It’s no surprise to anyone who knows me that I’m crazy about history. I’m the sort of person who reads a nonfiction book of history and reads the footnotes (hey, don’t knock it! Sometimes there’s really interesting stuff in footnotes!), but I’m kind of picky when it comes to historical fiction. Sometimes writers don’t do their homework and mess up the history in a so-called historical novel, not so much changing major events as giving people in the past attitudes and thoughts and behaviors they would never have had (I’m thinking of the movie Titanic here, but don’t get me started on that!). However, when an author knows his or her history AND has the ability to tell a gripping story, I’m one happy camper.
Which brings me to Michelle Moran’s book (still on the New Fiction shelf), Rebel Queen. It’s a terrific book in all respects: set during the Sepoy Mutiny in India in 1857, a thrilling and dangerous period in Indian history, it focuses on one of the most intriguing real life characters of the uprising, the Rani of Jhansi, Queen Lakshmi, who raised two armies to fight the British and protect her country. One army was composed of men, the other was composed of women (all historically accurate, by the way!), and it is Sita, a young woman chosen to be a soldier in the Rani’s female army, who is our protagonist and first person narrator.
You could hardly go wrong with this historical setting for action and suspense (even if you know how the war turns out, and what ultimately happened to Jhansi, as I did, the book keeps you on tenterhooks), and Sita is an engaging heroine, far from the perfect amazon you would expect, but strong and determined and going through all this to protect her family, as Queen Lakshmi is fighting to protect her people.
For an exciting, well-written historical novel about a period many Americans are unfamiliar with, you could hardly do better than to take out Rebel Queen, by Michelle Moran.