Supposedly he spent seven years researching this novel, and supposedly he had the material to turn the story into a thousand-page blow-by-blow account of the travails of the lost Mughal princess Qara Köz and her descendant, the so-called "Mogor dell' Amore". I'm glad Rushdie didn't. I read an interview in which he stated that he wanted the book to feel light and airy, quicky, breezy even, and he certainly succeeded. The book rushes from place to place, time to time, without letting up for a minute, and if the plot as such is a bit thin on the ground, well, that's because it's not really the point of the novel. Rushdie is far too good at what he does for that.
The novel centers around two people: Qara Köz herself, and her brother's descendant the Emperor Akbar, hearing her story for the first time. The lost princess is the titular enchantress, beautiful and dangerous, trying to make her own way in a world dominated by men. But with every new piece of information we're given about her life, we understand less about her as a person. She's unattainable and unknowable, a kind of phantom for men and women to project their fantasies on- or into. She's fascinating because we'll never know "who she really was", kind and compassionate yet completely ruthless. She inspires men to feats of love but doesn't seem to feel the emotion herself. She's an enigma.
The emperor Akbar is much more straightforward, even if he too is made up of contradictions - a tyrant who doesn't believe in tyranny, an autocrat who believes his power comes from God even as he questions what the point of all that religion stuff is, anyway? He's educated but superstitious, and the sheer force of his personality is such that he can dream a woman into being by imagination alone. Akbar's musings are a huge part of what makes the book so much fun: he's irritable and kind and casually violent and very smart, all at once. Take the scene where he kills the Rana of Cooch Naheen: one minute he's wondering if he could love the man like a son, and the next he's decapitating "the pompous little twerp". If that makes you snicker - read tthis book.
Finally, the contrast between Florence and Fatehpur Sikri is another important layer in the book. East versus West, blah blah blah, educated barbarians, the horrors of the 'civilized' world... maybe you've heard that all before? But this is not that book. In the words of the storyteller himself, "The curse of the human race is not that we are so different from one another, but that we are so alike". And that is what makes The Enchantress of Florence such a fun read.