Book of Queens

The True Story of the Middle Eastern Horsewomen Who Fought the War on Terror


By Pardis Mahdavi

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$37.00 CAD

The untold story of generations of Middle Eastern freedom fighters—horsewomen who safeguarded an ancient breed of Caspian horse—and their efforts to defend their homelands from the Taliban and others seeking to destroy them.

"A breathtaking book that revisits nearly one hundred years of Iranian history, highlighting the power and beauty of women who refuse to be subdued.” ―Alison Hawthorne Deming, author of A Woven World

Book of Queens reaches back centuries to the Persian Empire and a woman disguised as a man, facing an invading army, protected only by light armor and the stallion she sat astride. Mahdavi draws a thread from past to present: from her fearless Iranian grandmother, who guided survivors of domestic violence to independent mountain colonies in Afghanistan where the women, led by a general named Mina, became their country’s first line of defense from marauding warlords. To the female warriors who helped train and breed the horses used by US Green Berets when they touched down in October 2001, with a mission but insufficient intelligence on the ground—women whose contributions were then forgotten.

Pardis Mahdavi chases the legacy of Caspian horses and the women whose lives are saved by them, drawing on decades of research, newly-discovered diaries, and exclusive military sources. Among those intersecting stories is that of American Louise Firouz, who helped bring the breed back from the brink of extinction, connecting Virginia traders to British royals to the son of the Shah. Firouz’s life is forever changed when she meets Mahdavi’s own family, who run an unusual smuggling operation in addition to raising horses in a wild bid for freedom.

Book of Queens is an epic tale of hidden women whose communal knowledge was instrumental in saving an animal as ancient as civilization, and who were the genesis of their own liberation.


  • “In this magnificent story, Mahdavi unearths the tale of the feminist horsewomen warriors who from Persia to the contemporary Middle East overcame political tragedy and personal cruelty, creating a fighting force of their own and passing on their skills, defiant wisdom, and courage from generation to generation.  Mahdavi weaves memoir, history, and recent events into an unforgettable narrative about East and West, the tragic costs of war, and the transformative power that bravery coupled with the bonds of sisterhood can unleash.”
    Karen J. Greenberg, Center on National Security, Fordham Law
  • “A fascinating story that follows Iranian women and their horses through generations of history. The window into their extraordinary bravery and resilience should serve as an inspiration to women everywhere. A must-read for those seeking stories of female empowerment and courage.”
    Jessica Donati, author of Eagle Down: The Last Special Forces Fighting the Forever War, a Financial Times Book of the Year
  • “An exciting, passionate story about a long bond of women and horses set against a backdrop of upheaval and war. Pardis Mahdavi’s research is impeccable but even more, she is also a gifted storyteller who immerses us deeply into this world of courageous women and their incredible devotion to their horses. I loved this book!”
    Elizabeth Letts, #1 bestselling author of The Perfect Horse and The Ride of Her Life
  • "Book of Queens is a riveting tale of intergenerational strength and the sheer power of cross-species bonds. A virtuoso storyteller, Pardis Mahdavi weaves together the voices and experiences of these fearless horsewomen and their fierce dedication to protecting each other, their horses, and the land they love. Inspiring and captivating from page to page, Book of Queens makes the mind and heart race—almost as if the reader is spirited along by a Caspian itself made out of words."
    Christopher Schaberg, author of Adventure: An Argument for Limits
  • Book of Queens tells the astonishing story of the horsewomen of Iran, their strength and courage forged out of violence, oppression, and wars, annealed by their soulful relationship the remarkable Caspian horses with whom they lived and rode into battle. Pardis Mahdavi honors the legacy of these ‘feminist justice warriors.’…This is a breathtaking book that revisits nearly one-hundred years of Iranian history, highlighting the power and beauty of women who refuse to be subdued.”
    Alison Hawthorne Deming, author of A Woven World
  • "With her latest fascinating book, Pardis Mahdavi brings some long-since-buried history into the light. In it, she expertly traces the genealogy of generations of Middle Eastern horsewomen who not only fought for freedom but who also saved Caspian horses from extinction." 
    Ms. Magazine
  • “A breathtaking history, told masterfully. These tapestries of geopolitical history are connected by the author’s personal search for her ancestors and her quest to confirm the existence of the original stud book that authenticates the Caspian horse lineage.”
    Library Journal (starred review)
  • “A lively and lyrical chronicle of female freedom fighters in Iran and Afghanistan and the once nearly extinct Caspian horses which they fostered and rode…. This vivid narrative weaves together a surprising array of historical threads to tell a bracingly inspirational tale of women and horses saving each other.”
    Publishers Weekly
  • “A story worthy of Graham Greene… Horse lovers will be fascinated, but with her focus on geopolitics and women’s rights, Mahdavi reaches many audiences.”
    Kirkus Reviews
  • “This sweeping narrative is part memoir, part history, and part adventure tale…. Mahdavi's narrative style immerses the reader into a forgotten world that highlights the strength and courage of women in Middle Eastern history while showing how they saved the oldest breed of horse. Readers interested in women's history or horses will be fascinated by this book.”

On Sale
Aug 22, 2023
Page Count
304 pages
Hachette Books

Pardis Mahdavi

About the Author

Pardis Mahdavi, PhD is Provost and Executive Vice President of the University of Montana and a former Professor and Dean of Social Sciences at Arizona State University. She is a lifetime member of the Council on Foreign Relations and has been a fellow at the Social Sciences Research Council, the American Council on Learned Societies, Google Ideas, and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Dr. Mahdavi's career began as a journalist, writing for the Los Angeles Times Magazine. She continues to write for Foreign Affairs, Huffington Post, The Conversation, as well as Ms. Magazine. Her work has been featured in her academic books as well as numerous public opinion and policy pieces.

Dr. Mahdavi has published four single authored books and one edited volume in addition to numerous journal and news articles. She is the author of Passionate Uprisings: Iran’s Sexual Revolution, as well as multiple essays on the significance of sexual politics in the Arab Spring and Green Movement across the Middle East. More recently, her work on sexual politics has been featured in The Washington Post, Foreign Affairs, Zocalo, the Denver Post, as well as Facebook Watch.

Learn more about this author