Pocket, Feb 2002, 24.00, 320 pp.
Though too young and way beneath his station, Mehrunnisa, the daughter of a Persian courtier to the Mughal Empire, plans to one day wed the heir apparent to the throne Salim. The very intelligent eight-year-old Mehrunnisa knows she needs a plan if she is to achieve her impossible dream of marrying her beloved whom barely knows she exists.
A few years later Mehrunnisa is forced to marry a cruel soldier. Besides abuse from her odious spouse, she suffers several miscarriages. However, she ultimately succeeds in gaining more than just the attention of Salim, who is now the Emperor Jahangir, she shares passion with him. Finally, Mehrunnisa accomplishes her dream goal, but though now a powerhouse empress she and her family paid quite a price for her attaining her childhood desires that she never let go of as an adult.
Historical fiction readers that relish a deep look at seventeenth century India will gain much pleasure from this descriptive tale. The story line is loaded with historical references with a very illuminating portrayal of Mughal court life. However, the wealth of information, which seems authentic to this pre-school novice on the history of India, overwhelms the characters and thus undercuts the prime tale of Mehrunnisa's efforts to become the empress. Indu Sundaresan provides a vivid tale that the hard core sub-genre audience will want to read, but the weak characters make it difficult for casual fans to care what happens to Mehrunnisa or anyone else.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner