The Palace of Illusions is the retelling of the great Indian epic, Mahabharata. The entire book is from point of view of Draupadi or Panchaali, the wife of the Pandavas. The story takes us to a world that includes half-history, half-myth and full magic.
The story reflects Draupadi’s life, like born from Agni or fire of yagna, friendless childhood, where her brother is her only true friend; her complex friendship with the mysterious Krishna; to marriage, maternity and her secret attraction to the undisclosed man who is her husbands’ most dangerous opponent.
WHAT I THOUGHT
Divakaruni has portrayed Draupadi in an enigmatic form. She has enlarged her independence and her fiery personality. Often Draupadi gets victimized in retelling of Mahabharata, but here she was anything but that. She is a strong intelligent woman in a world dominated by men.
The book covers the entire plot of Mahabharata even though it’s only from one point of view. Draupadi is told the events by her brother or her husbands. Dreams and intuition also plays an important role in revealing the whole story. The best part is it did not feel forced. The flow was smooth. Another point is her relationship with Krishna. It is a very misunderstood connection but Divakaruni got it right. The friendship and companionship they shared was accurately displayed.
There are two things why this book is not getting a full rating. The attraction between Draupadi and Karna was over played. I love Karna as a character and there was a dynamic between them. But she loved her husbands. The whole Draupadi-Karna love story was a bit too romanticized. The second reason is underplaying Nakul and Sahadev. Both of them are such strong characters and I would have loved if their relationship with Draupadi was explored more.
It is an amazing book, one of my favourite retellings of Mahabharata. The plot is not changed much. The only creative license the author took was Draupadi’s feelings. The voice given to Draupadi by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is strong and beautiful; it deserves to be heard by all.