Book Review Title of the Book: The Empress of Indraprastha (Entering Kuruvansh) Author's Name: Sonali Raje Available on: Amazon India / Amazon Global
Little did I know that I would be lucky enough to come across Sonali Raje who suddenly got in touch with me on Twitter and introduced me to her creative world which is immensely beautiful. She sent me her book for review and I was touched by her humbleness exhibited by her! And then I realized why they say only a fruit-laden tree knows how to bow down! Sonali has been bestowed with talents that make her balance Science & Literature in her busy life. This book is her debut attempt.
I thoroughly enjoyed her book and hence I am writing this review along with the author’s interview for everyone wanting to explore genres to read and add this book to their TBR list. I wish the author all the very best in her future endeavors.
About the Author:
Sonali Raje works as an associate professor of Chemistry at Towson University. An alumnus of IIT, Mumbai, and a US full bright Scholar, she lives in Maryland with her husband and two kids. This book is her debut novel. If you want to know more about her, please read the entire article where I had the honor to interview her & she gladly poured her heart out!
The book takes you on a journey in a time when India was ‘Bharata’ and there was no notion of a unified land. Rather there were scattered territories trying to protect their own sovereignty. The brilliant storytelling swiftly transports the readers to that bygone era and helps create visualizations that keep the readers hooked till the very last minute.
Book Cover & Title:
The book cover is my absolute favorite! It is so magical and dreamy that it has the capability to captivate anyone laying eyes on it. And the title is self-explanatory and gives a hint that the story revolves around the protagonist projected on the cover page. The blurb is also thoughtfully presented to attract the attention of the readers.
“ The Empress of Indraprastha entering kuruvansh” is the debut attempt by the author but this has all the elements that a book of a seasoned writer should have. The main protagonist here is Draupadi from the epic Mahabharata. The story is from her viewpoint and the author meticulously takes the readers into the storyline. Draupadi existed at a time when women led very suppressed lives and many times found herself in situations where she has to make choices. And every time, she proves that her choices are bold and unconventional. She has a voice of her own, is opinionated, and does not shy away from speaking her mind! She is a strong daughter raised by a strong mother. She is a seeker and is way ahead of her time in terms of her thought process! One of the quotes from the book (below where Draupadi is having a discussion with Krishna) showcases this persona.
“Who and what is morally or ethically right, Krishna ?” I asked him, as I looked at him for guidance.
What I loved is how the writer balanced out the characterization of each character in the book! I particularly enjoyed how intricately the complicacies of the dynamic polyandrous marriage of Draupadi with the Pandavas have been established and explained. There is humor, wit, anger & resentment in situations that arise before her, and the way the protagonist deals with each of these emotions has been very lucidly portrayed. Her special love for Arjun and the way they communicate in a subtle manner without actually speaking to each other is what I loved the most. The characters of Nakul & Sahadev have been projected with detail, unlike many other books that are based on the epic of Mahabharat.
Another striking factor of the book is that the flaws of each character have been brilliantly put across making it seem very relatable. For instance, Draupadi who at first vehemently opposes marrying all the five brothers understands the gravity of the matter and then changes her mind and agrees to go for it. And once she becomes part of the Kuruvansh, feels jealous when Yudhistir wants her permission to attend a swayamvar so that the sovereignty of Hastinapur is enhanced. Is it not true that a woman who starts loving a man truly, finds it extremely hard to share him with anyone else? Are these emotions of anger, resentment, and jealousy not a sign of a woman’s true love? This has been beautifully depicted in the book by the author. The politics and the power games, the dilemma between righteousness and desires, the sibling love, and the childhood incidents that have an impact on one’s life come into the picture in this book.
All the characters have been given due importance and weightage in the story. The portrayal of Krishna has the required amount of mystery in it. I was intrigued from page one this book is one of the best which focuses on many hidden facts that readers can explore themselves What I wanted more from this book was it could have been a little longer because I did not want it to end so soon! . But then the Author has this book as just part one and there are four more books in the queue for the readers!
So, all I can say is that this is a must-read for all the readers who love mythological fiction where the author has taken the creative liberty to carve out the personality of the Empress of Indraprastha. I strongly recommend this to my readers.
Let us know more about the Author in the below section.
My rendezvous with the Author
Q1- How would you let yourself known to the world?
I am an associate professor of Chemistry at Towson University. I am an alumnus of the Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai and a U.S. Fulbright Scholar. I live in Maryland with my husband and two kids. I am a self-professed chocoholic and Potter-head. I love spending time with my friends and family, hiking, watching tennis, and volunteering at a local hospital. “The Empress of Indraprastha – Entering Kuruvansh” is my debut novel.
Q2- How did writing happen?
While I have over 20 years of technical and scientific writing experience, creative writing was something I had not done since my Class 12 English essay, over three decades back. I had never been involved in blogging either, simply because there was neither any expectation nor any interest to get involved in creative writing. That was… until I read The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni and Karna’s Wife by Kavita Kane. As I read through the books, there were parts that evoked “oh wow” moments and parts of them that evoked “Oh, come on now” moments. It was this dichotomy, this power of their respective pens, that prompted me to come out of my comfort zone and write my own version of Draupadi’s story.
Q3- Science or literature or both? Your perspective on it.
