Title: The Lady or the Lion
Author(s): Aamna Qureshi
Would I Recommend it? Yes
Would you choose love or fate? If you were forced to choose a random door with a beautiful woman or a fierce lion would you select it with ease or terror?
Durkhanai Minagul is the crowned princess of Marghazar. She is passionate about her people and seeks truth and sincerity wherever she goes to represent her people. However, her family’s past does not follow those morals. Rumor has it that her grandfather is at fault for the mass assault. This causes the neighboring kingdoms to threaten war. As a servant to her people, Durkhanai will do what it takes to cease the pending violence.
Unfortunately there is more history that she is about to uncover, one that tests the waters of family over duty. Throw in a spice of love and you get a whole lot to deal with as the future queen.
This story is inspired by the “The Lady and the Tiger” a Pakistani tale of forbidden love and royal obligations.
Thank you to NetGalley and CamCat Books for this audiobook ARC in exchange for my honest review.
As I have mentioned numerous times throughout this blog, I thoroughly enjoy audiobooks. They allow me to escape to a new world while I am driving (this does not distract me and I promise I am a safe driver), cleaning, and getting ready for work. I enjoy a narrator who is able to bring the character to life and keep me engaged in the story.
The narrator for this story was Deepti Gupta. I did a little research on this narrator, as she was one I have not heard before. She is a home based narrator, with degrees in Acting (MFA), Theater Studies (MA), and English Literature (BA). She has narrated more than 30 audiobooks and has used her diverse accent (Indian, American, and British) to her advantage (Thank you http://deeptiguptanarrates.com/about/ for all the wonderful information). No one in their right mind would argue that Deepti Gupta does not have the talent or the ability to narrate a book well. Honestly, for this particular choice I think she was a good choice for her background. Her ethnicity and accents also were crucial to this role. I was grateful that for a Pakistani inspired tale they did not use a white narrator… not appropriate or needed (in my opinion). I was able to distinguish MOST of the characters just from the way she presented them. With that being said however, I found that her narration was very slow (even for 1.5x speed) and had moments where she was monotone that distracted from the experience. It made it difficult to stay focused at times, but if it was not for the ability to increase speed, I do not know if I could have finished it. But I was able to increase speed and I am happy to report that I finished the book and loved it.
Enough about the narrator, time for the meat and potatoes (AKA the story). I really haven’t read much South Asian, Pakistani, or Muslim based works. I have never read anything written by a Muslim American either. I wasn’t avoiding it, I just never found anything….until now.
Forbidden love is not really my favorite trope. If forbidden love is in a book I already know one of two things is going to happen (1) they are going to fall in love anyways or (2) one or both of them is going to be killed. It is kind of a deterrent for me; however, this one had so many other components happening within it, that even with knowing what would happen with the forbidden love (or at least thinking I would know) I was preoccupied. I was most intrigued by royal role that Durkhanai played and the way she was going to prevent any impending doom. Not only that but the backstories related to her family were in-depth and well-thought out. I often forgot that there was a romance side to this story.
Character wise, each character was detailed and intricate. I understood what their personalities were and their descriptions were well done.
While the audiobook was good, I think that I would have enjoyed physically reading the book better. I think I will attempt a physical read with book two in this series.
Do I think this is a good book?
Yes, I think that this is a good book. In a single book, the author was able to establish characters, plot, and create an engaging read. While I did struggle a bit with the audiobook, I was continually wondering what next.
Is this a stand-alone fantasy or a series?
This is a fantasy series. The Lady or the Lion is book one in the “The Marghazar Trials Series”. The second book in the series (release date August 30, 2022) is titled “The Man or the Monster.”
Would I recommend this to anyone and everyone?
Likely yes. The main demographic that I would recommend this to are readers who like folktale inspired retellings. Any reader who also enjoys forbidden love tropes and underestimated, yet strong female protagonist will also enjoy this book.
My disclaimer notice relating to a white person reviewing the works of a BIPOC author.
Since I am white with very little diversity in my genetics (LGBTQIA+ is about where that diversity stops), I purposely try to read books from other perspectives. I embrace the ideas and words that the authors present me and choose not to address anything that I do not really understand from a cultural perspective (until I have been properly educated on it, then I will share what I learn for more conversation). I will acknowledge when I do not understand something or do not connect with a character because of their different background than my own. That does not mean that it is a bad book or story, it is just something different than my own. My goal is to continually be respectful and enjoy various works of literature.