Castle Librarian

Shiva’s Fire

In Book Review on May 2, 2014 at 10:37 am

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Shiva’s Fire

The book begins with the day Parvati, our heroine, is born in rural India. It is a day of birth and a day of death. A cyclone hits the village with devastating results. Parvati’s father is killed. The village homes are obliterated. The forest is destroyed. This is only the beginning. The survivors seek refuge in the raja’s palace, but crowded conditions and lack of fresh water leads to disease and more die. Eventually, they return to the village and begin to rebuild as best they can. Just when you think it’s over and it can’t get worse, the tigers who survived the storm, but now have a lack of prey begin to hunt the villagers.

All this devastation and misery gets blamed on Parvati. In the minds of the superstitious villagers, her entrance into the world brought on their problems. It doesn’t help that seemingly supernatural events keep happening to Parvati. Animals react strangely when she is around. Even as a toddler she is driven to dance and on one occasion does so in the fire without being burned. These events set Parvati apart.

Trust me, it does get better. Parvati’s natural talent for dance gets her admission to the gurukulam (school of traditional dance). In exchange, her family receives a small income which is enough to help them improve their life through farming and fishing.

Parvati succeeds at dancing. She also meets and falls in love with the young raja who was born that same devastating day and also has assumed responsibility for the cyclone. Parvati dreams of dancing and Rama dreams of becoming a doctor. She must decide what is most important to her, dance or romance.

I found Parvati to be a very real character who struggles with real emotions and decisions. She faces prejudice, forms friendship, experiences concern for others, and wants to do the right thing.

Things that parents, teachers, and librarians need to be aware of:
1. Puberty is briefly mentioned. Parvati is surprised because she was not warned about menstruation. Her friend alleviates her fears by telling her what is happening is natural. The details about why are not addressed.
2. Parvati meets with Rama secretly and there is a single kiss. This won’t be of concern to Western cultures, but cultures in which marriages are arranged and couples are always chaperoned, this may be a source of objection.
3. The god Shiva and Parvati’s connection with him is central to the story.

I enjoyed this read and it gives a good initial view of India and Indian culture.

Staples, Suzanne Fisher. Shiva’s Fire. New York: HarperTrophy, 2001. Print.

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