“Some women are lost in the fire. Some women are built from it.” -Michelle K, Some
This book follows the life of one such woman who was built from fire – Draupadi. She was a fire born princess who longed for love and acceptance from her family, a wife to five of the most powerful heroes of her time (who was not given the choice of a monogamous marriage), an absentee mother and the queen of the most magical palace to ever exist.
Draupadi was the one woman who stood out in the epic tale of Mahabharata, which was set in a time and age dominated by men. In those times, the men were the ones who took center stage. It was always about their strengths, their struggles, their egos and their opinions.
So, when I came to know about the plot of this book, I was excited to read it. For one, the author chose to re-write the epic from a woman’s perspective, and more importantly, the narrator was the formidable Draupadi. How could I resist? The way I look at it, in terms of concept, the author had hit the literary equivalent of a bullseye.
In this book, Draupadi is neither a victim, nor a one dimensional vengeance seeker that she is often portrayed to be. She is shown as a fiercely independent, rebellious woman, who wants to take her destiny into her own hands.
The author did a wonderful job of sticking to the script of the original epic, and also managed to add something new to it by exploring the love story of Draupadi & Karna- the classic tragic hero.
The writing is simple, clean and straightforward. It was good to see that the author made her narrator the lens through which we see the story, but not necessarily the epicenter of all events. This ensured that the book did not come across as ‘Draupadi’s Random Recollections’. The story has a good flow and continuity, which will also enable someone new to the epic to follow the sequence of events.
I also liked the fact that the author chose to write about the circumstances after the great war, and the negative repercussions of the war that the victorious side had to deal with. It was interesting to read about how they resurrected their kingdom after the devastation of the war, the several years of Pandava rule that followed, and their final journey on a hill, especially because not much has been written about the post war period.
Most importantly, the book is concluded masterfully. I can’t say enough good things about the last chapter of this book. It is beautiful, magical and simply perfect. As soon as I finished reading the book, I re-read the last chapter. I never do that. It is THAT awesome.
However, there is one thing about the book that bothered me. As I read it, I couldn’t shake off the feeling that the author seemed to have a slight negative bias against her narrator. It is a subtle bias, but it is there. If this can be overlooked, the book could easily pass off as Draupadi’s autobiography. Nonetheless, like I said, the ending was beautiful, and I will forgive a lot for a beautiful ending.
All in all, the book is an interesting insight into the mind of one of the most fascinating women in Indian history (yes history, not mythology).
My Favorite Quotes/Lines from the Book:
“Can our actions change our destiny? Or are they like sand piled against the breakage in a dam, merely delaying the inevitable?”
“Expectations are like hidden rocks in your path- all they do is trip you up.”
“Wisdom that isn’t distilled in our own crucible can’t help us.”
“I am buoyant and expansive and uncontainable – but I always was so, only I never knew it!”
Links: The Palace of Illusions (Amazon) The Palace of Illusions (Flipkart)
I would love to hear from you guys. Have you read this book? How did you find it? Did you love the ending as much as I did? Also, Indian Historical Fiction is one of my favorite genres to read, and I am always on the lookout for some great reads. Do you have any recommendations?
Lots of Love Shantala
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