She is but a minor footnote in the history of India, but the amazing career of Farzana says so much about northern India in the 86 years between her birth in 1746 and death in 1836 that it is worth reading this fast-paced biography just for that. Farzana has no known other name, according to the author -- though Zeb-un-Nissa, an honorific title, is sometimes used as though it were a family name. This was a woman of lowly background and no education who became a major player in the incessant minor wars that plagued northern India in particular in the interregnum between Mughal and British supremacy when half a dozen forces fought for power and wealth.

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