Wednesday, February 08, 2006

The Conch Bearer

The Conch Bearer by by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, 2003

A young man must return an item of immense power to its place of origin. He is accompanied by a loyal friend and helped along the way by a old man who has amazing powers. An evil being is also seeking the item so the young man must keep it safe on his person but is warned NEVER to use it even though the urge to take it out will be overwhelming at times. He develops a bond with the item.

I thoroughly enjoyed listening to The Conch Bearer. Alan Cumming's reading is perfect with a gentle Indian dialect that is never overdone. I eagerly dialed up the story, each time I got in the car and finally carried the tapes into the house because I just had to hear what happened next.

As the story progressed I found myself thinking...I know this story...Anand is Frodo!

Anand's father has disappeared leaving him along with his mother and sister in terrible poverty. Anand is working for an abusive tea seller when he encounters Abhaydhatta, a seemingly old man with magical healing powers. Anand desparately wants to help his family so he is torn when Abhaydhatta asks Anand to accompany him on a quest to return a mystical conch shell to its home with The Brotherhood in the Silver Valley. Abhaydhatta heals his little sister so his mother allows him to go. Nisha, an abandoned girl of the streets, accompanies them. The evil Surabhanu who will stop at nothing to acquire the conch is hunting the trio.

Set in India, the story's settings are glorious. I could hear the sounds of Kolkata, see the colors of the marketplace, feel the crisp air of Silver Valley and almost smell and taste the amazing food.

Unlike the Tolkien's Ring of Power, the Conch is a force for good and Anand's link to it is a happy one. All happiness comes with a price however and Anand must make a hard choice about the direction his life will take.

I loved this story and I am thrilled to know there is a sequel, The Mirror of Fire and Dreaming in this series, the Brotherhood of the Conch.

Although it did not win the Texas Bluebonnet Award this year, 4092 kids voted that it was their favorite book. It is terrific.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I got things a bit out of order and have read The Mirror of Fire and Dreaming, but not The Conch Bearer.

So I can't say it's as good as the first, but I can say that it was excellent as a stand-alone piece -- one of the best YA books I read last year.