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Tiger Claws: A Novel of India Hardcover – September 4, 2007

3.5 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Maya, the 17th-century Indian heroine of Speed's The Temple Dancer, plays a minor role in this sequel, the middle volume of an epic trilogy that charts Mogul emperor Shah Jahan's declining years. As the emperor secludes himself in Agra with opium and dancing girls, two of his sons—blustering bully Dara, who is the favored heir, and the austere, intelligent, and far more dangerous Aurangzeb—secretly contend for the royal succession. Various nobles, army generals and palace eunuchs alternately aid and betray each brother. Meanwhile, in distant Poona, Shivaji, a daring Hindu thief and dispossessed heir of a small kingdom, gathers an army to reclaim his inheritance—which brings him to the attention of the scheming imperial forces. Some of the book's plot elements are resolved with startling abruptness, while others clearly await the concluding volume. But Speed offers a fascinating glimpse into a history unfamiliar to most Westerners. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Praise for The Temple Dancer:
"The Temple Dancer sweeps the reader into an age of passion and danger, romance, chivalry, and high adventure - an age when a bandit could defy an emperor and a dancing girl change the course of history.  Set against the rich backdrop of Moghul India, The Temple Dancer's combination of history, intrigue, and forbidden love should appeal to anyone who loves M.M. Kaye's The Far Pavilions and Shadow of the Moon - in fact, it should appeal to anyone who loves a story that will totally intrigue them." 
--India Edghill, author of Queenmaker and Wisdom's Daughter  
"The Temple Dancer is an ocean of a story, filled with adventure, passion and heartbreak.It's compulsively readable and everything you want in a novel."
  --Michael Swanwick, author of Bones of the Earth 
"What an adventure!  Two women, utterly different in culture and outlook, travel across seventeenth century India on elephant back and discover, in the face of betrayal, that they have a great deal more in common than they ever suspected.  Beautifully researched, this novel has it all:  heroes adept with sword and pistol, bold and independent heroines, corrupt rulers, treacherous eunuchs, slippery merchants, and bloodthirsty banditti.  The author stirs them all together with a handsome dose of conspiracy, mysticism, and sensuality to create a splendid entertainment in the grand style. --Karleen Koen, author of author of Through a Glass Darkly and Dark Angels
"The Temple Dancer is a lush, loopy, multicultural epic set in 17th -century India, like the cockeyed marriage of a Bollywood musical and an Errol Flynn/Olivia de Havilland movie, well-researched, playfully written, and highly entertaining."
--Chris Bram, author of Gods and Monsters and Lives of the Circus Animals
"The Temple Dancer is what reading is all about. This book upholds true literature, which is -- the beauty of language. There is a wonderful world here full of enchantment and nourishment."
--Daniel Ladinsky, author of The Gift and I Heard God Laughing 
"Speed conducts a dazzling tour of seventeenth century India. Lavish and lush…mesmerizing…Chock-full of sex, suspense, and peril, this high-voltage adventure yarn will rapidly transport willing readers to vanished time and place. [It] will leave readers craving more."--Booklist
"A melange of creatively imagined characters populates Speed's first novel, an entertaining historical saga that takes place in 17th-century India. The fast-paced story benefits from intriguing characters and situations twisted just enough to keep them on the safe side of unbelievable... it's driven by a contagious enthusiasm for the people and places encountered throughout the journey... an enjoyable adventure that still has respect for its characters."--Publishers Weekly

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; First Edition edition (September 4, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312325517
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312325510
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.5 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,363,701 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

