Toads and Diamonds by Heather Tomlinson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I particularly liked the Indian overtones to this updated fairy tale; while the story is familiar, the setting is different enough that it made me wonder why we don't read more tales from that part of the world.
The question of whether the "gift" of Naghali is the lesson of humility or whether it is a representation of the inner person is left somewhat unanswered. It didn't appear that Tana was deserving of the toads and snakes, but it also didn't appear that Diribani was so saintly that jewels and flowers were deserved. Both girls seemed rather equal in that regard, but the tale's structure meant that one got one gift, etc..
Also left unanswered was whether or not the plague ends; the ending, with the "gifts" rescinded (and no crushing moral to take away) is a little vague. That's not a negative, and could lead to some interesting questions in a readers circle. The same applies to whether or not the girls go back to their town and live normal lives, whether they meet their Prince/Trader, and what was the lesson each girl was supposed to learn (if there was one).
The religious differences were interesting, particularly since they seemed based on real beliefs and practices (they aren't). And, of course, seeing only a brief glimpse of the good part of the Believer's religion meant that one comes away slightly biased in favor of the followers of the twelve.
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