Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Release Day Review: "Rebel Queen" by Michelle Moran

I received this ebook for free via NetGalley, but in no way did it affect my literary taste buds. This critique is my honest opinion.

The best historical fiction I read is often from books where I learn something in the process of reading them. In the case of this book, I learned about the culture of India circa the mid 19th century, during a period of great change. We follow the life of young Sita, from her humble beginnings in a small village under the rule of purdah (female seclusion for modesty reasons), to her training to be a Durga Dal (elite female personal guard for the queen).

Rani Lakshmibai is an important historical figure in India, as she resisted the British takeover of her husband's kingdom, Jhansi. Although she was somewhat reviled by the British (her involvement in certain ruthless attacks is still murky) her overall legacy is one of patriotic bravery and fearlessness in the face of great danger. In other words, if she were alive today, you wouldn't want to have her as your enemy.

The Plot: (As Seen on 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...'

This book has a lot of build-up, which for me was as sweet as the pay-off. Some of the blurb seen above implies you'll be seeing a lot of action, but the reality is about eighty percent of the book is the political machinations behind the scenes. This suited me perfectly, but some people may want to temper expectations of the insta-action the blurb suggests.

One thing I would've liked to see more of was the personalities other Durga Dal (the queen's female guards). While we had some sense of what their lives were like, and how they came to be there through Sita's story, some of them remained only peripheral characters despite being constantly around Sita, who narrates the story.

I don't have any complaints about the characters who took the spotlight in this book: most were well drawn despite being non-traditional with some of the customs of their kingdom. Sita had many difficult decisions to make throughout the book, and she had to be flexible to remain part of the Durga Dal. The queen herself seemed cautious but calculated, not as rash as her actions might suggest.

Rebel Queen takes you back to the beginning of the power struggle between the then many kingdoms of India and the empire of Britain. Although some of the timelines for the shadier aspects of history were stretched to make a more interesting story, it didn't detract from the overall portrayal of Jhansi during that time period. I recommend this to fans of historical fiction who like heroines who don't wait around for men to act in their place.

Rating: 4 of 5 Stars for an excellent historical about a 'rebel' queen.

Content: Ages 16+ for violence, mentions of war crimes, and mentions of sexual abuse.

Page Count: 368 pages

This book is also known as The Last Queen of India in the UK.


  1. Moran is my absolute favorite author. I can't wait to dive into this when I get the chance!

    1. I was pretty impressed with this book: I've collected quite a few of her books in my pile, but haven't read anything from her before. I learned a lot about India in the process of reading this.
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Becca!
      ~ Litha Nelle


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