Beneath a Marble Sky

Beneath a Marble Sky

4.5 79
by John Shors
     
 

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Journey to dazzling seventeenth-century Hindustan, where the reigning emperor, consumed with grief over the tragic death of his beloved wife, commissioned the building of a grand mausoleum as a testament to the marvel of their love. This monument would soon become known as the Taj Mahal—a sight famous around the world for its beauty and the emotions it

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Overview

Journey to dazzling seventeenth-century Hindustan, where the reigning emperor, consumed with grief over the tragic death of his beloved wife, commissioned the building of a grand mausoleum as a testament to the marvel of their love. This monument would soon become known as the Taj Mahal—a sight famous around the world for its beauty and the emotions it symbolizes.

Princess Jahanara, the courageous daughter of the emperor and his wife, recounts their mesmerizing tale, while sharing her own parallel story of forbidden love with the celebrated architect of the Taj Mahal. Set during a time of unimaginable wealth and power, murderous sibling rivalries, and cruel despotism, this impressive novel sweeps you away to a historical Hindustan brimming with action and intrigue in an era when, alongside the brutalities of war and oppression, architecture and the art of love and passion reached a pinnacle of perfection.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Shors's spirited debut novel tells the story of the eldest daughter of the 17th-century emperor who built the Taj Mahal. From her self-imposed exile, Jahanara recalls growing up in the Red Fort; the devotion her parents, Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal, had for each other; and the events that took place during the construction of the fabulous monument to their love. Although Jahan is the emperor and has many wives, Mumtaz (he calls her Taj) is his soul mate, a constant companion and wise political consultant. She even travels with him into battle, where she eventually dies giving birth to their 14th child. Fortunately, she has the foresight to begin preparing her favorite daughter, Jahanara, by instructing the girl in the arts of influence and political strategy. Thus the young woman is able to pick up where her savvy mother left off. From then on it is Jahanara who advises the emperor, often instead of her dreamy brother, Dara, who is the rightful heir to the throne. It is she who helps with construction of the magnificent mausoleum for Mumtaz's remains and who falls in love with its architect, Isa, a man whom she can never marry. And it is she who leads a failed effort to defend the throne against a coup by her evil brother, Aurangzeb. With infectious enthusiasm and just enough careful attention to detail, Shors give a real sense of the times, bringing the world of imperial Hindustan and its royal inhabitants to vivid life. (May 28) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
In his debut, Shors offers a glimpse into the politics and intrigue of the 17th-century court of India during and after the construction of the Taj Mahal as a mausoleum for the beloved wife of Mughul emperor Shah Jahan. Told through the eyes of the emperor's daughter, the story contrasts the opulence of the court with the desperate poverty of the citizens; we also see the influence of women on political decisions and the perpetual tensions between religious fundamentalism and tolerance. The book is a thrilling tale of the interactions of characters recognizable for their loyalty, duplicity, and passion and will appeal to a wide audience. The author has included enough accurate details to make regular readers of historical fiction happy, too. Highly recommended for all libraries.-Kim Uden Rutter, Antioch, IL Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A woman's take on the famous monument as the Emperor's daughter recalls her part in its construction and her survival through treachery and war. With lively period detail and a surfeit of villains, the story that Princess Jahanara reveals to her two granddaughters is a hyperactive saga where plot trumps insight. Now an old woman, Jahanara, thinking it time to tell the two girls the truth about their lineage, returns to the past to explain why they have been kept ignorant of their imperial connections. Her childhood was happy; her mother, Mumtaz Mahal, was not only adored by her father, the Emperor Shah Jehan, but she was frequently consulted in matters of state. She was especially close to Jahanara, with whom she shared her insights into statecraft, but when she died in childbirth, the family began to disintegrate. Jehan's grief was such that he failed to discipline son Aurangzeb, a brutal warmonger who resented brother Dara, the presumptive heir, and allowed Jahanara to marry Khondamir, a coarse and abusive trader. Obsessed with building a memorial to his wife, Jehan began the construction of the Taj Mahal on the banks of the nearby river. Soon Jahanara is not only helping with the construction but is in love with the architect, Isa. Contrite about her unhappy marriage, the Emperor encourages her to have a secret affair with Isa, and she bears a daughter, Arjumand. But the times are dangerous, and Aurangzeb is not only an ambitious, religious bigot but especially suspicious of Jahanara, whom he fears wants to kill him. He imprisons Jahanara and her father, the Emperor, in the Red Fort; Isa and Arjumand flee, only to be enslaved by a rival sultan; and Jahanara is raped in prison bytreacherous Khondamir. Wars and betrayals are commonplace as Aurangzeb fights to consolidate his succession, and Jahanara must endure much travail before she finds a safe haven. An overly action-packed debut, but agreeably colorful nonetheless.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780929701974
Publisher:
McPherson & Company
Publication date:
05/28/2013
Pages:
332
Sales rank:
108,597
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.80(d)

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
“[A] spirited debut novel ...With infectious enthusiasm and just enough careful attention to detail, Shors gives a real sense of the times, bringing the world of imperial Hindustan and its royal inhabitants to vivid life.”—Publishers Weekly

“Jahanara is a beguiling heroine whom readers will come to love; none of today’s chick-lit heroines can match her dignity, fortitude and cunning…Elegant, often lyrical, writing distinguishes this literary fiction from the genre known as historical romance. It is truly a work of art, rare in a debut novel.”—The Des Moines Register

“An exceptional work of fiction...A gripping account.”—India Post

Beneath a Marble Sky is a passionate, lush, and dramatic novel, rich with a sense of place. John Shors is an author of sweeping imaginative force.”—Sandra Gulland, author of The Josephine B. Trilogy

“[A] story of romance and passion…A wonderful book if you want to escape to a foreign land while relaxing in your porch swing.”—St. Petersburg Times

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