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When I discovered that Moupia Basu’s second book, ‘The Queen’s Last Salute‘ was coming out this year, I was so excited and I couldn’t wait to read it.

The Queen’s Last Salute‘ is set during the period of the 1857 rebellion. We see the events unfolding through the eyes of Meera (who later becomes Chandraki). Meera’s mother is a courtesan at the zenana of the King of Jhansee. The king doesn’t have a heir and so he gets married again to a young woman who becomes the queen. This is Queen Lakshmibai about whom we read in history. At the time of this royal wedding, the new queen is fourteen years old while Meera is ten years old. The women in the zenana spend most of their days there, hoping and dreaming to be called by the king or invited for some royal celebration. One day, Meera’s mother is invited to sing at the court and she takes Meera with her, and by some accidental happenings and good fortune, the queen likes her, and takes her in as her companion, and names her Chandraki. What happens to Chandraki after that and how she plays her part in the great events of her age is the story told in the rest of the book.

I loved ‘The Queen’s Last Salute‘. Moupia Basu’s prose is spare and flows smoothly like a river and makes us sit back and contemplate when there is a description of a beautiful scene, while also making us want to turn the page to find out what happens next, when it moves the story at a fast-pace. There is not one single word wasted. There are beautiful descriptions of the cities and towns and architecture of that era, and the culture, festivals and music of that era, which are a pleasure to read. There are also descriptions of the food of that era, which I always look forward to in historical novels, and those descriptions made me want to try those delicious dishes. Moupia Basu has done her research wonderfully well and it shows in the book – especially when it talks about the political history of that era, especially, the Doctrine of Lapse. I learnt more about the Doctrine of Lapse from this book than from the history text that I read at school. I loved most of the characters in the book, especially, Chandraki, the beautiful, charming, brave heroine, her queen Maharani Lakshmibai, her friends at different times, Gauri, Mehr, Jhumroo, her mentor Taravati. I also found some of the other characters fascinating, especially Riyaz Khan, who comes to work in the court of Maharani Lakshmibai (the relationship between Riyaz and his wife Heera is so beautifully portrayed – it is one of my favourite parts of the book). Even the bad guys in the story are interestingly portrayed. We all know the story of the Rani of Jhansee. So I was expecting heartbreak in the end, and it did arrive, but not in the way I expected. There was also a huge surprise revealed towards the end, which I didn’t see coming. I loved the book’s cover too – it is so beautiful, isn’t it?

So, which book did I like more – Moupia Basu’s first book ‘Khoka‘ or her newest one ‘The Queen’s Last Salute‘? It is hard to say, because I loved both. ‘Khoka‘ is also in some ways a historical novel, because it is set during the time of the Independence movement, but it is also a coming-of-age memoir-ish novel which is based on actual events. ‘The Queen’s Last Salute‘ is a classic historical novel set in the middle of the 19th century and it shows us the greats historical events of the age through the eyes of a normal person. I loved both these books in different ways.

The Queen’s Last Salute‘ offers a new, fresh perspective into the great events of 1857, blending historical facts with wonderful imagination to create this engaging work of fiction. I loved it and now I can’t wait for Moupia Basu’s next book.

Have you read ‘The Queen’s Last Salute‘? What do you think about it?

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