The Leopard Princess is the second book in the series titled The Tales of Jahani by acclaimed South Australian author Roseanne Hawke. Following on directly from Daughter of Nomads, I highly recommend that readers will continue with this only after reading the first book. Unlike some series, which can be read in any order, I suspect that The Leopard Princess may fail to resonate if read in this way. I assume that the publisher made the decision to separate what was one rather long book into two smaller ones as they feared a younger YA audience may feel overwhelmed by such a large book. This was probably the right decision although I feel that both books could easily be bundled together in one volume and pitched successfully at an older audience.
Feel free to read my earlier review of Daughter of Nomads here. The Leopard Princess picks up the story in the Autumn of 1662. Jahani remains in hiding from her jilted fiancée, the cruel Muzahid Baig and the tyrannical Dagar Khan. With the constant risk of capture and increasing fear of retribution upon the nomadic people who are hiding her, Jahani knows that she must travel through the mountains to the northern kingdoms in an effort to secure peace for the region and realise her destiny. Continuing on from Daughter of Nomads, The Leopard Princess develops themes and ideas that explore good versus evil, triumph against adversity, in addition to the quest for one’s identity. The Leopard Princess also asks pertinent questions about love, leadership, followership, courage and self-sacrifice.
With plenty of action, a sprinkling of romance and just enough magic to make things interesting, I imagine that this book will appeal to readers in the middle years. Certainly, as Jahani moves further into adolescence, I envisage that older teens and many adults will also discover plenty to relate to. As with, Daughter of Nomads, this story provides unique opportunities for Asian perspectives, particularly to a History unit focusing on the Middle Ages and Renaissance period (which is too often Eurocentric). I imagine that students might appreciate the opportunity to compare the life of Elizabeth I with Jahani, contrasting the challenges and limitations faced by women in positions of authority at this time.
While The Leopard Princess neatly draws to a conclusion the quest begun in Daughter of Nomads, I will live in hope that Hawke will decide to write a third book in this series. After all, there are still plenty of adventures to be had for Jahani and Azhar. I’d also be keen to read a story written exclusively from the perspective of Azhar, especially one which explores a time before the events in books 1 and 2.
Tanya Grech Welden