I received a copy of this book to review from the publisher. This in no way affected/influenced my rating and review.
Rebel Queen is a fictional account of Queen Lakshmi and her fight for India told by one of her inner circle guards, Sita. At least, that’s what the condensed version of the book’s description leads you to believe. Instead, most of the book is about Sita’s life as one of the rani’s and her problems with the politics that come with it. Lakshmi is a minor character, and very little of her is seen.
Sita (after loosing her mother in childbirth) starts training to become a Durgavasi; one of the female warriors that protects the rani, the Indian queen. Hoping to be chosen so she can provide a dowry for her sister, she suffers at a time when it is almost unheard of for a woman to use weapons. I liked Sita. She’s not perfect; even while being petty, you can tell she has a good heart.
Through Sita’s eyes, we get a tantalizing view of Indian culture during the East India Company’s boom and influence on her country. This was the part of the story that fascinated me. The practice of purdah and the seclusion of men from women; the dowry practices and implications that has on your caste. These are cultural side-notes that might not be well known, and are interesting . Also, the British’s blatant disregard of the local customs and the fall out from them that help spur the war is another interesting fact I didn’t know.
When it comes the the actual fighting, Ms. Moran pulls no punches. Atrocities are committed by both sides, and while the British are viscous, the Indians were as bad if not worse. I felt sick after reading some of the POW treatment and the way the civilians on both sides were treated.
The Rebel Queen is a story more about Sita than her Queen. If you are coming into this book expecting an account of Queen Lakshmi’s life and battles, you will be somewhat disappointed (like me). You do get glimpses of her life early on; towards the end of the book where Sita interacts with her more you get a better idea of her as a queen and her love of peace.
I give this book 3 stars. It was a good book, but I had no problem putting it down for long stretches at a time. Also, I was expecting Queen Lakshmi to have more of a presence. I would recommend with warnings.