Thalassa Ali, Author . Bantam $13.95 (368p) ISBN 978-0-553-38176-4

What's a Victorian girl to do? Twenty years old, not quite beautiful, more interested in military history than in conventional female doings, Mariana Givens sets off for India with Gov.-Gen. Lord Auckland's enormous party in hopes of finding a husband. Several eligible British officers are ready to propose, but Mariana would rather study Urdu with wise Munshi Sahib or hang out with the elephants. The officers are weepy or large-eared, except for Harry Fitzgerald, who turns out not to be eligible, after all. It's the eponymous hostage who steals her heart: Saboor, a luminous infant who was kidnapped by the ailing, one-eyed Maharajah Ranjit Singh, ruler of the Punjab, whom Lord Auckland is on his way to meet. After Saboor's mother is poisoned, Mariana is readily enlisted to return Saboor to his father, Hassan Sahib. Will she come to love Hassan as much as she loves Saboor? Although the ending is inconclusive, suggesting a sequel (one is in the works; called A Beggar at the Gate, it will be published in 2003), Mariana is unlikely to return to flower-arranging in Sussex. Sometimes lyrical and zippy, sometimes predictable and plodding, this richly populated novel is notable for an odd combination of strengths: a compelling mysticism, a convincing historicity and a flare for slapstick comedy sending up both the Indian and British patriarchies. Old-time Olympia Press readers will warm to the hair-waxing scene as Mariana is prepared for a sham (or is it?) wedding to Hassan. Agent, Jill Kneerim. (Nov. 26)

Reviewed on: 10/07/2002
Release date: 11/01/2002
Mass Market Paperbound - 528 pages - 978-0-553-58414-1
Open Ebook - 319 pages - 978-0-307-49099-5
Prebound-Other - 978-0-613-91668-4
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