All The Books I Can Read

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Review: The Satapur Moonstone by Sujata Massey

on May 27, 2020

The Satapur Moonstone (Perveen Mistry #2)
Sujata Massey
Allen & Unwin
2020, 384p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

India, 1922: It is rainy season in the lush, remote Satara mountains southeast of Bombay, where the kingdom of Satapur is tucked away. A curse seems to have fallen upon Satapur’s royal family, whose maharaja died of a sudden illness shortly before his teenage son was struck down in a tragic accident. The kingdom is now ruled by an agent of the British Raj on behalf of Satapur’s two maharanis, the dowager queen and the maharaja’s widow. 

The royal ladies are in dispute over the education of the young crown prince, and a lawyer’s council is required—but the maharanis live in purdah and do not speak to men. Just one person can help them: Perveen Mistry, India’s only female lawyer.  Perveen is determined to bring peace to the royal house and make a sound recommendation for the young prince’s future, but knows she is breaking a rule by traveling alone as a woman into the remote countryside. And she arrives to find that the Satapur palace is full of cold-blooded power plays and ancient vendettas. Too late, she realizes she has walked into a trap. But whose? And how can she protect the royal children from the palace’s deadly curse?

This is the second book in this series and I have to say I am enjoying the experience. I haven’t read a lot of books set in India at all and most of what I have read is either present day or has been during Victorian times. This is post-Victorian but India is still very firmly under British rule. In this book, Perveen’s unique situation as the only female lawyer in India is called to be of use again as she is the only person who can travel to the kingdom of Satapur to speak to two women who keep purdah, which means they do not admit any men into their presence. The two women are both maharani or queens, one a dowager and one the widow of a recently deceased maharajah whose son will assume the rule when he turns eighteen, which is still some eight years away. The two women disagree on the path his education should take and are at a stalemate.

This book takes Perveen away from all that is familiar to her, including her friends and family as she travels to quite a remote location. She must overnight with a British agent, Colin Sandringham and then travel by palanquin to the castle, a trip of several hours over rough and difficult terrain that is often seemingly cut off when the weather is bad. Perveen immediately finds herself embroiled in not only the politics of the two castles (the older being the domain of the Dowager maharani and the newer the home of the younger mother of the maharaja) but also an even deeper mystery and element of danger that suggests that everyone in line to the ruling throne is in danger. The current maharaja, a child of just ten, has lost a father and brother in recent times and his mother has a fear that if he remains, he will not reach his majority. A fear that, the longer Perveen spends there, the more she realises is not without foundation.

I really liked the way that this built both the tension between the two maharani and also the overall threat of something greater. Perveen has a lot to figure out in quite a short time and she must also make a recommendation to the British regarding the young maharaja’s welfare and future. She’s well aware that her decision will not please everyone and that each of the women have very strong ideas on how they want the boy to be educated and raised to assume his duties. Perveen is also of a different background and seemingly continually makes mistakes in her interactions with the Dowager maharani in particular, which puts her on the back foot a lot and leads to her feeling chastised and embarrassed. There are seemingly a lot of rules of etiquette, some of which Perveen forgets or is unfamiliar with, especially in regards to the child maharajah who is treated with difference and revered even though he is also still just a child who still requires parenting with all that entails.

There’s a few interesting developments for Perveen in this book, namely Colin Sandringham. It’s a complicated situation, as people who have read the first book will know well. Perveen has many limitations on her interactions both because of circumstance and also custom/etiquette. I am hoping that the seeds sewn here are something that continues to develop in the books to come as I really think it adds a very appealing element and gives Perveen a lot of room to experience new things and grow in her personal as well as her professional life. The situation that Perveen is in at the moment is hopefully not the one she must remain in for the rest of her life.

This did have a slightly slow start but I ended up enjoying it as much as I did the first book. I hope there’s another instalment soon so that I can see what is next for Perveen and her unusual cases as India’s only 1920s female lawyer.


Book #96 of 2020



One response to “Review: The Satapur Moonstone by Sujata Massey

  1. Marg says:

    This sounds interesting!

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