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Shiva's Fire Paperback – October 23, 2001

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Born during the worst storm ever seen by her small village in India, Parvati is both blessed and cursed with mysterious powers that confound her people. Wild animals flock to her; she is able to charm fish, birds, even deadly cobras. But Parvati's truly exceptional talent is her ability to dance like the Hindu god Shiva himself. At age 6, she hurls herself into a cooking fire and dances safely through the flames, emerging without a single burn. Naturally, these powers scare the other villagers. Only her mother Meenakshi loves and believes in her, protecting her from the their curious and hostile stares. The guru Pillai, a famous Indian dance teacher, hears of Parvati's talent and comes to offer her a position in his dance school, or "gurukulam," in the large city of Madras. Once there, she questions her destiny, or "dharma," as she experiences both a devastating loss and a blossoming romance; "...she thought about the mystery of dharma--how some things were very difficult to accept, while others opened as simply and as naturally as a flower." But through it all, the fire of Shiva burns within her, and Parvati knows that, despite all other callings, she was born to dance.

Suzanne Fisher Staples, renowned author of the award-winning Shabanu and Dangerous Skies, has woven together a magical tapestry of a tale that is a mystical hybrid of history and legend. At a time when teenage girls have more options than ever when choosing their own destinies, Parvati's story will inspire readers to set high goals and settle for nothing less than their true heart's desire. An instant classic. (Ages 12 to 14) --Jennifer Hubert --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

A Hindu girl, known in her village for her dancing, is chosen to study with a dance guru. A starred review in PW said, "Poetically and suspensefully expressing the sorrows and joys of the spiritual life as well as the life of the artist, this is a spellbinder." Ages 10-up.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 and up
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins (November 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0064409791
  • ISBN-13: 978-0064409797
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 7.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #333,841 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Laura Lynn Walsh on April 17, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This book is not the sequel to Shabanu and Haveli, but is, rather, a thought-provoking look at another culture, that of India. The young girl, Parvati, is unusual from her birth on. She has the ability to remember everything, the ability to communicate with animals, and above all she wants to dance. Since her family is devastatingly poor, there is no way she can pursue her dream, until a guru from far away comes to watch her. He offers her training, but that means giving up her family life. The training will also allow her to send money to her family to help them out of their poverty.
The author of this book is extremely good at helping you understand not only a different culture, but also the people who live in that culture. She does this not by didactic descriptions, but rather by thoughtful inclusion of the necessary indicative details.
The ultimate test of Parvati's dedication is her attraction to a boy, and the possibility of a second true friend. It is important that Staples doesn't gloss over the agony of this decision.
Overall, another good book from Staples.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 8, 2000
Format: Hardcover
A new novel from the author of Shabanu and Haveli. Parvati is born the same day a cyclone devastates her village in Nandipuram, India, and kills her father. The beginning of the novel tells of her mother's experience as a widow with small children forced to live with a loving uncle and bitter aunt, and of watching her unusual daughter grow up. Parvati is concious of her surroundings from the day of her birth, and remembers everything. Her aunt and the villagers are suspicous and treat her as an outcast, so Parvati grows up without friends. At twelve, a traveling guru seeking students for his traditional Indian dance academy offers Parvati a scholarship. Unsure of leaving her family, she accepts because the "dowry" the academy will pay for her will afford her mother and brothers to move into their own house and land. Once at the school, Parvati does make one friend, but she is again ostracized by the other students for the unusual occurrences that accompany her. Her natural affinity for dancing accelerates her pace through the school, and after only two years of study, she is invited to perform at the birthday party of the Maharaja of Nandipuram. This allows her to visit her family for the first time since she has been away, and to spend a few days in the luxury of the Raja's palace.
The contrast between palace life, her impoverished childhood, and the almost monastic existence at the dance academy are stunning, and this is one of the few books I wish was a movie instead because the descriptions of the countryside, the dancing, and opulence of the palace, complete with trained elephants, would be a sight. Staples writing is superb, as usual. Unlike Shabanu, however, the character development is not as strong.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Mani Subramani on October 17, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Our family of four (mom, dad (me!) and two daughters - 10, 13 yrs) listened to the audio casette version of this book on a long long car ride - driving from Minneapolis to Mt. Rushmore this summer.
Being from India, it was wonderful to have the sights, smells and flavors of our country observed and transmitted with so much realistic detail in the book. Often, we found ourselves at a rest stop and with none of us wanting to get out of the car as we were at a critical juncture in the development of the story.
The story itself is pretty simple, Parvati is a child born with magical powers that puzzle, intimidate and scare people in her village. The family goes through tough times after her father dies and the wonderful bond between Parvati and her mother as well as her brothers are treated with extreme sensitivity. I must confess that there were occasions when I was driving looking straight ahead to keep my family to see that I was crying. Parvati is discovered by a leading dance guru, leaves her family to live in the gurukulam (school) near Madras and grows up to be an extremely accomplished dancer. The final denouement occurs when she returns to the town as a famous dancer.
However, I do have some quibbles with the author. While she has set the story in contemporary India, as someone who is familiar with the context, I can say that there are details that don't quite add up. For instance, the ex-maharaja of the province is described as distributing his weight in gold to the public on his birthday - a practice that to the best of my knowledge really stopped in the early part of the century - around WWI.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Icha on October 18, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It's hard to describe this novelette in a few words; I just admire it too much. First of all, I'm very fond of Lord Shiva, and it was my original driving factor to buy the book. Second, the book is about a twelve year old girl (named after Lord Shiva's cosmic consort, Parvati, of all names!) who is very fond of dancing, and always wants to dance. The third: well, I'm weak towards India-themed books, for the spices, curries, and the jingling of payal (anklets) are usually mixed with spirituality at a certain level.

This book did not disappoint me at all. It took me a while to read it, for I had many things to do, and perhaps because the story did not pick at a quick pace anyway. But after the first chapter, everything flew quickly and amazingly. I was particularly amazed at how Suzanne Fisher Staples brought Shiva and His tandava (dance) to life through many levels: from the sandalwood statue that had captivated little Parvati since her first day in this world, through the veena that suddenly humming in every time Parvati lit a fire, and through Parvati's determination to dance. Having learnt Bharatanatyam myself (though, alas, I am by no means a devoted Devadasi), I am familiar with various dancing terms in the book. The book went further to evoke my longing for dancing, as I read how Parvati suffered through all physical and mental difficulties to perfect her dance. Learning Bharatanatyam is not easy, let alone mastering it!

I was a bit confused with the time frame of this story. First, I thought it was during the 18th century or something. Then, the cars and busses were mentioned, and I thought the story took time during the first days of India's independence.
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