Title: Rebel Queen
Author: Michelle Moran
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Review copy from publisher
From the internationally bestselling author of Nefertiti and Cleopatra’s Daughter comes the breathtaking story of Queen Lakshmi—India’s Joan of Arc—who against all odds defied the mighty British invasion to defend her beloved kingdom.
When the British Empire sets its sights on India in the mid-nineteenth century, it expects a quick and easy conquest. India is fractured and divided into kingdoms, each independent and wary of one another, seemingly no match for the might of the English. But when they arrive in the Kingdom of Jhansi, the British army is met with a surprising challenge.
Instead of surrendering, Queen Lakshmi raises two armies—one male and one female—and rides into battle, determined to protect her country and her people. Although her soldiers may not appear at first to be formidable against superior British weaponry and training, Lakshmi refuses to back down from the empire determined to take away the land she loves.
Told from the unexpected perspective of Sita—Queen Lakshmi’s most favored companion and most trusted soldier in the all-female army—Rebel Queen shines a light on a time and place rarely explored in historical fiction. In the tradition of her bestselling novel, Nefertiti, and through her strong, independent heroines fighting to make their way in a male dominated world, Michelle Moran brings nineteenth-century India to rich, vibrant life.
For years I heard great things about Michelle Moran’s books, but for one reason or another I didn’t read any of them… until September last year… when finally, thanks to Thor, Loki and Batman I picked up Nefertiti… And OMG! It was amazing! Historical fiction at its best. I loved it so much I read The Heretic Queen right afterwards and OMG! I loved it too! What else to do than to read Cleopatra’s Daughter next… and OMG! Moran can’t do wrong… I loved it too! By them I knew I was addicted to her books and what else I could do than to read Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution, the only problem was I knew there was only one book left to read and then I had to wait until March 2015 to the release of Rebel Queen. I tried to postpone reading The Second Empress: A Novel of Napoleon's Court, but I couldn’t. My intentions only lasted couple of days until I “had to” read it. My addiction to her books was out of hand, I knew it, but there was nothing I could do. I tried reading historical fiction by other authors but it was not the same, none compared to Moran’s books. I craved them. To say I was dying to get my hands on an early copy of Rebel Queen is the understatement of the year… Luckily I received that longed copy… I wanted to read it immediately, but at the same time I didn’t want to read it, because what I was going to do next? I was also afraid because lately I’m preferring audiobooks to books, but I shouldn’t have… After the first page – yes, only one page - I was completely invested in the story… Michelle Moran is that good.
Rebel Queen is set in the XIX century in India during the British invasion and it’s the story of Queen Lakshmi of Jhansi, who is historically known as the Rebel Queen. The story is told from Sita Bhosale’s point of view.
After her mother’s death, her grandmother tried to sell Sita as a prostitute. When her father learned of this he decided Sita needed a better and safer future than that which he could provide for her. The only thing for a girl apart from an advantageous marriage (for which she needed a generous dowry) or prostitution was to become part of the Durga Dal, the elite group of guards in charge of Queen Lakshmi’s protection. Since an early age Sita’s father trained her in all the arts required to become a Durgadasi, a member of the elite Durga Dal. Sita learned to fight using different weapons; she also learned languages, literature, chess, horsemanship, and much more. For years she trained waiting for an opening in the Durga Dal. The only problem is the Durga Dal only has 10 guards and openings only come once every few years, when a guard dies or retires.
Finally, her opportunity came and Sita excelled in all her tests. Leaving her father and little sister behind, Sita moved to the capital to start a new life. Soon after, her intelligence and skills caught Queen Lakshmi’s attention and with time they became closer. Together they fought intrigues and betrayals inside the palace and a war against England outside of it.
Sita is a great character; she is pretty, smart and innocent and combination that makes her easy to empathize with. It was the same case with Rani (Queen) Lakshmi who only tried to do what was best for her people. She was a very modern woman in a very conservative time.
Moran’s stories always have the perfect balance between real events and fiction. It’s also pretty obvious the amount of research done by her. She knows what she is writing about and has the incredible talent of transporting her readers into her books. With her words she gives life to the characters, the settings and the story. Her descriptions are vivid and detailed. I only needed to close my eyes to picture everything. They felt so real I could almost smell the scents.
I could continue gushing about Rebel Queen and Moran’s writing in general, but I won’t do that; I will only tell you to read this book … and be ready to be transported to a different time and place.
I recommend Rebel Queen to historical fiction fans.
My Verdict: 4 ½ Paws
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