Thursday, June 14, 2012

Book Review: Toads and Diamonds by Heather Tomlinson

Toads and Diamonds

Heather Tomlinson

Publication Date: March 30th 2012

Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.

Pages: 288

Genre: Fairytale, Historical, Mythological

Diribani has come to the village well to get water for her family's scant meal of curry and rice. She never expected to meet a goddess there. Yet she is granted a remarkable gift: Flowers and precious jewels drop from her lips whenever she speaks.
It seems only right to Tana that the goddess judged her kind, lovely stepsister worthy of such riches. And when she encounters the goddess, she is not surprised to find herself speaking snakes and toads as a reward.
Blessings and curses are never so clear as they might seem, however. Diribani’s newfound wealth brings her a prince—and an attempt on her life. Tana is chased out of the village because the province's governor fears snakes, yet thousands are dying of a plague spread by rats. As the sisters' fates hang in the balance, each struggles to understand her gift. Will it bring her wisdom, good fortune, love . . . or death?

Toads and Diamonds is a 2011 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.

The fairytale of "Toads and Diamonds" was introduced to me in the short story "The Fairy's Mistake" by Gail Carson Levine. After that I hadn't heard much of the fairytale at all, though the premise of it really intrigued me, the thought that things aren't always what they seem at first and that blessings are curses and curses blessings.

Tomlinson takes this premise and stretches it out, exploring it to its fullest potential. This is, however, only one of the many layers in this book. Another very important layer is the setting of the book.

The book takes place in India after a Muslim invasion an conquering. The natives and the Muslims find themselves at odds during this time, especially because of their very different religions. The heroines Diribani and Tana are both native girls surviving this world where they are now at the disadvantage, on top of the fact that due to the death of their father, a jewel merchant, they have had no way to gain money to pay for their lives.

Tomlinson also includes Hindu cosmology as the driving force behind the mystical part of the fairytale, which I love.

Overall there is a strong Indian/Hindu Cultural and Historical slant on this fairytale which I wish there were more of out there.

I highly recommend this book to any lovers of fairytale adaptations. I also recommend this book for people who love India and the culture or even just a non-western point of view in a YA story.

4(.25) Bookmarks


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