Narrated by Panchaali, the wife of the five Pandava brothers, The Palace of Illusions finally gives a woman's take on the timeless tale that is the Mahabharata. Tracing Panchaali's life from fiery birth and lonely childhood, where her beloved brother is her only true companion; through her complicated friendship with the enigmatic Krishna; to marriage, motherhood, and her secret attraction to the mysterious man who is her husbands most dangerous enemy, it's a deeply human story about a woman born into a man's world.
I completed my long awaited TBR book about a weeks ago. But writing a review has been real hard. The main reason is because I have not read the full epic Mahabharatha. Though written by Ved Vyas, it strikes a balance between both the genders. I do agree I have not read it yet, but there are a lot of stories, stories told by our grand parents, stories that have become our lessons in school, stories that truly etch a character in our heart. I did not know till I read this novel that Panchaali was dark because the Panchaali I knew was from the "Mahabharath" serial telecasted every Sunday when I was a little girl. I still do not know if her attraction or crush towards Karna is true. I cannot believe it because Panchaali is worshipped as one of the five women (Sita, Tara, Mandodari, Savithiri, Panchaali) known for their virtue. And the part that Kunti and Panchaali were normal women fighting take control over Pandavas was again absurd. Both were intelligent and gone through much hardship to understand the way of life. Finally, the epic closes with the final journey towards salvation. As a dutiful wife Panchaali follows them but perishes first. According to my knowledge, it is regarded that Panchaali's only sin was that she loved Arjun more than anyone else. But the novel takes a different light in this regard. No doubt that Karna's character wins everyone's soft corner but doesn't mean the whole epic be manipulated to the author's imagination.
Never the less, it was a very riveting novel. The author uses monologue throughout and has managed to tie every story together seamlessly. Retelling the epic in a women's view is not simple, but I think the full capabilities of these women are not totally reflected. Most of their qualities are tarnished with Lust, Desire, Revenge, Anger and Curse. Many of the stories made me nostalgic and I appreciate her effort of making the biggest of epics into a novel of 384 pages. Every part was as important as the Palace of illusions part, but since it was the trigger for the main cause of the war, it is only fitting that the author has selected this title for the novel.