Friday, April 8, 2011

Book Review: Toads and Diamonds, by Heather Tomlinson

Toads and Diamonds is a delightful fairy tale. It takes place in India, and I’ve always loved stories of other lands, and this one has some fantasy elements that add to the beautiful descriptions of this country and its customs.

The main characters are two sisters, Diribani and Tana, and the story is told from each of their perspectives, in alternating chapters. They are both given gifts from the Goddess Naghali-ji. Diribani’s gift is that flowers and precious gems fall from her lips whenever she speaks. When Tana speaks, lucky toads and different forms of snakes (some very poisonous) fall from her lips. Now, you might think that Tana got the worst end of this deal, but you must read the story before you decide.

The sisters are separated from each other by circumstances, and both suffer much, but in different ways. This is a story of the girls’ quest to figure out what Naghali-ji wants them to do with their gifts. They long to find their purpose. In the process, the path is plagued with danger and near-death for both of them. There’s a bit of romance for each of them, but this isn’t a love story.

Tomlinson has created two opposing religions in this version of India, and as the author’s note says, neither of these religions exist in reality. But “the guiding principles of nonviolence, the equality of all souls, quiet contemplation, and selfless service to others may be found across the wide spectrum of India’s religious traditions.” (p.278) And these principles are beautifully portrayed in this novel.

The novel isn’t action packed, but there’s enough to keep the reader’s interest. I was reminded a bit of Cindy Pon’s Silver Phoenix, which I also enjoyed very much. I would recommend this to fans of fairy tales, especially those from foreign countries.

Published by Henry Holt, 2010
Copy obtained from the library
276 pages

Rating:  3/5

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  1. I read and reviewed this one awhile back and it sounds like you and I are pretty much on the same page on this book. I can't remember how I heard about it, but it was really intriguing and I borrowed it from the library. I think it was last summer...I may have taken it on vacation with me.

  2. I really liked this book but knew it would take some sweet-talking on my behalf to get most of my high school readers to pick it up. I was right. I had to go back and read the original fairy tale to help me understand it.

  3. I'm so glad you enjoyed it! I liked that it was set in India.


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