⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (4 stars)
Rebel Queen tells the historically inspired story of one of India’s most famous women, a last ruler in the hateful days when India fell to the greedy, violent and disgusting British. It’s told through the character of Sita, one of the queen’s female bodyguards who sacrifices herself for her family and risks her life for her kingdom and the ruler she adores. Her story is both tragic and inspiring and will sweep readers up into an emotional journey that will touch you.
The back of the book said something about a rebel queen forming two armies, one male and one female, and going to war. That’s NOT what this book is about. It’s about Sita, a girl from a tiny, poor village, training to become an elite warrior and being accepted as a personal bodyguard to the Rani, wife of the local Raja, or ruler. The tale goes on to detail her life in their ranks and the fall of the kingdom as the rapacious British and their capitalist warriors descend and murder the nation for their own financial gain. War only comes near the end and is actually only the smallest and ugliest part of the novel.
While there are happy moments, this is not a happy book, especially towards the ending when it’s just one horrible tragedy after another. It took a while for me to warm up to the story but when I finally got to the end, everything fell apart and it was heartbreaking to see everyone’s fates. Generally, I try to avoid reading tragedies because I need more joy in my life to make up for my own. But, this book definitely does what it sets out to do: trigger the reader’s empathy and show that the people of India are people just like you and I, from anywhere in the world, and that what the British did to their country was abominalble.
The Brits may seem polished today, but have been responsible for some of the worst horrors in human history. A reminder that none of us are above such things and even the most ‘advanced’ or ‘wise’ cultures are completely capable of absolute selfishness and villainy.
In the beginning, I worried that the tone of the book would be too pro-female and anti-male, blaming only men for some of the unhappy customs they had (and still have) in India. Things like women not being allowed to leave their house, ever. Yet the book seems to fairly balance the blame between genders. Yes, the men are guilty for their part, but so are the women. Sita’s grandmother embodies how much women keep each other down and are as equally responsible for negative customs as men are. It was nice to see the author write a book that is very predominantly female in its cast and still have that balance.
The female narrator and the largely female cast will likely appeal to female readers, but the book should prove enjoyable for male fans of historical fiction as well. The story seems to well-describe Indian customs and ways of thinking, and is insightful. Moran’s writing style can feel a little reserved at times, or serious, perhaps, but her descriptions are excellent and she skilfully paints a vivid picture of people, culture and events. The plot is well written and paced and Sita is a becoming and compelling character. Well worth reading! 🙂