At a Diwali celebration last year, I saw a table décor banner. It said- “A balanced diet is a laddoo in each hand.” I don’t agree. I think a balanced diet is “A chakli in one hand and a laddoo in another.” You need both, sugar and spice in your life. It’s the same with science and literature. Science is unyielding, and practical whereas literature allows your imagination and spirit to grow. In some ways, you need great imagination power to be successful in both fields. Society needs to be exposed to both fields.
Q4- Why did you choose mythological fiction? Any incident that prompted you to take it up?
Some stories stay with you long after you close the book. Having read multiple versions of the Mahabharat, I felt that the stories that I had read were fabulous and yet they lacked the character depth that I was looking for, as a reader. Especially Nakul-Sahdev seemed to be almost non-existent in those stories. At one point I read a quote somewhere that said, “If you can’t find a story that you’d like to read, write it yourself.” And that’s what I did… Honestly, there was no expectation of anyone else reading it and I am extremely grateful to God that people are enjoying the book.
Q5- Tell us about your book and the journey with it.
Draupadi is my second favorite character in the epic. All the books that have been written from her point-of-view, were single stand-alone novels. Most of the stuff I had read portrayed her either as a victim of fate or an arrogant, rebellious feisty person or as someone who was born to change the world. While there is ample reason for these perspectives, personally I found them to be either deifying or demonizing her. I just wanted to show the rationale behind Draupadi’s word choices in the pivotal incidents in her life. Brave women undoubtedly stand up to injustice against them- which she did. But then another aspect of being a strong woman also includes empowering other women. The five-part series was symbolic, since I was writing about Draupadi, it was best to divide her life into five parts. When I started writing in 2018, there was no intention to publish, I wrote for myself. But then my then teenage daughter, suggested that I try sending it out to potential publishers. I didn’t have any contacts in the industry, so I just randomly sent out my entire manuscript to publishers. Eventually, I learned that there is something called a submission package. So, I made mine according to the submission guidelines. I went through my fair share of rejections and then I had two other publishers who were interested in the work. When Vishwakarma Publications acquired it, it was a dream come true because Vishwakarma was the celestial architect who designed the city of Indraprastha. So, it was quite a bit of a divine coincidence.
Q6- This book is the first of a series. When do the readers expect the next lot of books?
One book per year, that’s the goal. Part 2 should be out in mid-2023.
Q7- Do you think Epics like Mahabharata have relevance in today’s times?
Absolutely. I think the Mahabharat is one of the most progressive epics that was way ahead of its time. It is a treasure trove of excellent lessons on how to lead your life and what to avoid. The incidents are applicable to personal as well as professional life. There is so much to learn about management strategies, inclusivity, social skills, and of course, politics.
Q-8 What according to you in today’s world women learn from Draupadi, the main protagonist of the book.
I think all women should learn from her to have the courage to speak up for themselves. Be your own best advocate. I think that is the central lesson that women can learn from her life. She was gutsy enough to break the mould and enter a polyandrous marriage, something that was almost unheard of in those days. I think women today are breaking the proverbial glass ceiling and entering previously male-dominated professions. To put it succinctly, the best lesson to be learned from Draupadi’s life is to know what you want and not be afraid to pursue it, while being respectful of other people in the process.
Q-9- How easy/difficult is it to get published in India? Any tips for beginners from your side.
From what I have heard about the industry, it can be quite difficult to get published if you don’t have contacts. Also, apparently, you need a literary agent. I did not have one, I was just too ignorant about the publishing world when I was writing. I read Meghna Pant’s How to Get Published in India, cover to cover- except for the chapter on how to write your story because I had already written mine and I was not going to change it in any way. That book helped me a lot, it gave insider tips on the publishing process, and I have been recommending it to everyone. I am aware that there are several other books in the market that offer advice also.
Surprisingly, my experience has been far more smooth- I think primarily because I was focused on writing the best possible story instead of worrying about whether it would get published.
Excellent grammar skills are a must- I would strongly recommend all amateur writers to sign up for free, short online grammar tests to determine the areas that need improvement. The easiest way to improve your grammar is by reading. A LOT. In your genre and outside it. As you read, analyze parts of a text that you enjoyed reading. Identify why you enjoyed it. Was it the use of idioms, sarcasm, or figures of speech? Is that what you would like to be able to see in your writing? Simply begin by writing about something that affected you. The scenario, your feelings, others involved in the incident, their personalities… try acting out a scene before you pen it down.
Just start typing- type disconnected sentences and ideas if you must. But get started. Assume that things will take time, and be willing to learn. Use experiences and people from everyday life and give your characters some of their traits. Make it believable and relatable. Know and respect the fact that readers are smart. They have read several books in the area that you write in, and they will easily detect a partially plagiarised idea. Read every possible piece written on the topic you plan to write about. That helps you to avoid plagiarism and gives you an avenue to figure out what has not been done before. That’s where you can unleash your creativity. And don’t worry about finding readers. Just focus on the writing. The readers will come later.
Q-10- What are your future plans with respect to writing? Anything else you want to share with us? Please feel free to do so.
For now, just focused on completing the series. In this new venture, I learned an important lesson about time management. All of us have the same amount of wealth if we measure it using the unit of time. We all have 24 hours. Each day. Make them count. Another quote I have started living by since I started writing is- If it is important to you, you will find a way. Otherwise, you will find an excuse. And, I have learned that it is never too late to start something new. For all of you reading this, if I could do it, so can you!
This book is available on the below-given links. Please grab your copy soon:
Global Amazon link https://www.amazon.com/EMPRESS-INDRAPRASTHA-Entering-Kuruvansh/dp/9393757232