Trapped in the garden of an opulent palace in a desert, Raka, a beautiful young Indian woman, fears for her life. She has just become the eighth wife of the powerful merchant Ahmed Mudhi, but when he finds out she is not a virgin, he will surely kill her. Mudhi is too ill to consummate their marriage, but Raka knows her days are numbered. To pass the time until her inevitable murder, Raka tells a story to her only friend, a eunuch named Lalit, who is a companion to all the women in Mudhi's harem.
At the center of Raka's story is a most unlikely hero, Farhad Kamal, a thief, trickster and con man who finds himself the unexpected target of Krishna, the Hindu god of love. Krishna's beautiful daughter has been spirited away by a powerful demon who has fallen in love with her. Krishna gives the young man one cycle of the moon to find and rescue his beloved daughter before she dies at the hands of the demon king. If he does, he will be reincarnated in his next life as something wonderful and powerful. If not, he'd better get used to the idea of life as "something low and disgusting."
Farhad has no idea how he will reach the captive princess, or whether he even wants to work that hard. When he teams up with a sacred white tiger, however, himself the subject of a cryptic prophecy, Farhad begins to imagine that fulfilling Krishna's orders might really be possible, despite near-insurmountable obstacles of immense distance, no money, monsoon rains, and dangers around every corner.
Among the most dangerous threats to Farhad and Nitish, the white tiger, is a nebulous figure who appears to be of European origin. Like Farhad, he seeks the immensely valuable but deadly bloodstone, a huge rare gem. Farhad hopes the bloodstone will be the key to rescuing Krishna's daughter, but the mysterious stranger seeks the stone for his own personal and financial gain.
As Farhad and Nitish try to overcome these obstacles and make their way to the princess before the full moon, a rich and rewarding friendship grows between the two. Farhad, the consummate trickster, has never previously allowed himself to care for anyone. Nitish, the powerful tiger, is at times nearly paralyzed by fear. How the two manage to sacrifice themselves for their friends, and for their quest, becomes a moving testimony to the power of friendship.
Just as compelling is the novel's commentary on the power of story to shape lives, inspire courage and even change personalities. Raka's story, which bears some uncanny parallels to her own biography, inspires everyone who hears it, including one who may be the unlikeliest hero of all. Of course, the best thing about TIGER MOON is that, just as Raka's fairy story --- which blends elements of magical realism with cultural background on Hindu deities, traditional Indian customs and British colonialism --- draws in everyone who hears it, so too will it draw in those lucky enough to discover Antonia Michaelis's almost compulsively readable book.
Michaelis, a popular German author, makes her U.S. debut with TIGER MOON, capably translated from the German by Anthea Bell, who also translates Cornelia Funke's novels into English. It's always a joy to discover a talented writer from overseas whose works are newly available in English. Michaelis's skillful storytelling should certainly win her a wide following among anyone who enjoys losing themselves in a good, old-fashioned tale of adventure, love, friendship and storytelling.
Reviewed by Norah Piehl on November 1, 2008
- Publication Date: November 1, 2008
- Genres: Fiction
- Hardcover: 464 pages
- Publisher: Amulet Books
- ISBN-10: 081099481X
- ISBN-13: 9780810994812