________________ CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 10 . . . . November 6, 2009


The Silver Anklet. (Tara Trilogy, Book II).

Mahtab Narsimhan.
Toronto, ON: Dundurn, 2009.
235 pp., pbk., $12.99.
ISBN 978-1-55488-445-2.

Grades 5-8 / Ages 10-13.

Review by Ann Ketcheson.

**** /4

Reviewed from Advance Review Copy.


"The bolt shot back with a metallic clang. Tara's legs turned to jelly. They were all doomed. The acrid smell of sweat filled the room. Tara had seen Zarku in a rage and someone always got hurt.

"The clothes," said Tara. "Throw them out."

Just as the door grated open, Kabir pulled his head through the bars and dropped out of sight. Raani handed Kabir's clothes up to Ananth who threw them out the window. Ananth jumped off Vayu's shoulders. They quickly moved away from the window and faced the door, their breathing unnaturally loud in the still air.

Someone walked into the room carrying a lantern. The wick was turned up high and they were momentarily blinded. Tara shaded her eyes trying to see who held the lantern.

Finally she made out who it was. She screamed.


Tara and her friends are enjoying a day at the local fair in Morni and, at the same time, are taking care of her younger brother Suraj and two other children. When the young ones don't return to the appointed meeting place and no one in the fairgrounds remembers seeing them for some time, Tara knows something is terribly wrong. Tara and her companions head into the forest, certain that the children have been taken by hyenas. It is within this eerie setting that Tara once again faces Zarku, her enemy with the third eye. Zarku insists on a bizarre game of hide-and-seek which has much more to do with revenge than with play. Despite disagreements about the best plan of action, Tara and her friends manage to pull together. They have to survive if they are to save the children. Zarku assumes the body of Tara's brother, and thus she is faced with a horrible dilemma: should she sacrifice her own brother in order to rid the world of the monster Zarku once and for all?

     Mahtab Narsimhan is a native of Mumbai who now lives in Toronto, and The Silver Anklet is the second volume of the Tara Trilogy. Readers will recognize some characters from the first book, although their having read it is not an essential prerequisite to enjoying this novel. Narsimhan has once again created a tale of action and adventure which will keep young adult readers on the edge of their seats. Much of the action takes place in the forest, and readers can feel the heat and humidity. The smells, sounds and never-ending insects of the jungle forest come alive in Narsimhan's writing. Later, the action moves into a cave, complete with a deep chasm which Tara must cross by means of a narrow walkway. She alone faces this test and the monster Zarku since she was able to help the rest of her companions find a way to safety. The descriptions are vivid and provide a chilling atmosphere for the final climax of the story. Adding to the spooky ambience is the strange voice Tara continues to hear. Is this advice she should follow? Or merely another of Zarku's tricks?

     As in the first volume, Narsimhan weaves Indian myth and legend and a decidedly Indian atmosphere into a story of good vs. evil. Tara is on a quest to save the children, and she faces not only environmental obstacles but her own fears, pain and weariness. While these certainly add to the overall tension of the novel, they never prevent Tara from knowing what her ultimate goal is nor from persevering in order to reach it. Tara needs every ounce of courage and determination that she can find and, like a mythical hero, she is able to draw on them when it matters most.

     The book is sprinkled with Hindi words which add to the local colour and flavour of the novel. The terms are easily understood in context, but Narsimhan has also included a brief glossary at the end of the book for readers who want exact definitions.

     The Third Eye, the first volume of the trilogy, was winner of the 2009 Silver Birch Award, and this sequel lives up to readers' expectations. Young adults will savor the action and adventure on every page while teachers and librarians will see the book as a valuable addition to any study of world literatures and cultures.

Highly Recommended.

Ann Ketcheson, a retired teacher-librarian and teacher of high school English and French, lives in Ottawa, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.