In 1632, the Emperor of Hindustan, Shah Jahan, consumed by grief over the death of his empress, Mumtaz Mahal, ordered the building of a grand mausoleum to symbolize the greatness of their love. Against scenes of unimaginable wealth and power, murderous sibling rivalries, and cruel despotism, Princess Jahanara tells the extraordinary story of how the Taj Mahal came to be, describing her own life as an agent in its creation and as a witness to the fateful events surrounding its completion.
To escape a brutal arranged marriage, Jahanara must become the court liaison to Isa, architect of the Taj Mahal. She is soon caught between her duty to her mother's memory, the rigid strictures imposed upon women, and a new, though forbidden, love. With exceptional courage, Jahanara dares to challenge the bigotry and blindness at court in an effort to spare the empire from civil war, and to save her father from his bellicose son, Aurangzeb, a man whose hatred would extinguish the Islamic enlightenment from the Mughal Empire. To do so she must enlist her Hindu friend, Ladli, and her guardian, Nizam, as spies, and urge her brother, Dara, the designated heir to the throne, down from the ivory tower of his philosophical inquiries. The stakes become ever greater when Jahanara must deceive her husband as to the true father of her child, and must protect those closest to her from her enemies' retaliation.
As a princess and a mother, as a sister and a daughter, Jahanara will find herself faced time and again with impossible choices, and will discover the real meaning of her regal birthright. In Beneath a Marble Sky John Shors recreates an historical Hindustan brimming with breathtaking intrigue and containing the secret truth of the Taj Mahal for a world still in awe of its enduring majesty.
This is a highly readable first novel combining elegant prose, exotic setting and historical accuracy - recommended for any who enjoy quality historical fiction, with a dollop of romance thrown in for good measure. (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).
Denver Rocky Mountain News
(Beneath a Marble Sky) is an absorbing novel about the extremes of passion - with much relevance for our own time.
The Boulder Daily Camera
Beneath a Marble Sky definitely qualifies as a good read.
The Des Moines Register
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.
Cleveland Scene - Peter Kotz
Spellbinding. Beneath a Marble Sky is a remarkable book, an impressive debut that will enchant anyone fortunate enough to read it.
San Antonio Express-News - William Day
Beneath a Marble Sky is a tale of exquisite beauty … rich in detail, ambition, and vitality.
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.
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.
Library Journal - Kim Uden Rutter
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.
Beneath a Marble Sky is a story which literally speaks to you. In his first novel, John Shors brilliantly recounts one of the world's greatest love stories, narrated against a backdrop of hatred and violence.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Sandy W Good book on the Taj Mahal I loved this book. It was wonderful to learn something about the history of the Taj Mahal. Well written and a page-turner.
Rated of 5
by Manda Beneath a Marble Sky I have read this book more than a few times and each time I read it, it seems to get better and better. While it may not be completely historically accurate it is a beautiful love story. It brings me to tears, and I always feel as though I am there... Read More
Rated of 5
by Susan LeBourg Not on par with the Taj Mahal While this novel has an interesting story, I am sorry to say that I think it is poorly written. It is full of short, choppy sentences, and the dialogue is often trite and anachronistic.
It does not accurately portray the life of women in Indian... Read More
When reading historical fiction I always
like to know what is fact and what is
fiction. So, two years ago, when I first
recommended Beneath A Marble Sky in
hardcover, I asked John where fact ended and
fiction began, to which he answered, "About 65% of
Beneath a Marble Sky is based upon hard
facts. All of the royal characters, for
instance, were real people and acted as they
do in my book. I did make up a few of the
characters such as Nizam and Ladli, and the
relationship between Jahanara and Isa is the
result of my imagination."
He is working on a new book but that is
having to take a back seat while he promotes
the paperback version of Beneath A Marble
Sky. The paperback is being published by Penguin
- one of the largest USA publishers, who
snapped up the rights after the hardcover was published by a small
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