Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Mirror of Fire and Dreaming by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Summary: In this second book of the Conch Bearer, Anand goes to a small village being terrorized by some sort of evil. Going undercover as a village boy, he joins a group of workers who are searching for something among a palace ruins. Anand quickly learns that the man in charge is no man at all but a wicked wizard who uses the worker's souls to feed a terrible demon. In an attempt to get away, Anand discovers a little mirror that takes him into the past - to a time when the palace was a gleaming and lively place. Even more, he discovers that the wizard has also come back in time and plans to take over the throne.

Assessment: This book has one element I absolutely love and one element I do not like. First, I love time travel books and this one is a great one. Divakaruni takes us back to the times when India was ruled by shahzadas (Muslim princes) and describes in beautiful detail the sumptuous finery, jewels, and endless banquets as well as the customs of the court. It makes me wish for more novels set in the Mughal era (possible writing idea there). So what was there not to like? There are about two things I don't like in stories - I don't like novels where the stories take place in dreams, and I don't like stories that re-introduce a beloved character, only to have that character behave differently through the novel because he or she has forgotten his or her identity. In this case, Nisha is also in the past, but cannot remember who she was. Instead, she acts the haughty niece of the grand vizier and has no idea who Anand is, and at first, wants nothing to do with him. For me, this is the writing equivalent of saying, "Forget everything you knew about this person," which isn't fair to the people who have come to really like the character. However, having said that, do not let that detract you from this book. It is richly detailed, exciting, and with a thrilling ending, I actually enjoyed this book even more than the first one.

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