Author: Michelle Moran
Genre: Historical Fiction
First Published: March 2015
First Line: "1919 - Seventy-five years' worth of diaries are spread across my bed, nearly covering the blanket Raashi sewed for me last winter."
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.
Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to NetGalley and Touchstone for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy in exchange for my honest review.
My Review: I will start off this review by stating that Michelle Moran is one of my all-time favourite historical fiction authors. I'm going to try not to gush but Moran is where it's at if you want a historical fiction read with vividly described, well-rounded characters and a plot and pace that just won't let up. Didn't quite accomplish that 'non-gushing' promise, did I?
Moran has a unique ability to write character driven historical fiction that engages her readers right from the beginning. From Nefertiti and Madame Tussaud to Napoleon's second empress,Marie-Louise and Cleopatra's Daughter, Moran brings her readers into the tumultuous lives of famous women. She also teaches her readers more about various cultures and eras but not in a way that bogs down the pace of the book.
The Rebel Queen is set in India in the mid 1800's and follows the life of Sita, a young woman from a small village who has lived in purdah (or seclusion from men outside her family) her entire life. In order to change her fate of marrying at a young age she instead trains and applies to be one of Durga Dal, an elite group of female guards trained to protect Rani (Queen) Lakshmi of Dhansi. The story then follows Sita to Dhansi where her life in the palace is far from the small town she grew up in but the dangers are far worse. With the invasion of the British the Rani's kingdom is in jeopardy but she is a strong monarch and does everything she can, including raising a male and female army, to defend her country from the British.
This is the kind of book where you find yourself sneaking off to read 'just one more page' which really turns into 5 or 10 pages which means you might as well just finish the chapter and leave the laundry for tomorrow. If you're looking for a great book to get lost in I'd definitely suggest picking up anything from Michelle Moran. She writes about strong female historical characters, brings the rich culture of her characters and era to the forefront in vivid detail and engages her audience from the beginning and doesn't let up until the final page has been turned.
As one of my all-time favourite authors I highly recommend this wonderful read.
My Rating: 5/5 stars