Excerpt from Beneath a Marble Sky by John Shors, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Beneath a Marble Sky

by John Shors

Beneath a Marble Sky
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Jun 2004, 325 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2006, 352 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse Review Team

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


"But Mirza’s just a boy," Rurayya replies.

"Yes, but someday he will be a man, just like your father. And his blood is royal. Such blood could reunite the Empire again. It could save thousands of lives. That is why I ask that you listen well. You’ll tell this story to your brother when he’s ready. You will all need to know it if Mirza ever seeks the throne."

Gulbadan glances in the direction of her distant home. "And until he’s ready we will deceive him, just as Mother deceived us?"

"She only deceived you, child, because she loves you."

"But Mother never lies," Rurayya says.

"You’d lie, Rurayya, to protect your children. And so would you, Gulbadan. You’d tell a thousand lies, tell them each and every day for however long you needed to. And then, one morning, a morning much like this, you would tell the truth."

"What is the truth?" Gulbadan demands.

I point across the river to the Taj Mahal. "Do you know why it was built?"

Heads turn toward the marble teardrop. "Emperor Shah Jahan," my youngest granddaughter replies, "created it in memory of his wife."

"In memory of our great-grandmother?" Gulbadan asks.

"Your great-grandparents lived extraordinary lives," I answer. "Nizam knows their tale. Your parents know it. But we’re old, and the story must not wither with us."

Rurayya looks at Nizam, who confirms my words with another nod. My friend is as honest as a mirror, and Rurayya’s lips part in wonder. "How did it begin?"

Though I am no teller of tales, my words rise swiftly, as I hope my story will temper their misgivings. I explain that before my father ever knelt on the Peacock Throne he was called Khurram, and that as the Emperor’s favorite son he was expected one day to rule the Empire.

"When Khurram was fifteen," I continue, "he visited a silk and beads shop. Inside, sitting atop a cushion was my mother, Arjumand. Her beauty, the poets claimed, could make rainbows weep with envy. And so Khurram was drawn to her. He asked the price of a bead and she curtly replied that it wasn’t a bead, but a diamond. When she told him it cost ten thousand rupees, a sum she believed he could never afford, my father quickly produced the money.

"The next day, Khurram went to his father, begging for Arjumand’s hand in marriage. The Emperor himself had encountered the madness of love and could hardly deny it to his son. Yet he decreed that five years must pass before Khurram could wed Arjumand. Meanwhile, in a marriage of political convenience, my father was wed to Quandari Begum, a Persian princess."

"Why do we never hear of her?" Gulbadan asks, her anger ebbing.

"Because my father’s other wives were as important to him as camels," I answer, subduing a smile, pleased that Father placed Mother far above her predecessors. "He supported them in the harem but rarely saw them."

"And after five years," Rurayya wonders, "what happened?"

"Khurram and Arjumand were married under a full moon, within a ring of golden torches. Afterward, the air was so thick with Chinese rockets that night became day."

Gulbadan’s gaze swings from the sky to me. "But, Jaha, where’s the danger in this?"

"The seeds of danger were sown soon afterward, when I and my brothers and sisters were born. We caused the Empire to plunge into war, a war pitting brother against sister, father against son."

"You?"

"I was a part of it," I reply slowly. "I tried to do what was best, but one can win only so many fights."

"What fights? What did you do?"

"Hear me out, Gulbadan, and soon you will know everything."

Chapter I
My Awakening

Wiping yogurt from my lips, I stared about the imperial harem. The living quarters for select women of the Red Fort, the harem was a collection of apartments, gardens, alleys, retreats, terraces and grottoes. No man—except the Emperor, his sons, guests and eunuchs—was allowed into this world.

From Beneath a Marble Sky by John Shors. Copyright 2004 John Shors. All rights reserved.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Barkskins
    Barkskins
    by Annie Proulx
    Barkskins, by Annie Proulx, is not a book to read quickly. After a month of slow reading, I ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Marriage of Opposites
    by Alice Hoffman
    Alice Hoffman's latest work, The Marriage of Opposites, is a historical fiction novel focusing on ...
  • Book Jacket: Miss Jane
    Miss Jane
    by Brad Watson
    National Book Award Finalist Brad Watson returns with an intimate novel about one woman's journey to...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Imperial Wife
    by Irina Reyn

    A smart, engaging novel that parallels two fascinating worlds and two singular women.

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Falling
    by Jane Green

    "Readers who enjoy a love story with heart will adore this tale of homecoming and transformation." - LJ

    Read Member Reviews

Members review books pre-publication. Read their opinions in First Impressions

Book Discussions
Book Jacket
Sweet Caress
by William Boyd

William Boyd's Sweet Caress captures an entire lifetime unforgettably within its pages. It captivates.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Summer Stunner
Summer Giveaway

Win 5 books, each week in July!

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

W M T N, W C F All

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

 
X

BookBrowse Summer Giveaway

We're giving away
5 books every
week in July!