In the wake of an unimportant battle between two long-forgotten kingdoms in 14th-century southern India, a nine-year-old girl has a divine encounter that will change the course of history. After witnessing the death of her mother, the grief-stricken Pampa Kampana becomes a vessel for a goddess, who begins to speak out of the girl's mouth. Granting her powers beyond Pampa Kampana's comprehension, the goddess tells her that she will be instrumental in the rise of a great city called Bisnaga—"victory city"—the wonder of the world.
As a reader whose knowledge of medieval Indian history is sparse—if I can claim it to be existent at all—I was surprised to later discover just how much historical fact was embedded in Rushdie’s narrative ... Victory City is many things: a myth, an epic, a polemic parable, a real-world historical landscape flattened into a fable and embellished by fantasy. It is not, however, subtle in its messaging; it is a firm stand against the right-wing religious fanaticism of the day.
What’s important is that Victory City is a triumph—not because it exists, but because it is utterly enchanting. Words are the only victors ... Victory City is a cheerful little vessel, despite its ultimate destination. Its myths of origin are recounted with glee ... Rushdie plays adroitly with the metafictional and political implications of 'real' people and a 'real' polity being created out of imaginary backstories.
It’s impossible not to read parts of this grand fantasy as an allegory of the author’s struggles against sectarian hatred and ignorance. Indeed, given the physical and emotional sacrifices he’s made, some coincidences between this story and his life are almost too poignant to bear ...[An] ambitious reclamation of the imagination ... Despite its grand design, Victory City remains surprisingly modest in tone. The bombastic quality that sometimes burdened Rushdie’s recent novels is here tamed, replaced by a gentler humor, a subtler satire.