Jun 5

The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni | Book Review


“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).

Rating: 5/5

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!”

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

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  1. This sounds like an interesting book. Not an appealing genre for me though. 🙂
    Rachna recently posted…June is hereMy Profile

  2. Lata Sunil says:

    Shanaya, I am reading this book currently and its simply awesome. I was checking if you also felt it awesome. The woman’s perspective has made a lot of difference to the story. And the love for Karna, has been hinted upon by Devdutt Pattnaik too in his book Jaya. Imagine, if she had married Karna, the story changes completely. She would still be queen of the eldest Pandava. Duryodhan may have accepted Karna as King. And Draupadi need not have married five of them, the war would have been averted. Just a thought.

    • Oh yes. Things would have been very different had Karna participated and won the Swayamvar. However, in some versions of the epic that I have read, they have speculated that if Karna had participated and won the Swayamvar, he would have done it on Duryodhan’s behalf. Draupadi would then be Duryodhan’s wife/queen, which I guess is not too bad, as she just might have been able to drill some sense into the guy. 😛
      Shanaya Tales recently posted…The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni | Book ReviewMy Profile

  3. This book has been in my ‘To Read’ list for quite a while now.

    Once I’m done with my current lot of books, I’m picking this one.
    Soumya recently posted…Finding ClosureMy Profile

  4. I have heard so much about this book. I must read it asap. Thanks for recommending it, Shantala and good to see you back 🙂
    Shilpa Garg recently posted…WitnessMy Profile

  5. What a great review, I am sure it a great read!

  6. I have heard about this book earlier. But your review wants me to buy it and start reading itbasap! Thanks for sharing!
    Nibha recently posted…For One Last Time, I Turned Back!My Profile

  7. I’m going to add that to my TBR book. It sounds very interesting. I’ve missed your posts.
    Susan Gourley recently posted…Good Habits and Already HomeMy Profile

  8. Hi Shanaya,
    This is an interesting review. Had read about the book earlier too.
    Couldn’t understand one point though, What exactly do you mean by “the author seemed to have a slight negative bias against her narrator. ” Would you mind elaborating this?
    Somali K Chakrabarti recently posted…Brand Story of Fabindia : Blending modern designs- traditional patternsMy Profile

  9. The review was wonderful!Did perfect justice to the book! This is one of my favorite books!
    The part that stayed with me was Draupadi’s feeling that she was unwanted right from the start…her father wasn’t expecting her..she just came into existence. And that feeling carried throughout. She got what she never wanted and never got what she wanted! My heart went out to her by the time finished reading this!
    the little princess recently posted…Awards!My Profile

  10. I have not heard of this book, but your review makes me want to read it. I’ve never liked Indian Historical fiction so far… whatever little bit I have read it… until I came across Titli’s A-Z this year. In fact, I had given up on that genre completely before her series!
    It’s good to see you active again here. I missed your posts last month.
    Kaddu recently posted…My Favorite FruitMy Profile

  11. I am a huge fan of Chitra Banerjee book. A balanced review that makes me wanna grab a copy.

  12. Heard about the book and the praises too. Yet to read it and with time away from social media now I have a huge list to get through so will add this to the pile too. If you liked this you will love the Campfire graphic novel by Saraswati Nagpal on Draupadi the fire born princess. I reviewed it on my parenting blog. Gy loves it and so do I 🙂
    Shailaja recently posted…Healing the cracksMy Profile

  13. Wonderful review, Shanaya…i am not much into books especially history, but this looks like a good one if i ever have to 🙂
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  14. Came here through the Book Club Blog Tours. Loved your review, would make anyone want to read the book. Am trying to improve my reviews and I believe I have lessons here on your blog 🙂

  15. One of my favourite books till date. And guess what, this is the only book I have reviewed on my blog till date.
    Jyotsna Bhatia recently posted…Doused FireMy Profile

  16. Hello….enjoyed reading your take on this book…
    I too am an avid reader and I write about the books I have read ,on my blog…
    If u wish you can check out my views on this book at : writetothepoint.blogspot.com

  17. Shantala, now I want to read this book and I won’t rest till I get it. Thank you for putting in so much time and effort in reviewing books. Makes the job so easy for the readers. Your review is extremely well written. Can’t wait to get my hands on this one.

  18. Perfect review! I agree with almost all the points that you’ve mentioned about the book. This book was a refreshing change in a perspective. A woman’s point of view is always far interesting 😛

  19. That’s a fabulous and detailed review Shantala. You have convinced me to read the book. At the cost of sounding pompous, it’s a joy to read your error free blog. 🙂

  20. you surely have increased my interest… the storyline sounds so powerful and intriguing. Already looking out for an ebook 🙂
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  21. Shantala – I finished reading the book last week and it’s awesome. Totally a recommend from my side too.
    I read your review and you have done a great job! Honest and to the point!
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  22. Definitely picking this one. I have always wondered how Draupadi felt. I never knew this book had Draupadi as the protagonist though have heard so much about it. Sigh.my to be read list is getting longer ?

  23. Okay, now how did I miss this one? I will surely pick this one up right away! Thanks for such an honest review! 🙂
    Shalini recently posted…When the going gets tough… #jobanniversaryMy Profile

  24. Awesome and detailed review Shantala. Have been hearing a lot about this book. It’s on my TBR. Will get to it one day when my mood shifts more towards this genre. 😀
    I have been hearing a lot about Kavita Kane – Sita’s sister and more. Her recent release is a book on Menaka. The cover is truly droolworthy. I am planning to get that one for sure
    Menaka’s Choice: http://www.amazon.in/dp/812913733X

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