{Review} Tiger Moon by Antonia Michaelis

And the heart of the hero who wasn’t a hero felt both light and heavy.

Tiger Moon by Antonia Michaelis

Tiger Moon, Antonia Michaelis’s beautifully written tale of two intertwining stories of hope, despair, love and friendship glows as well with each turn of the page. The book is filled with mystical images laced with magical realism which guide the reader into a world of sacrifice and heroism.

Safia, the stunningly beautiful daughter of an impoverished high-caste father is sold to a wealthy beast of a man who covets both her virginity and her beauty—her beauty comes to the marriage intact, but not her virginity. Safia, the eighth wife, is no more to him than a lovely possession with an essential requirement of chastity. She knows that when her beastly betrothed consummates the marriage, he will learn the truth, which will result in her certain death.

Fortunately for Safia, her husband becomes ill and must wait to consummate his desire. She passes her days waiting for her death while spinning a tale for a young eunuch, a tale of Farhad who will surely save her. Time passes with fable and truth intertwining to create a dream-like world where truth and understanding transcend all obstacles

A huge white tiger with blue eyes whose name is Nitish (meaning Lord of the Right Way) gallops about the Indian desert with Farhad (which means Lotus Blossom) upon his back in search of the rare and much valued bloodstone that’s the size of a pigeon egg. Nitish’s leaps span the bends of a river soaring as high as the tops of giant bamboo. The earth glows red where his paws touch the ground. Farhad carries the name of Lotus Blossom as both a blessing and a heavy yoke upon his shoulders.

The young thief and trickster has never cared for anyone but himself, neither emotionally or physically. When he finds a silver amulet containing Safia’s image in a lotus flower, his destiny lies before him like a mirage in the desert, always there but not close enough to touch. The lotus blossom grows from the mud pure and clean. Its strength encourages people to strive through the greatest of difficulties to bring beauty and light from the depths of murky darkness. Its stalk bends easily but holds its power and will not break. Farhad, Lotus Blossom, wears this amulet throughout a heroic journey fated to a bittersweet end.As he has never cared for others, finding himself seeking redemption for the lovely Safia, protecting the white lion and caring for a small child. Farhad is both inspired and frightened by these newly-minted emotions.

But, loving others has a downside.

Nitish must be protected from water. Farhad sits by his side all night waiting for the rain to cease. When he steps outside the next morning he sees,

…the clouds have left behind a sky washed blue and full of birdsong.

The rascal who becomes a hero ferrets out the rare and valuable gem, a bloodstone the size of a pigeon egg worth untold riches, one that has turned a pure dazzling red. 

Bloodstones are green with distinct red spots. Lore grew from their unique color. The spots resembled splatters of blood, so Christian cultures believed that the stone could stop bleeding and others that it was formed from the blood of Christ. Legend grew, proclaiming it could bring about change, protect its owner from the evil eye and heralded it as a symbol of justice. Remarkable power to fight evil, prevent jealousy and bring good fortune belong on its resume as well.

If it turns blood-red, it signals impending danger. 

If Farhad could find and locate this blood-red gem and deliver it to the doomed bride before her wedding night, he could buy her freedom thus saving her from death. Securing the bloodstone also signifies,

He had something terrible with him, but he did not believe it was terrible.

Michaelis’s writing flows like a soft breeze spinning me into its lovely images.

Its mystical qualities and beautiful language stay with me long after the book returns to its shelf. Safia’s poignant story-telling embellished refines the prose into poetic beauty.

Fields reach out to the sky with longing… water cascades from the clouds as if the ocean turned upside down… a bodhi tree stretches against the sky like a ghostly creature with outstretched arms and hands full of leaves.

Tiger Moon is as…

…wild as the desert, brave as a tiger, lonely as the sun, and timorous as the rain.

It’s a beautiful story written for lovers of language who revel in poetry written as prose. It’s about a reluctant hero who finds his power like a lotus blossom that bends but will not break, a hero with a task to perform who rises from the mud becoming a beautiful blossom imbued with power and strength.

While reading Tiger Moon, I couldn’t help but compare its magical realism which bends reality a way reminiscent of Salvadore Dali’s famous surrealist painting, The Persistence of Memory—only in this lovely novel, these elements blend into an emotional landscape dappled with the people, places and spiritual beliefs of India. 

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{By this same author & reviewed on CEFS: The Storyteller}

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