I was able to listen to The Lady or the Lion a month or so ago – look I am so behind please don’t rub it in – but hours after finishing I already had bought the sequel. Does that tell you anything? I listened to it on a road trip and that evening went onto Libro.fm to buy the sequel. Keep reading this book review for my full thoughts.
Once there was a princess forced to choose a fate for her lover – to a future in the arms of a beautiful lady, or to death in the mouth of a lion? But what came first was the fate she would choose for herself.
As crown princess of Marghazar, Durkhanai Miangul will do anything to protect her people and her land. When her grandfather, the Badshah, is blamed for a deadly assault on the summit of neighboring leaders, the tribes call for his head. To assuage cries for war, the Badshah opens Marghazar’s gates to foreigners for the first time in centuries, in a sign of good faith. Enter Ambassador Asfandyar Afridi, a wry foreigner who admits outright that he is a spy. Stubborn, proud, and suspicious of foreigners, Durkhanai does not appreciate that he won’t bow to her every whim and instead talks circles around her.
And yet, she has to make him her ally to expose those truly responsible for the attack as more ambassadors from neighboring tribal districts arrive at court, each one of them with their own agenda and reasons to hide the truth.When a mysterious illness spreads through the village and the imperialists push hard on her borders, Durkhanai must sort through the ever shifting loyalties at court and her growing feelings for Asfandyar. Will she be able to leave the antics of a spoiled princess behind and become what her people need – a queen?
(Disclaimer: I received this book from the Libro.fm. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
Okay I just want to get this out of the way, the beginning was a bit slow and it was a bit frustrating. We kept hearing about the stakes and the consequences with the deadline looming and I’m like, “when is something going to happen like major??” But that being said, the last 20% is explosive. Seriously, these threads that Qureshi was weaving the entire time almost spring around us like a trap. And the amount of revelations and secrets revealed is astounding. So just know that going in – it is worth it!
The Lady or the Lion is full of political scheming and foreign policies. Immediately, I was not on the side of Marghazar mostly because I agreed with the neighboring leaders that they should band together because strength in unity. That being said, there is some serious bad blood and tension between them so that process is not going to be easy by any means. But that’s the main feeling I had throughout the first half where things were a bit slow in terms of pacing.
But towards the halfway mark, I became invested in Durkhanai. The banter in this book is witty and quick and I loved how watching it unfold was almost another level of negotiation. One of the central themes in The Lady or the Lion is the conflict between duty and what we know is right, what is in our heart. What is the cost of our happiness and what will we do to remain in power even if it’s wrong? Durkhanai is, in many ways, very privileged, but throughout The Lady or the Lion she has to figure out what is the truth and what is the true cost.
Because it’s incredibly easy to pay the price when we don’t know what it is. When we are removed from the cost and the consequences. But a theme I loved which snuck up on us in The Lady or the Lion is the question of villains. In a story or the aftermath, are we the villains? How do we uphold our conscience and the people we love when we might be to blame?
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When our actions make enemies and cruelty? And Deepti Gupta does a phenomenal job at infusing Durkhanai’s narration with conflict, turmoil, and guilt – it feels real and made me feel for her. So if you are interested in a political scheming novel with a MC who is put through the emotional wringer, then you have to add this to your TBR. Find The Lady or the Lion on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound, Bookshop.org, The Book Depository, Libro.fm & Google Play.