The good: Salman Rushdie's prose style is sensuous, his imagination seemingly unlimited. The book weaves a strand of fact, fiction, and magic that is often entertaining. Rushdie calls it his most researched novel and attaches a long bibliography. Niccolo Machiavelli appears as an important character, and the winding history of Genghis Khan's descendants in the Mughal court seems accurate, at least to my untrained eye. East and West collide, coexist, and intermingle, through stories and sex. The narrative has many layers, and it creates considerable suspense in how they will link. What is the truth behind Mogor dell'Amore, or Niccolo Vepucci, the blond Italian, who arrives in India claiming to be of Mughal royal blood?
The bad: In the best magical realism, magic deepens the human aspect of the novel. Think of One Hundred Years of Solitude. The endless rains after the strike massacre surely are cousins of tears. In the Enchantress of Florence, magic is its own end. Its purpose is to accentuate Rushdie's cleverness and sometimes to drive the plot in an not too compelling way. An invisible wife, love potions, a childbearing mirror-- JRR Tolkein did better with these materials.
The ugly: The book remains about the writing, not the plot or characters. The apparent russian dolls of the narrative are never put back together; the denouement is fundamentally unsatisfying. The author's brilliance leaves little room for others to shine. Sensuous style ends up indulgent; it is far from Rushdie's best.