Extract from SAWNET (The South Asian Women's NETwork Forum) review by Usha KR. Usha is the author of Sojourn (Manas, 1998) and The Chosen (Penguin India, 2003). Her next novel, A Girl and a River (Penguin India) is to be released in May.
"by page 35 of this 260 page book, we have a good idea of Da Cunha’s inventiveness, her eye for description, her musical ear and her playful turn of phrase. Here, for instance is her description of the Flatte Chief --
‘He had thin and wispy bright yellow hair that fell to his knees, which colour seemed to leak all over him, right down to his yellow veined flat feet. Strangest of all, he had piercing yellow double-rimmed eyes, with which he looked her up and down. What with that and his doleful expression, he reminded her of a slice of lemon gone sour!’
Each place that Tara journeys through is attractively described. Flatte land is a beautiful sunshine filled land, full of the chimes of golden bells, where the inhabitants live on gold leaf trees, on which golden apples grow. Sharpes live on the stems of Moneytrees and their streets are paved with diamonds. Maya is ruled by Illusory Laws – everyone hears what they want to hear, so Melan Kohli always hears the blues and Tara, happy melodies.
Or take the names of her characters, which would charm children and adults alike – the musical clutch of Queen Rana Aria, Herr Moan Niem, the seer, Seetar and Geetar, the wise sisters, the rejuvenating tonic, Harmonica, Prince Ta-din-ak-din; we have the sad Chief Melan Kohli, Caliph Sojah, Khem Mystry, adept at black magic, Maneck Tarantella, the crazy old Flying Spider, Biswacks the candlemaker, and even Jatack-in-the-box.
Da Cunha uses her talents to make good (and original) use of all that the literary and cinematic palette has to offer, the staples that engross children – fantasy, both of the Lewis Carollian and the newer Rowlingian variety, the magic spells and mystery of Tolkein as well as Snow White, the dark forces that are for ever trying to take over the world and the array of supermen who have arisen from time to time to fight them; she also understands the unshakeable appeal of the clash between Good and Evil, of pitting brother against brother, of turning the most trusted one into the betrayer"