From School Library Journal
Starred Review. Grade 8 Up—In this fairy tale of India set during the early 1900s, Raka, a young bride who is awaiting certain death at the hands of her evil husband, spins a story for Lalit, a servant in the Rajah's house. In her tale, a con man and a thief, Farhad, is recruited to rescue the Hindu god Krishna's daughter from marriage to a demon king. He is aided by a sacred white tiger and carries a bloodstone that almost causes his death. As the two stories intertwine, the lines between fantasy and reality are blurred. The plot is fast paced and exciting, and the story gives an excellent overview of the conflicts of India at the time of British occupation, and of Hindu religious beliefs. The factual background adds to the overall feel of a wildly colorful and diverse country. The character development is also admirable, as readers see Farhad grow from a scared 16-year-old thief to a hero willing to die for his cause. What is most amazing about the story is the beautiful language and phrases that make readers feel as though they are sitting in India listening to Raka's story. A distinguished book for older fairy-tale fans.—Jennifer-Lynn Draper, Children's Literature Consultant, Oshawa, Ontario, Canada
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*Starred Review* Deftly interweaving Indian history, culture, and mythology, this richly layered tale, set in India at the beginning of the twentieth century, beautifully illustrates the power of storytelling. Having failed to escape a forced betrothal to brutish merchant Ahmed Mudhi, Safia is now a captive in his palace. While awaiting her wedding night, she is befriended by a palace servant, Lagan, and begins to tell him the story of a young thief, Farhad; his talking, sacred tiger companion; and their quest to retrieve the fabled Bloodstone in order to rescue a princess from the Demon King. Safia and Farhad's intersecting stories illuminate themes of destiny and free will; immortality and rebirth; compassion and humanity; and the power of stories to entertain, inspire, and transform. Originally published in Germany, Michaelis’s novel is an absorbing epic with diverse characters, written in lyrical prose that combines vivid imagery with droll, sometimes pointed commentary and some mature plot elements: Safia is sentenced to death, for example, after Ahmed discovers that she is not a virgin. Michaelis proves a highly accomplished storyteller in this sweeping, beguiling tale where things and people are not always as they seem and where characters (and readers) discover that “stories are an excellent way of escape.” Grades 9-12. --Shelle Rosenfeld
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