Thursday, January 14, 2016

Book Review: The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Divakaruni

I'm an avid reader but my genres were restricted. Earlier, I hardly thought beyond contemporary women/romance. But, recently I experimented with different genres and realized that it has helped me to grow as a reader (or maybe even as a writer, in the long run).

As I talk about different genres, mythology came as a pleasant surprise! I started reading “The Palace of Illusions” by Chitra Divakaruni and found myself totally engrossed.

My brother and author of yet another nice Hindi mythological fiction (Swayamvar), Nilabh Verma suggested me to read a Hindi novel Draupadi (Yajnaseni in English) by Pratibha Ray.  Encouraged by the interesting elements in Draupadi, ordered The Palace of Illusions (Thanks to Jyoti who suggested it as a must read!).

The Palaceof Illusions is a wonderful retelling of Mahabhratha. I have always felt that Mahabharatha has incredible interesting elements and quite ahead of its time. Being told by the most powerful woman character of Mahabharatha, Draupadi, it worked best for me!

The book starts with these powerful lines from Innana’s Journey to Hell:
Who is your sister? I am she.
Who is your mother? I am she.
Day dawns the same for you and me.

The book beautifully tells about Draupadi’s lonely childhood and her special bond with her brother and dhai maa, her loving caretaker. Her special friendship with Krishna. Her special, secret feelings for Karna.

Words by Ved Vyas in this book (To Draupadi) are striking and I feel they are base of Mahabharatha,

He advices Draupadi, "Three dangerous moments will come to you. The first will be just before your marriage. At that time, hold back your question. The second will be when your husbands are at the height of power. At that time, hold back your laughter. The third will be when you're shamed as you'd never imagined possible. At that time, hold back your curse."

But then, he had said rightly that Draupadi's destiny was too powerful for him to change.

Chapters are wisely arranged that stand individually, and carry little lesser known stories. Although very well-known, each of them, characters are brilliantly portrayed. You will feel attached to them, especially Karna and Krishna. The attitude that Draupadi exhibits in this book, I wanted to know what was she going to do next even though I knew, and this is the beauty of this book. You want to keep reading even though you know what may happen.

The language is beautiful, perfectly suitable for mythology. I found myself floating with the words.

There’re two things that I found disturbing. First, there’s a POV swap, from first to third. I didn't get the need, if done purposefully. And second, I waited for Arjun’s feelings and reaction when Draupadi finally becomes 'his' wife, but that went without being mentioned. But, I liked the book so much that I happily ignored that!

Overall, it was a mesmerizing read that filled me with a sense of loss and fulfillment at the same time!

Highly recommended to every book lover (irrespective of genre, of course!)


  1. Have heard some kickass stuff on it. Yet to read it though... your review makes me want to even more!

  2. Kickass stuff?:) You must read this! Thanks for visiting!

  3. I had read this a couple of years ago... and I am sure that I would not mind rereading it! nice review :)

  4. Thank you @Locomente! Even I won't mind reading this book again, few years later.

  5. Oh yes, I loved this one; couldn't stop raving about it. Glad you enjoyed it too. :)

  6. Same goes with me. Thank you Shanaya for visiting my blog.