Well, I’ve been debating about writing a post about this book, The Twentieth Wife by Indu Sundaresan and I’m not sure that I can exactly articluate why I didn’t want to write about it…..

For starters, it was a very large novel at 371 (an epic or historical as historical fiction is known as). Not that I don’t like large and epic books, I just really thought this would be a bit smaller, more like John Shors’ Beneath a Marble Sky which comes in around 368 pages. That’s really not a short book after all! But somehow, I started comparing the two novels and Beneath a Marble Sky was just such a wonderful book, that it was hard to really get into The Twentieth Wife.  It’s possible that if I had reversed the order of reading these novels, I would be thinking differently as I write this. Timing is always the essence, isn’t it? Both authors write about imperial Hundastan, but from diverged perspectives and presented differently.

There were certainly elements of The Twentieth Wife that I enjoyed and appreciated. The descriptions of war and the elegance of the court of Akbar and of Mumtaz Mahal (the “Twentieth Wife” and also named “Mehrunnisa”) and Shah Jahan (also named Prince Salim) in India were very good. However, I found at least two instances of the storyline repeating itself using almost the same language with a mirroring of characters. It was also filled with some fluffy romance that seemed a bit contrived. I was a little bored with that, to be honest.

And again, Beneath a Marble Sky was just so outstanding (Shors is a CO author) who wrote exquisitely, complete with heart-pounding scenes, artistic depictions of the Taj Mahal, travelogue-worthy descriptions of the land of India and her shores, and a heart-rending love story. I would read this book at least once more and I’m sure I would discover new emotions and twists in the cherised story of Jahanara (daughter of Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan) and her elicit, yet lovely relationship with the architect of the Taj Mahal who is known as Isa.

I highly recommend John Shors’ Beneath a Marble Sky and I recommend The Twentieth Wife with reservations (with a grain of salt perhaps?).

Anyway, read on! And here’s to a great new year filled with even more books! Happy New Year!

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