Monday, November 22, 2010

Book Review: Toads and Diamonds by Heather Tomlinson

After a fateful trip to the village well, sisters Diribani and Tana are each blessed with a gift from a goddess. With each word Diribani speaks, exotic flowers and priceless gems drop from Diribani's mouth, while Tana speaks snakes, toads and lucky frogs.

In the Hundred Kingdoms, snakes are prized and kept as pets to eat disease-bearing, food-stealing rats. But Diribani and Tana live in a province run by a greedy, corrupt governor who has placed a bounty on snakes and will do anything to make a profit and keep the Emperor's share for himself. When Diribani comes home speaking diamonds and Tana vipers, their mother is terrified Governor Alwar will take Diribani and have Tana killed.

When Diribani saves a village girl from the rough treatment of the soldiers in visiting Prince Zahid's hunting procession, both sisters' gifts are revealed. Realizing the girls are no longer safe in their home, Zahid decrees that Diribani will be taken under his protection and will travel with his sister and him to their faraway home, and Tana and her mother are sent to live in the Temple, where she and her snakes will be honored and protected.

Exhiled from their homes and each other, the sisters are unsure if the goddess has blessed or cursed them. Surrounded by luxury and falling in love with the prince, Diribani struggles to use her gift for good. And when Tana is witness to an act of terrible cruelty by Governor Alwar, she leaves the false safety of the Temple to embark on a quest to set her world right.

A beautiful, lush retelling of Charles Perrault's fairy tale, Toads and Diamonds is set in an exotic land mirroring precolonial India. Saturated with gorgeous descriptions of the colors, tastes, and scents of India, the land is almost another character. Diribani and Tana's love and faith in each other and the goddess who blessed them shine through the book, giving them the strength to follow extraordinary paths. Fans of Shannon Hale, Jessica Day George, and Gail Carson Levine will adore this lovely tale!

(who can't decide between Extraordinary by Nancy Werlin and Zombies vs. Unicorns by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier!)

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