^^ Hiya there (what should I call you?)
And I'm glad to be in the middle of people who're up for discussion too! But my opinion in this case is quite the contrary to your's and interestingly on exactly similar contentions.
Like you, I'm not a fan of feminist writings - not just in mytho, but at large - I just have twisted ideologies about how asserting feminism in fact like showcasing the imbalance, rather than bringing it to justice. But put that aside. For me, Palace of Illusions was not a feminist writing at all. It was the story retold from a female's POV, yes, looking at aspects and things as a woman might, rather than a man - and that makes a huge difference if the literature student in me can assert so! - and I thought it was well done.
I want to add that at no point of my argument do I intend to slight your religious sentiments about any of this - so if I still err accidentally please overlook it as entirely unintended. Since I'm not from this religion, and agnostic in my thinking might be quite a factor at play in our difference of perceptions - but I do mean no offense at any point to anyone.
The thing is, for me, Mahabharat has been about reading a story - over and over to a number of times that I lost count of years ago - because somewhere within this epic I find literally every face of the world there is or can be. So far, the book has never failed me - it's like I can turn back to it at any point of my life and discover new ways to identify with characters, situations - if not personally, then at least in my understanding of the world around me. For me it has been that one story which is so complete, that it leaves out nothing. No shade of humans. No virtues. No vices.
But what REALLY stands out for me in Mahabharat - more than Ramayan (which seems to be the more popularly followed epic on this forum? ) is that I can connect, even with the "God-incarnate" characters at a human level. The exact reason, that you quote for dissent from the book and Draupadi's portrayal in it. I find it me to recognize, comprehend and imbibe a lesson FAR more and better, or just even connect with a situation - when I can see it in human perspective. It doesn't mean I forsake their divine powers. It's just, that empathy goes a BIG way for me in connecting with it. In finding it instrumental as an exemplary epic that I can look upto and back at in some real life flesh and blood situations. I seem to find that kind of connection with Ramayan very loose. For me, Ramayan is that upper pedestal story with all glory and romanticism intact (not romanticism in the typical teen sense of course! but just in the way the tale has been glorified to a divine level at every nuance). I read that story, enjoy it, even have character preferences and take sides, lol - but I learn much less, than I do from Mahabharat. Ultimately, when it comes to my own life, situations where I can draw parallels and think about applying lessons, Mahabharat is more the guide. ps: Once again, really glad to just have people to talk this out with. Articulating thoughts just makes me even understand my own understanding better. And healthy dissent after all is the inception to widening our perceptions!