Monday, February 14, 2011

Follower Hop, The Deadly Conch winner and Guest Post by author Mahtab Narsimhan

I've got a day filled with special treats for all of you lovely readers, starting off with the winner of The Follower Love Hop!

Without further ado, Congrats to Vidisha Singh! She'll be getting a copy of Mahtab Narsimhan's The Deadly Conch in the mail shortly.

Also today, Ms Narsimhan has stopped by to talk a bit about the trilogy and about some interesting tidbits about Indian culture in a guest post.  Enjoy!

The Tara Trilogy is a fantasy adventure based in India, featuring a flawed yet endearing protagonist, Tara. In each of the three books in the series, she is on a quest and has to face many hurdles, internal and external, before she can succeed. These quests test her courage, her morals and above all belief in herself. India’s diverse culture and aspects of Hindu mythology are seamlessly woven into the plot to enrich the narrative, and expose many young readers to an exciting and unfamiliar (or familiar) world. Today’s middle-grade fiction abounds in protagonists from Europe or America with very few representative of the Asian Subcontinent. This trilogy, I hope, will fill that gap.


In the first book in the series; THE THIRD EYE, Tara has to save her village from an evil healer, Zarku, and find her mother and grandfather who had disappeared without any explanation.

On a deeper level, this story deals with the issue of belief in oneself through the character of Tara. She is deathly afraid of the unknown and of coping with drastic changes in her life. With change comes uncertainly and fear. What if I can’t do it? What if I fail? Readers the world over will identify with Tara as she struggles to cope with the challenges that life throws at her, and to keep going despite initial failure. Family may not be around to help, friends can turn to enemies, but what lies within, endures and that is what Tara has to learn. Often parents are faced with the difficult choice of protecting their children and easing their way over every obstacle, or letting them flounder and find their own footing. An analogy within the narrative of a butterfly emerging from its cocoon, demonstrates that obstacles and hardships are necessary if a child is to develop character and self-confidence.

In the second book in the series; THE SILVER ANKLET, Tara’s brother, Suraj, and two other children are snatched by hyenas from a local fair. Tara and her friends decide to save the children on their own. But Tara soon discovers that her nemesis, Zarku, is back and intent on revenge. What is worse, and unexpected, is that he has possessed Suraj’s body. Tara has to decide whether she should put her friends in danger or face Zarku alone. Should she sacrifice her brother for the greater good of the villagers?

This story is about teamwork. After having learned to rely on herself, Tara finds that being a leader comes naturally to her. So much so that she has no use for others’ suggestions. But when they are all forced to play a deadly game of hide and seek, their only hope for survival is to work together; a crucial life skill. The five children eventually learn to function as a team, complement each other’s skills and strengths, and become friends. The symbolism of a fist being stronger than five fingers exemplifies that concept. At the end, Tara is faced with a tough moral choice; to put all her friends in danger or to face it alone so that the others can survive. She chooses wisely and the story ends on a hopeful note.

In the third book in this series; THE DEATHLY CONCH, Tara has to face her last foe; her evil step-sister, Layla, who is guided by her mother, Kali, from the Underworld. Layla cunningly manipulates events so that the villagers of Morni, and even Tara’s own family turn against her.

In this last book, the narrative arc of this trilogy loops back to original theme of belief in oneself. Tara has lost the support and trust of everyone she holds dear and yet she finds the strength to make the right choices. This story deals with courage, moral choices, self-sacrifice and the destructive power of herd mentality and blind belief; all very real issues and challenges that young people face today.

The first goal of The Tara Trilogy is to entertain so that these books, which took years to write, will be devoured within days. However, I do hope that discerning readers will instinctively grasp the character-building themes that are subtle yet ever present in these fast-paced novels and strive to emulate them.

A quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson beautifully and succinctly captures the essence of this trilogy; what lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.

Some interesting facts about Indian Mythology which I discovered while researching this trilogy are:

• Avatar is a Sanskrit word and literally means “one who descends” and the closest translation is “incarnation or manifestation.”

• Lord Shiva represents the Supreme Being and is the third member of the Hindu Trinity, the other two being Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu. He is also called the three-eyed Lord. His right eye depicts the sun, his left eye depicts the moon and the third one on his forehead, depicts fire. The third eye is also a symbol of spiritual knowledge and power and is called the eye of wisdom. This is where I got the inspiration for The Third Eye.

• Kali the evil Goddess of Death and Destruction is just another avatar of Goddess Parvati who is the wife of Lord Shiva and known for her kindness and gentleness. She is also known as the Divine Mother or Mother Goddess.

• Hanuman, the Monkey God, who helped Lord Rama rescue his wife, Sita, from the evil Ravana in the epic Ramayana, is also a very popular God in India. He is believed to be an avatar of Lord Shiva and is worshipped as a symbol of physical strength, perseverance and devotion. In times of trouble, it is a common faith among Hindus to chant the name of Hanuman or sing his hymn - "Hanuman Chalisa". Hanuman temples are among the most common public shrines in India.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. For more information on Indian mythology, please visit my website for some cool links at http://www.mahtabnarsimhan.com/

Check out my review of The Deadly Conch here.
And head on over to Amazon and buy a copy for yourself! The Deadly Conch

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