54. The Deadly Conch by Mahtab Narsimhan

The Deadly Conch by Mahtab Narsimhan (Canada) - (US)
The Tara Trilogy, Book 3

Pages: 286
Ages: 10+
Finished: Mar. 3, 2011
First Published: Jan. 1, 2011
Publisher: Dundurn Press
Genre: children, fantasy, Hindu mythology
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

Layla glared at Tara, her face contorted with rage.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Dundurn Press.

Reason for Reading: Next (and last) in the series.

I have been eagerly awaiting this final installment to Canadian author (originally from Bombay) Mahtab Narsimhan's Tara Trilogy and it was well worth the wait! What an astounding conclusion to this unique fantasy trilogy which is based in Hindu mythology. A very different concept from the usual fantasy fare available for children these days and highly readable and enjoyable.

Tara returns home a hero, from The Silver Anklet, but that does not last long when a series of destructive events take place within the village such as a mutilated dog found in the temple and a diseased dead cat found in their well. Evidence points to Tara for all these devastating acts of vandalism and destruction. The village is experiencing a drought, the crops are past rescuing and now without well water to drink the villagers' thoughts are full of superstitions thinking Tara has returned home possessed by the evil she conquered. But Tara knows who is framing her and after her family is nearly killed she has only one option left, to use the conch shell to call the Lord of the Underworld with whom she bargains her life to visit the Underworld to seek advice on ridding her village of this menace. But with only 24 hours back on earth to settle matters before she must return, will she have enough time?

This book is by far the best book in the entire series. It is seeped in Hindu mythology and quite a dark tale, more like the first book, The Third Eye, with rampant evil and images of violence, blood and death. Nothing too strong, but I wouldn't recommend for younger ages, I'd say a mature 10 and up. By this time we've become attached to Tara and her character acts true to form in this book facing choices between good and evil and struggling within herself to remain true to her strong sense of honour and family. Surprisingly, Tara's mother came across as the second main character though there was another teen who could have held this spot. But I found him a weak character and Tara's mother, Parvati, pounced from the page showing us where Tara gets her spirit from. In fact, there is a third female character of the next generation, a widow who has been saved from the ritual of Sati, being burned with her husband's body, who plays a major role making this a story of three generations of Hindi women fighting against mindless superstitions and actual evil.

The plot goes forward at a fast pace, steadily building up throughout the whole book until the surprising end. This makes for a quick read. I actually made myself put the book down so I wouldn't finish it in a day; I wanted to savour it a little longer. I really appreciate that Ms. Narsimhan has created a trilogy where each book stands on its own quite well. Not all authors succeed at this and some don't even try, but I don't like to read trilogies where each book feels like I've just read one part of a much longer book. Each book here has its own individual plot that is not dependant on the other books, though they are held together by a related plot theme. Book three finds redemption from acts started in book one. Very well done and I highly recommend this series. I hope Ms. Narsimham has something else in the works for us next!


  1. This looks interesting... I wish my library had it!


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