up with on a cold day. I wish I had more of them.
I find it interesting to see what different people do with the traditional vampire mythos and where the overlaps are. These vampires can go into the sun, but then everyone will see them for what they are; the integration of werewolves, the traditional vampiric enemy, is also quite good, especially now that I've verified she didn't just make it up. I see some overlaps with other favorite vampire works: the relationship is very Buffy/Angel (and I'm curious to see if it will disintegrate similarly) and the "tribe" that the main vampire belongs to reminds me of Vampire Hunter D (especially after we meet the tracker).
Quite a good vampire book, although since it purports to be based in reality, I find it a strange reality and sometimes difficult to get into. But looking forward to the next couple.
UPDATE: they're making it into a movie!!! Which could go either way, really. We'll see and I'll weigh in on it after having seen it.
Also, I meant to comment on the focus in the text on books. It almost feels like the author was trying to convince people that her books were intended to get teens to read more. Whenever books are mentioned, the word is repeated. And it feels strained: the main character likes books. Oh, how she likes books. or, the second main character wants to know what kinds of books she likes. They talked forever about books!(less)
This one was okay—I'm looking forward to the next one. It's what I feel to be the classic "middle" book. It serves merely as a bridge between the firs...moreThis one was okay—I'm looking forward to the next one. It's what I feel to be the classic "middle" book. It serves merely as a bridge between the first and the third. It takes place in the world that I wanted to return to (similar to the Otori books) but really wasn't much of a story at all, just dragging it out until the last book & final conflict/confrontation.
I heard that it used to be just one book and the editors convinced her to stretch it out. Unfortunately, in this book, it shows.(less)
meh. Another middle book that was unneccessary. And? I can do without the sexual assault, especially when the characters (a) don't call it out and (b)...moremeh. Another middle book that was unneccessary. And? I can do without the sexual assault, especially when the characters (a) don't call it out and (b) go on as if it didn't happen. I'm sorry, Ms. Meyer, but your patriarchy is showing.(less)
Berlinski starts by assuaging the fear of his atheist readers. He is not a theist! He proclaims, he is rather, "a secular Jew". From that description one might assume that he is of Jewish heritage and descent but does not believe in a (specifically Jewish) deity. However, this quickly is disproved as, through his arguments, Berlinski states that a deity must necessarily exist.
Contrary to most debates in internet fora, Berlinski's arguments start with ad Hitlerum arguments, broken up briefly by ad hominem attacks. Beginning with calling Harris (and his ilk, by association) a terrorist, he continues by calling them anti-Semites.
The first chapter asserts that science is a god, like any other, whose adherents refuse to admit to the existence of other deities. As evidence for this, he sites the fact that Dawkins/Harris are scientists. If this is the case, it is surely news to Harris, a philosopher.
Continuing this argument into the second chapter, Berlinski asserts that science was the cause of the Holocaust. Once again, this must surely be news to many Germans and Historians alike. Citing the fact that the world is still a horrible place (and listing the number of deaths caused by wars in the 20th century), Berlinski concludes that a deity must exist. (The argument goes something like this: since atheism is wrong, &c.) One wonders just what kind of "secular Jew" it is who argues for but does not worship a deity—perhaps there is no hell for him to go to for his lack of faith. We heretics have no such luxury.
In the third chapter, he delves into physics, a subject about which I understand admittedly little, but about which he seems to understand even less. Somewhere in there is a flying horse, but I was left unsure whether its existence was proven or disproven by neutrinos with fingers.
He continues in such baffling manner, creating "atheistic" arguments for him to refute with both theology and physics. By the end, the reader is left wondering if Berlinski believes in anything at all, a failing he notes in atheistic arguments. It seems to me that Berlinski is, in fact, an atheist. He is simply not a militant atheist, an epithet he despises and wishes so much to distance himself from that he talks himself into a theistic/atheistic corner, wanting to have it both ways, and calling all atheists who speak up fundamentalists with no grasp of logic, history, or physics.
All in all, Berlinski comes across as someone I'd love to have to dinner and who really does have some wonderful arguments against the evils of fundamentalism—be it religious or atheistic. However, his disgust of atheistic fundamentalism manifests in bizarre and, yes, entertaining ways. The Devil's Delusion: Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions is a great book to hone an atheist's analytical skills.(less)
I never thought that I would enjoy a food history, but this book is a fantastic ride (as it says, from samurai to supermarket) that made me enjoy trip...moreI never thought that I would enjoy a food history, but this book is a fantastic ride (as it says, from samurai to supermarket) that made me enjoy trips to the sushi restaurant that much more.
For anyone who likes food, especially people who like sushi, or anyone who likes Japanese history, this book as something for you!(less)
This is a must read for anyone in business or in the internet age. Of course, the whole manifesto is available online (I expect nothing less of the au...moreThis is a must read for anyone in business or in the internet age. Of course, the whole manifesto is available online (I expect nothing less of the authors of this book). The content itself is slightly repetitive. I think this comes from the fact that it's a collaborative effort and each author is telling his own story (and each is very similar) about realizing the value in the internet and what it brings to markets/business. For the generic Manager Of A Business, this repetition probably serves to drill the points into his or her head. However, for me, a convert, it got a little boring.
The gist of the book is this: The internet is a force to be reckoned with. If you refuse to participate in the conversation, it will reckon with you.(less)
I thoroughly enjoyed this! It reminded me of exactly why I love reading fantasy: the creation of new worlds that are different from our own. Sometimes...moreI thoroughly enjoyed this! It reminded me of exactly why I love reading fantasy: the creation of new worlds that are different from our own. Sometimes I read fantasy to believe in a world with magic; sometimes, a world of aliens; I read this book to believe in a world filled with bad ass women!
From the royal guardswomen whose metal bras get taxed (not for long, though), to the captive warrior who teaches a harem how to fight, and including the modern-day half-fairy who rescues her kidnapped son from Under the Hill with squirt guns, each of these chicks became my heroes.
I had been planning on passing this book on to another who might enjoy it, but now I'm thinking I may have to hang on to it, for my rereading pleasure :)(less)
This is a great story about two super-people; a hero and a villain. Every other chapter is written in their own point of view, and the general plot is...moreThis is a great story about two super-people; a hero and a villain. Every other chapter is written in their own point of view, and the general plot is predictable. Villain escapes from jail, threatens world, and is recaptured. There are some twists that make it a little more complicated than that, but the major reason I enjoyed it was the glimpse into the superhero and supervillain psyche. Their fears, their doubts, their inner most thoughts as they meet and battle, plot and plan, search and hide.
We love our heroes not because they are perfect but because they are imperfect. And this book perfectly exploits that desire. The ending is anti-climactic (I expected more than just a recapture), but again, I'm not reading this for the plot. I'm reading for the astonishing character development, the insight into mere mortals who just happen to be stronger, faster, smarter, or flamier than I.
A must-read for any fan of heroes, whether comic or mythic.(less)