Wednesday, May 16, 2007

What's the point of a prince... if... argh

I should start out by saying that I listened to this. I was this close to pulling it out of the player for the entire time. The alternative was the NPR pledge drive. I stuck with Shiva's Fire by Suzanne Fisher Staples. I loathed it, but I hate the pledge drive more. People really seem to like it, though, so it's possible that I missed something on the audio.

It was like a fable, or a fairy tale, but you know how those are satisfying with their tendency for endings with payoff? This one, not so much. The first disc and a half was pretty much her mother's story. Which was boring. I didn't like the tone story, which may have been influenced by the narrator. I'm unsure whether it was the story or the narration that was condescending. Maybe a little of both. I really wanted to get to the point. I wanted to start hearing about the girl. And it dragged. And dragged.

Furthermore, YOU CAN'T HAVE A MYSTICAL CROW SHOW UP IN THE BEGINING AND NOT HAVE IT COME BACK. Or at least explain it's presence in the realm of the story. It's like, against the laws of mythology. And ticks me off. The whole darn 7.25 hours I waited for the crow to fit back into the story, and nothing. Ultimately, I didn't buy into the realm. I'm a pretty forgiving audience. I'll let a lot of things slip, but the universe has to jive. Magical realism or any other genre.

Parvati can charm animals and dance in fire without getting hurt. But while that may sound wonderful, the villagers don't understand that this girl they already hate is actually blessed by the gods and has a tremendous fate. Parvati was born on a day of great sorrow for her village. All Parvati wants to do is dance. It is her calling, and when rumors of her talents reach a great teacher, Parvati is offered a scholarship that will not only allow her to dance, it will help her escape a village that can't comprehend her.

The most interesting part is the section when Parvati is at the gurukulam and there's a Robin Hood-like thief on the loose. The tiger attack was good as well. Those sections really had some motion, but they didn't really fit well with the rest of the story. And then there's the Yuvaraja, the Crown Prince. His life mirrors Parvati. They were born on the same day. They both blame themselves for the storm and famine. They both posess a special link with the gods. Staples has said that she doesn't like tidy endings, but you can't set up two people like that, and not follow through. I don't know. Whatever. It's folklore. Fable. Fairytale. Take your pick, but don't expect your edges to be trimmed and even.

It is very much about Hinduism and the melding of art and religion, not that it really comes right out and says that. Meh. It wasn't horrible, but it wasn't for me. It will be good to remember it for world religion lists, and it's not like we are drowning in teen books set in India (although this is getting much better, I notice*). Shiva's Fire is a good counter-point to some of the others - it's a very different direction.

*Think: Homeless Bird; Sold; Koyal Dark, Mango Sweet; Monsoon Summer. To name a few. These books are so vastly different it's almost hard to believe that they all have roughly the same setting. Country-wise, at least.

note the showdown of the 2 runners-up in the poll ---->


Ed Vis said...

Namasthe: Thanks for your introduction of the book "Shiva's Fire." I will definitely will get a copy and read it. True Hinduism is amalgamation of art & phliosophies. Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for reviewing this Jackie! I've been eyeing it for a while- along with Under the Persimmon Tree. I *love* Shabanu and Haveli- have you read those? Shabanu's on my all-time favorites list.

Gail Gauthier said...

"I loathed it."

This may become my favorite quote from a review.

Angela said...

"I loathed it"...that's such classic Jackie right there. First off, that book would've caught my attention with it's pretty pretty cover. Shame the mystical crow and the storyline with the prince didn't have more significance in the book overall, those would've made for good reading in themselves! Anyways, enjoyed the review!

Camille said...

It is interesting how listening to a book and reading the book can help or hurt the experience. I read Shiva's Fire years ago and enjoyed it. I wonder if I would have liked it as much if I had listened to it.

Lots of folks seem to like The Thirteenth Tale so I tried it. Listening to it was so exasperating that I found myself shouting unkind things at the heroine because I was sick of listening to her "whining" about her dead sister. I may not have felt that way if I had been reading it.