The Elephant Keeper’s Daughter
by Julia Drosten
Narrator: Deepa Samuel
Translator: Deborah Langton
Formats available: Paperback, Electronic, and Audio
Pub Date: 4.10.18| 9 hours 55 minutes
REVIEWER: Sophia Rose
MP3 provided by publisher for review. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted.
Ceylon, 1803. In the royal city of Kandy, a daughter is born to the king’s elephant keeper—an esteemed position in the court reserved only for males. To ensure the line of succession, Phera’s parents raise her as a boy.
As she bonds with her elephant companion, Siddhi, Phera grows into a confident, fiercely independent woman torn between the expectations of her family and her desire to live life on her own terms. Only when British colonists invade is she allowed to live her true identity, but when the conquerors commit unspeakable violence against her people, Phera must add survival to the list of freedoms for which she’s willing to fight.
Possessed by thoughts of revenge yet drawn into an unexpected romance with a kindly British physician, the elephant keeper’s daughter faces a choice: Love or hatred? Forgiveness or retribution?https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35400723-the-elephant-keeper-s-daughter
Earlier this year, I came across a historical fiction set in the time of Colonial India and it was lavish with historical detail of the time period of the story and before. This book gave me a thirst for more Indian historicals. Naturally, I pounced when I spied The Elephant Keeper’s Daughter on an audio list.
This book is translated into English and has a German husband and wife author team.
The narrator is new to me, but I thought she was a brilliant match considering she might be from or have ties to that part of the world. Naturally, her accents were good and she caught the nuances that I recognized from watching foreign films and engaging with some Indian Americans who are acquaintances. She did such a good job with all the technical aspects. I teared up, got angry, smiled and felt my heart warm at all the right spots.
The historical setting is Ceylon at the outset of the British gaining control and ousting the last kingdom there in the early 1800s. The story follows one family- the royal elephant keeper and his family- as they do what they have to do under the smashing and grabbing boot of the British might. This book was brutally honest much of the time about what this transition was like for the locals and the British on the scene. It was tragic and yet the heart of the people shone through.
There is a unique twist to the story of the heroine, Phera. Phera was born a girl, but there was a deception that took place at the time of her birth that made it so that her gender had to be kept hidden at all costs. For twelve years, she was reared as a boy so she could learn to take care of the elephants including her own elephant gifted her by the king. She is slated to follow in her father’s footsteps as his son. But then the British invade and take over. She no longer has to perpetrate the deception and has a decision on her hands. At the same time, things get brutal and her family suffers tragedy. Trigger warning for strong violence and rape. Her focus turns to hate and revenge and then gets complicated by a love for someone who is from the enemy race.
There were so many elements addressed in this one and yes, it did bog it down a little, but when the pace would start to sag, the action would pick up again. I was enchanted by the lavish and colorful descriptions that allowed me to get a good look at Ceylon of the time- social, religious, family, traditions and more were drawn in well. Phera and those around her were engaging characters.
Okay, not the villain. I found that he was so starkly evil toward the Indians and it threw me off because his brother is the opposite and they were close. I might have got it if there was an explanation of someone from the race doing him a terrible wrong, but there was really nothing other than unreasonable hatred that went well beyond prejudice into the personal.
In summary, my reason for picking up this book was satisfied. I enjoyed my journey into Ceylon’s history, but I also enjoyed getting Phera’s story and getting to know this remarkable young woman who had to come into her own under terrible circumstances.
My thanks to Brilliance Audio for the opportunity to listen to this book in exchange for an honest review.