John Speed began studying Indian history, art, and religion while still in high school. For more than thirty years, his explorations deepened as he became absorbed in tales of the fall of the Mogul Empire and of the rise of the rebel prince Shivaji. During his many visits to India, he has stood on crumbling battlements, crawled through lightless caves, bathed in sacred rivers, wandered through forgotten gardens, prayed at old mosques and ancient temples, joined in night-long kirtans and qwalis, cheered on ecstatic temple dancers, and laid his head at the feet of hundreds of saints both living and dead, Hindus and Muslims. Speed is a freelance political consultant and journalist who cofounded a successful on-line newspaper. He now lives with his dogs in a very small house overlooking Swami's Beach in Cardiff-by-the-Sea, California. The Temple Dancer is his first novel.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Readers of "The Temple Dancer" will likely enjoy "Tiger Claws," John Speed's second book in a planned trilogy. Chronicling the latter years of Mogul emperor Shah Jahan's reign and the power struggles that emerge as he declines,Speed paints a picture of 17th century Indian life that is both intriguing and, at times, horrifying. Through the eyes of a high ranking eunuch named Basant we glimpse the realities of life inside Jahan's palace: from Basant's vivid childhood memories of being made into a eunuch, to Princess Roshanara's clandestine affair with ambassador Shaista Khan, to the emperor's obsession with twin sister concubines. As Shah Jahan withdraws into an opium infused world his sons begin to vie for control of his empire - especially Dara, the pampered court favorite, and Aurangzeb, the dangerous Viceroy of the Deccan. While drawing you into this story Speed simultaneously introduces you to Shivaji, a disinherited Hindu chieftain who begins retaking his rightful territory with the help of longtime friends and sinister allies.

There is a lot going on in this novel and though the storyline is engaging the characters are almost exclusively male. Princess Roshanara plays a prominent role in the first third of the book, while the temple dancer Maya appears when the story moves outside the palace. Since "The Temple Dancer" focused mainly on two female figures I was surprised by this seeming reversal - neither Roshanara nor Maya progress beyond the two-dimensional sphere, though if you've read "The Temple Dancer" you'll be able to add much more personality to Maya than is present in the story.
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Format: Hardcover
An enjoyable novel of India In the era of Shah Jehan (of Taj Mahal fame). Colorful characters and an engaging plot characterize this novel. For anyone who loves the culture... you can almost smell the incense coming through in the pages of this work. The book gives a nice sense of that period in Indian history. Loads of vivid imagery fill the book, and it seems to be extremely well researched... with attention paid to those myriad small details which make it so easy for the reader to slip into this time and place. While maybe not the very BEST of this genre, the book certainly has a respectable place amongst the novels of Mughal India.
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Format: Paperback
I cannot put my finger on what I do not like about Speed's writing style. I did read The Temple Dancer, and although I did not enjoy it either, I wanted to give the sequel a chance. This paperback is 436 pages long, and very little actually happens. Although the reader does get a good idea of the social customs, I still felt like I was reading in a vacuum. In both Tiger Claws and The Temple Dancer, I always felt like I was waiting for something to happen even though there never was a real climax. What could be called the one exciting moment of the book comes at page 417, and is over at 425! And then there is an abrupt ending in the last 10 pages. The first 75 pages are almost completely useless, and feel like they belong to another book as they have no real effect on this novel. Perhaps the inner-family scheming and corruption of the first 75 pages will be important in the third book, but the disjointed nature of this and the first book do not bode well for the third installment.
I feel like Speed has tried to create some sweeping, mystical epic, but falls unbelievably short. He claims in the intro to have "worked" on this book for 20 years. I am sure he did extensive research, and is very knowledgeable, but his storytelling is just horrendous. This book is just a mess.
I would literally recommend any book on India other than this one: Beneath a Marble Sky, The Feast of Roses, The Twentieth Wife, The Splendour of Silence, etc.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed The Temple Dancer and was looking forward to following Maya along on another journey. Unfortunately, this story never delivered the excitement and intrigue found in the previous novel.

Tiger Claws has a promising beginning and I was eager to read more about Basant and Roshanara. However, the novel changes pace and slows to a crawl as we follow the development of an impending war. Although historical fiction is typically very enjoyable, Tiger Claws is incredibly dull in comparison to most. I hoped for treachery, treasonous behavior, anything to make the story more interesting!

The characters are flat and unlikable; I simply did not find myself caring about any of them. Shivaji is a far cry from an inspirational leader and it is difficult to see him as an individual that is able to cause a poor, hodgepodge army to rise up against one of the richest empires in India. At climatic moments when you typically find yourself rooting a character on, I felt rather indifferent towards the outcome. Even Maya herself, who plays a very small role, lost her initial draw. She is no longer the strong, determined woman she was in The Temple Dancer. Maya has become a woman who has given up on life and is filled with self doubt as she is pushed from one situation to another. While it appears that the Brotherhood will once again play a strong role in the development of the novel, they are added almost as an afterthought in certain areas. I missed the manipulation and deceitfulness they brought to The Temple Dancer that kept you wondering what would happen next.
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