REBEL QUEEN, by Michelle Moran, is based on the life of a real queen of India. Queen Lakshmi ruled in the kingdom of Jhansi in the mid-nineteenth century. She truly did. Moran has outdone herself with this memoir-like tale of rebellion, unwavering love, and fearlessness.
REBEL QUEEN is told in the voice of a young woman who served in the Queen’s Durgavasi. The Durgavasi were a fearsome and fearless group of trained women who were constantly on guard for the rani. We learn firsthand how Sita, the “voice” was chosen, then trained to leave her home and begin her new life guarding the Queen. Such an honor. And the only way Sita knew to safeguard her younger sister. And keep herself from being given over to prostitution by her cruel grandmother.
To be born a beautiful girl in India in the nineteenth century was both a blessing and a curse. And, even at times, in cases of poverty or British takeover, a consistent opportunity to be yanked from your life and used as a prostitute. It was rampant.
The prologue of REBEL QUEEN, opens the novel in the year 1919. An old woman is looking back at her life. This woman, we quickly discover, is Sita. And she tells us about her life growing up in the kingdom of Jhansi, before, during, and after the takeover of India by the brutal British.
I did not go into this book oblivious to British rule in India. However, I had no idea to what extent the cruelty was. There is one particular journey Sita is forced to take where she ends up at court ,in England, facing Queen Victoria. The Indian people must have seemed like circus creatures to Queen Victoria. Shocking. And I tried to put myself in Sita’s shoes as she arrived in London in the middle of winter. Snow, sleet, Christmas. Like taking lion to the opera.
This exciting novel is filled with deceit, revenge, the horrors of war from a different perspective. And the woes of Indian women in the mid-nineteenth century. Certainly not a place I ever hope to be taken back to.
If you’re looking for something exciting, full of great research, and strong women, this is your book. A great summer read.