The Silver Anklet by Mahtab Narsimhan (Canada) - (US)
Tara Trilogy, Book Two
Finished: Jan. 26, 2010
First Published: Dec. 12, 2009
Genre: YA, fantasy
The patch of sunlight at the edge of the forest had an odd look; dirty yellow and striped.
Acquired: Received a review copy from the publisher, through the author.
Reason for Reading: Next in the series.
Summary: Tara and her brother, Suraj, along with his friend, have gone to the local fair. There they befriend the Ferris wheel operator, an overweight yet very friendly boy and a performer who can dislocate all his joints to fit inside small containers along with his little sister helper, Sadia. While there, a scream rips through the fairgrounds and the girl, a fair person who can see as day in the night, who was looking after Sadia screams that Sadia was taken from her by a hyena into the jungle. Tara herself had earlier thought she had seen a hyena but shrugged it off as a trick of the sun as hyenas do not live in these parts. Men quickly start organizing a search party when Tara realizes that her brother and his friend are missing too and when a scrap of his shirt is found on a bush they know he was taken too. Thus the story is set up as Tara and her new found friends, along with a familiar face from book one take matters into their own hands and set off into the jungle to find the missing children only to find out that it is all a carefully orchestrated plan to lure Tara herself into the clutches of her evil nemesis, Zarku. Only this time her brother's life may be the sacrifice to rid the world of this evil once and for all.
Comments: The second book in this trilogy jumps right into the action and does not let go until the very end. A very fast-paced plot-driven novel that kept me reading well into the night. The book is not quite so dark as the first in the series but is, even so, still dark with death and imagery. After the brief beginning in the fairgrounds, the entire story takes place within the jungle which serves to add a heavy, broody, stifling atmosphere throughout as the teens deal with the heat and humidity, mosquitoes and thirst. The plot itself is what I call the "race against time" theme where the characters set off to save someone and event after event happens until the final climax. Thus, there is not a lot of character development in the new characters introduced in this book. The heavy set boy and the night seeing girl were the most fully realized and I developed feelings for them. On the other hand the boy who's sister was taken plays a more important role in the story, yet he felt flat to me and I didn't connect with him. But otherwise, I really enjoyed the band of teens and the various personalities make for great dynamics within the group.
Tara, herself, is given the most powerful characteristics. Along with how we've come to know her from book one, she is a strong girl, with family loyalty and honour high in her values along with responsibility, fairness and a willingness to believe in others. Tara is faced with many dilemnas such as choosing between: the one or the many, a life of evil or death and sacrificing herself or losing time by going for help. Choosing the right thing is not easy nor is it always obvious.
One can't help but write about a sequel and not compare it to the first and here I found that while "The Third Eye" was steeped in Hindu mythology, this book does not follow through with that though it is still present, just in a smaller degree. There is no mistaking though that the story takes place within a Hindu society as the culture is ever present throughout and this is one of the exciting things about this series, making it so different from the usual YA fantasy fare being written at the moment. There is even a glossary at the back for all the Hindi words used in the book. I wonder if I can get my sister to start calling me Didi?
The cover is also quite intriguing. I think it reflects the ethnic flavour of the story well and the picture reminds me of a simple henna drawing. While being the second in a series the story can hold up on its own. References are made to events in the first book but the story here is complete within itself having a beginning and an ending. I always appreciate when authors can make the second book of a trilogy a complete story of its own while continuing to be a part of the whole (no cliffhangers please!). Ms. Narsimhan does this very well by bringing this story to a conclusion and then giving readers a taste by setting up the direction the next book will take. The last few lines of the book left me with a gleeful chuckle and shiver as I look forward to the final 'showdown' in the last book.