Storytelling can be a powerful thing. It inspires us, entertains us, and moves us; some stories more than others. Personally, I enjoy light-hearted books like Marissa Meyer’s Cinder, an enjoyable book and an easy read. I also love deeply moving stories like Marcus Zusak’s The Book Thief. Sometimes it depends on my mood whether I want an entertaining relationship-focused YA read or a powerful example of mythmaking. But on occasion I come across a book that is the perfect combination of romance and extraordinary storytelling.
Tiger Moon by Antonia Michaelis is a powerful tale filled with drama, excitement, heroism, adventure, and love. Much like the legend of Scheherazade but set in India, Tiger Moon tells two stories. One story follows a girl named Raka, who is sold in marriage as the eighth wife to a rich but violent merchant. Raka is beautiful and brave, but she is not a virgin, and when her new husband discovers this, Raka knows she will die. She has some time, though, as her husband recovers from an illness. Meanwhile, Raka befriends a servant boy called Lalit as she waits out what she knows will be her last days. During this time she begins to tell him a story, the second tale in this book.
This story follows the fate of a young thief named Farhad. Farhad steals a special amulet that earns him the right to be the “hero” for the Hindu god Krishna. Krishna sends the young thief on a quest to rescue his daughter, who has been captured by the demon king Ravana. On his quest, Farhad teams up with a white tiger named Nitish, and together they journey across India in search of the captive princess. During this time, Farhad changes from petty thief to noble hero, but he isn’t the only character to become more than he was.
Throughout the telling of Farhad’s story, Lalit begins to notice that Raka weaves myth and reality together in her tale. She is the captive princess in desperate need of a hero to rescue her. Lalit realizes that Farhad is not coming to save her because it is only a story. But on the night Raka must meet her husband, Lalit discovers someone in the garden, someone who has traveled great distance and through many perils to come to save Raka: Farhad. But Farhad cannot save Raka, so Lalit assumes the role and rescues her from death at the hands of her husband.
There are several different interpretations for this turn of events. Antonia Michaelis weaves her two stories together perfectly, and the setting of India, particularly the Hindu doctrine of reincarnation, provide a realistic basis for Farhad’s appearance in the real world. But there is another possibility, one that also matches the Indian culture of storytelling and the cycle of life and birth. Raka’s story is so powerful that it brings her hero to life—quite literally with Farhad, but also with Lalit. Raka tells her story about a hero coming to save a captive princess, and her hero appears in the garden. But the power of her story also gives her a hero in the form of Lalit the servant boy. Her story changed Lalit.
Tiger Moon offers a rich and beautiful look into India, but its theme is universal for all cultures. Tiger Moon is a tale about the power of love, friendship, adventure, and heroism, but most importantly, it is a book about the power of storytelling. Raka’s story is so powerful that is saves not only her, but Farhad and Lalit as well. Through her story she wills her heroes into existence, both literally and metaphorically. Tiger Moon is a book about the power of mythmaking. It is a testimony to the importance of story.