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Monday, March 30, 2015

My review of Rebel Queen by Michelle Moran

 About the book (description from Goodreads:) 

When the British Empire sets its sights on India in the 1850s, it expects a quick and easy conquest. After all, India is not even a country, but a collection of kingdoms on the subcontinent. But when the British arrive in the Kingdom of Jhansi, expecting its queen to forfeit her crown, they are met with a surprise. Instead of surrendering, Queen Lakshmi raises two armies—one male, one female—and rides into battle like Joan of Arc. Although her soldiers are little match against superior British weaponry and training, Lakshmi fights against an empire determined to take away the land she loves.

Told from the perspective of Sita, one of the guards in Lakshmi's all-female army and the queen’s most trusted warrior, The Last Queen of India traces the astonishing tale of a fearless ruler making her way in a world dominated by men. In the tradition of her bestselling novel Nefertiti, which Diana Gabaldon, author of the Outlander series, called “a heroic story with a very human heart,” Michelle Moran once again brings a time and place rarely explored in historical fiction to rich, vibrant life.

My review:

Rebel Queen was a fascinating and gripping tale about a different culture and a time in history that -- like many Americans -- I know little about. I haven't read many stories that included Queen Victoria, so that interested me. I have read a few books regarding the East Indian culture and their relationship with England during the early 1900s, all told from the Indian perspective. The contrast between the British culture and Indian culture during that time period is fascinating. I loved how the Indian men were appalled by the exposure of women's breasts, shoulders and necks from English fashion and the English couldn't understand the exposure of the waistline that was part of Indian fashion. Then again, you can't very easily use a corset on a bare waistline. How fortunate for the women of India.

The British Empire's insatiable thirst for more land showed in the narrative, but was skillfully woven and subtle in the approach. The point of view was flawless. All Sita knew about England came from reading English novels and authors like Shakespeare. The author was fair with the details and showed the horrors of what both people groups did to each other. The Indian rebels caused a lot of problems for the kingdom because of their aggression, but they were simply trying to oust the imperialistic people who decided India should be theirs, much like the Native Americans tried to defend their land using similar horrific means. Annexing another country to their empire often require nothing more than their presence. Intimidation by their occupancy and weaponry was effective indeed. I felt kind of bad for the people who didn't want to be there but were forced to occupy the land because they were enlisted and it was their assignment.

I found it sad how the Rani (Queen) and Sita both trusted England to respond positively to their appeal hoping that because they were women and also had a female regent, it would matter. They didn't fully understand the limitations caused by Parliament and the empire's greed. The treachery within the ranks of the Durgavasi was appalling as well. But you have to read the story to figure out what I mean by that. Anyway, I read this book fairly fast considering I don't have much reading time these days. The story was filled with culture and history and the author swept me out of this present day and into the past through her use of scenery, foods, clothing and decor. I love it when I can go to another place in my mind and feel grounded in that fantasy world. This isn't always the case with fiction, so the author did an exceptional job there.

I loved how the author told the story from Sita's perspective. That made the novel even more powerful because you got to see the Hindu influence as well as the Muslim influence of the culture during that time period. Women were not valued and seen as a liability due to the enormous dowry that was required for a marriage. The fact that young ladies were married off around ten was pretty disturbing too. At least the husbands traditionally waited for the young girl to turn into a young woman before consummating the marriage. Anyway, I found this book to be compelling and well told. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoys a story that effectively takes you to another time and place in your mind.

Here is a link if you want to order it... Rebel Queen

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