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Rebel Queen by Michelle Moran
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Rebel Queen

by Michelle Moran

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Set in India during British occupation, this historical novel follows Sita, a young woman chosen to serve the queen of Jhansi, known as Rani Lakshmi. Sita is an intelligent and strong female character, devoted to her younger sister and her position to guard the queen as a member of the Durga Dal. Rani Lakshmi is eventually called the Rebel Queen after a series of uprisings against the British. The title is a bit misleading, because it is more about Sita's life and service to Rani Lakshmi rather than historical fiction strictly focused on Rani Lakshmi. This is still a powerful and exciting read about a tumultuous period in India and a much loved queen.

Kathleen K. / Marathon County Public Library
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  mcpl.wausau | Sep 25, 2017 |
Queen Lakshmi of Jhansi is a hero in India but little is known of her in most of the rest of the world. In Rebel Queen, her story of resistance to the English takeover of her kingdom is told from the viewpoint of Sita, a member of Lakshmi’s elite female guards, the Dhurga Dal. We begin with an introduction to Sita as a young girl. She, like other women in her caste, live in purdah and cannot be seen by any man outside her own family. Her family doesn't have any money for her dowry so she and her father decide to have her train her to become a Durgavasi. There is a competition to get into the Durga Dal when one of the Durgavasi retires. It is years before there is an opening but Sita eventually wins a chance to compete.

In 1857 the British Empire decides to annex Jhansi and doesn't expect any challenge to its powerful army. Because India is divided into independent kingdoms, each with their own individuals armies, the British are surprised to get to Jhansi and discover that Queen Lakshmi is riding at the head of her army, determined to protect her people.

I felt immersed in the place, the time and the Indian culture. This was a story of family, love, and betrayal, and Sita was the perfect narrator. Some of the atrocities committed by both sides will disturb you, but the novel provides a context that histories sometimes lack. This was an amazing story, and a piece of history I was completely unaware of. I have to say I am not disappointed in this novel at all, and look forward to Michelle Moran's new novel, [b:Mata Hari's Last Dance|25813965|Mata Hari's Last Dance|Michelle Moran|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1464517893s/25813965.jpg|45670671]. ( )
  Olivermagnus | Aug 9, 2017 |
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! :) ( )
  TimothyBaril | Jul 24, 2017 |
It’s India in the 19th century. Sita is only a child when her mother dies in childbirth. While her grandmother wants to sell her to a brothel, her father won’t allow it. Instead, he and a neighbour train her on everything she might need to know to become a “Durgavasi”, one of the ten elite women who protect India’s queen. Sita’s younger sister’s hopes of a dowry rest on Sita getting this position. India is in a bit of turmoil at this time, as England has occupied India, and is, for the moment, allowing India’s royalty to lead India, but things take a turn for the worse.

This was really good. I didn’t know about this bit of history, nor about India’s queen. I found Sati to be very interesting and enjoyed following her story. I also, as always, appreciated Moran’s historical note at the end explaining which events of the book really happened. ( )
  LibraryCin | Jul 17, 2017 |
Rebel Queen is the story of Rani Lakshmi, the queen of Jhansi, known for leading a rebellion against the British invasion of India. It’s told from the point of view of Sita, a young girl who lives in a small village with her father, sister, and a cruel grandmother who tries to sell her off as a prostitute. Saved by her father, and with few choices in life, she begins training to become a member of the Durga Dal, an all-woman elite fighting force whose mission was to protect the Queen.

We see the world through Sita’s eyes, as she grew from a little girl living in a purdah, veiled and confined to the house, to a member of the Royal Guard. I loved reading about her strength and determination and the loyalty and love she had for her family, the Queen, and for India. The vivid detail and the picture of life in the palace made the story come alive for me.

We don’t meet Queen Rani till later in the story, but both these women are fascinating characters who held powerful roles in a society where women typically had little power.

I also enjoyed the historical notes at the end of the book. I love a book that not only teaches me about a period of history I knew little about, but also keeps me entertained throughout. Highly recommended!
( )
  janb37 | Feb 13, 2017 |
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"When the British Empire sets its sights on India in the mid-nineteenth century, it expects a quick and easy conquest ... But when they arrive in the Kingdom of Jhansi, the British army is met with a surprising challenge. Instead of surrendering, Queen Lakshmi raises two armies--one male and one female--and rides into battle, determined to protect her country and her people. Although her soldiers may not appear at first to be formidable against superior British weaponry and training, Lakshmi refuses to back down from the empire determined to take away the land she loves"--… (more)

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