Zebra Misc

Mythology, Religion, and Reality Intertwine

(Courtesy photo)

Alexandria, VA – Review: The Light of India

Publisher: Solstice Publishing

Author: Paige Etheridge

Reviewed by: Ralph Peluso, Literary Editor

Zebra Rating: 5 Stripes

Paige Etheridge has delivered a fascinating novel with life messages, complications, and outcomes based on the life of a real woman (Mehr-un-Nissa –Solar of Ladies). Nur Jahan, the only Mughal Empress, known as the “Light of the World,” lived circa 1577-1645. She was the twentieth wife and chief consort of the Mughal emperor Jahangir.

In recorded history and Paige’s work, Nur was more decisive, assertive, and proactive than her husband. Certain historians consider Nur to have been the real power behind the throne for over a decade, wielding a sword, a level of power and influence unprecedented for a Mughal empress. She was granted honors and privileges never enjoyed by her predecessors or successors, like having coinage struck in her name. Her rise to power was, for the most part, made possible by her husband Jahangir’s preoccupation with huntingalcohol, opium, carousing with women,  and frequent ill-health.

“I was planning on a different project involving a knight that transforms,” Paige said when I asked her how she came up with the concept for The Light of India. “Then I dreamed about a beautiful woman on the border between India and Pakistan. She was wielding a sword. She presented me with a red and green book that I wrote about her. I woke up, but I didn’t know who she was. I did some research based on clues in the dream and found Nur Jahan. I felt that historical fantasy would be the best way to cover everything based on the dream and the history.”

In real life, Nur’s story did not end well. In Etheridge’s version, Nur Jahan is driven to complete her self-defined destiny. Nur sets forth on a journey to earn the status of a legend and ensure her name is never forgotten. But, to put it simply, the hurdles and messiness of life get in the way.

After the execution of her first husband, Nur focused on gaining status in the emperor’s royal court. This was the emperor who had executed her husband. His infatuation with and love for Nur enabled her ascension within the royal court. He married her and bestowed upon her the new name meaning The Light of the World.

As Nur’s journey continued, she navigated land mines, pitfalls, and interactions with plenty of characters. And her “touchy” decisions mounted. Each decision was a building block in her moral compass for actions and related consequences. Nur learns that consequences can manifest at any time in her current life or future.

Etheridge’s work is full of moral dilemmas. During one battle she meets Rishi, a soldier she falls in love and eventually beds down with. Nur knows the dangers of their love affair but chooses to consummate her true love despite the risk. Each decision she makes and each action she takes is calculated to achieve her goal of immortality.

Nur can be viewed as a powerful and determined female leader who challenged the status quo or someone whose self-centered desire for immortality haunted each of her decisions. In the end, her lust for power and notoriety cost her everyone and everything. As in most religions, there is a chance for redemption. She can take the lessons learned from her old life and, with the force of the entire universe, have an opportunity to do it over, reincarnated into a new life.

Reincarnation is the belief that one’s soul is reborn into a new body and identity after death. Within some Asian or Eastern religions, like Sikhism, Buddhism, and Hinduism, rebirth (samsara) depends on one’s actions, words, deeds, and consequences in the previous life.

Paige Etheridge (Courtesy photo)

Paige Etheridge lives near Virginia Beach with her husband and still a puppy at heart, Athena. She writes, reads, travels as much as possible, and is toying with her next writing project. “I’m playing around with a few ideas. One involves a mix of a Greek woman astrologer, a spy beluga whale, and Honduran white bats.”

The Light of India is about the passionate drive of an Empress to never be forgotten and the ultimate consequence of starting over. A solid Zebra rating of 5 stars

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