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Toads Are a Girl’s Best Friend

A book review of Toads and Diamonds by Heather Tomlinson, a re-telling of the classic french fairy tale.

Toads Are a Girl’s Best Friend

BOOK REPORT for Toads and Diamonds by Heather Tomlinson

Cover Story: Just Lovely
BFF Charm: Yay x2
Swoonworthy Scale: 3
Talky Talk: Sensory Overload
Bonus Factors: Fairy Tale Re-Telling, Sisters, Diversity
Relationship Status: LYLAS

Cover Story: Just Lovely

Now this is a headless girl I can get behind! I love the bright colors of the sari, the henna, the gold bangles and the flower. I'll even forgive it for being pink! Plus, bonus points for mostly relating to the story.

The Deal:

Once living the good life in the merchant town of Gurath, step-sisters Diribani and Tana find themselves destitute after their father, a gem merchant, is murdered by bandits. One day when Diribani is fetching water from the well, she helps an old beggar women receive a drink of water. Turns out the old beggar is really the goddess Naghali-ji. To reward her for her kindness, every word Diribani speaks is transformed into jewels and flowers. When Diribani returns home, her step-mother sends Tana out to see if she can meet the goddess as well. Unable to find her at the well, Tana accidentally runs into the goddess later and does mistakes her for someone else. Assuming she has insulted Naghali-ji, she discovers her words now turn into toads, frogs and snakes. But the goddess's gifts aren't always clear - as Diribani gets taken to the palace and Tana must leave town due to her governor's irrational hatred for snakes - there is no way of knowing whether these gifts are a blessing or a curse.

BFF Charm: Yay x2

I love both Diribani and Tana. They are awesome girls, brave, selfless and love each other dearly. When both are blessed by the goddess, they accept their fate as positively as they can (and with much more grace than I certainly would). Despite being step-sisters, they admire one another and don't give in to bickering or jealousy (which is pretty impressive, considering their mother/step-mother often tried to pit them against each other). Once at the palace, Diribani doesn't let her new station or privileges go to her head and treats her servants as friends. I would want to be either of these girls friends' (but hopefully both!)

Swoonworthy Scale: 3

Diribani and Tana both have love interests. Tana has loved a rival gem merchant's son, Kalyan, her whole life. And, understandably, Diribani begins to develop feelings for the handsome Prince Zahid. While neither of these relationships develop into kissy-time onscreen (onprint?), the author is able to capture the overwhelming feelings of (possibly) unrequited crushes. The scene where Tana literally climbs up a roof to hide from Kalyan had me laughing, because who hasn't done something kind of ridiculous to avoid a crush at an off moment.

Talky Talk: Sensory Overload

The story rotates between third person narrative for both sisters and while I don't really find myself finding a clear difference in their narrative, I also find myself not caring either way, since the writing is so lovely. My favorite part of Tomlinson's writing is just how rich the descriptions are. The sights, sounds, smells and tastes are so vivid. For example:

Down in the underground bathing chamber, oil lamps and candles lit stone walls hung with mango- and pomegranate-colored fabrics. Herbs burns in metal dishes, sending curls of scented smoke into the humid air. The pool's azure tiles gleamed; light reflected off moving water. Diribani thought it was like swimming through twilight, or dawn, with the chatter of women's voices replacing the birds' usual chorus.

I won't even quote one of the scenes that describes food because it is like torture.

Bonus Factor: Fairy Tale Re-Telling

This story is updated version of a French fairy tale. I love novels (like this one) that take an interesting old story, flesh out the characters, update the setting and turn it into something awesome.

Bonus Factor: Sisters

I loves me some good sisters, especially ones who bring each other up instead of tearing each other down. I love that Diribani and Tana, despite being step-sisters, both love and respect each other.

Bonus Factor: Diversity

Tomlinson based her Hundred Kingdoms in this novel off the actual Mughal Empire of India. But since it was a fictional setting, she was able to play around with the history, culture and religion of the area.

Casting Call:

Padma Patil! I love this girl, she is so pretty. I want her to be in everything.

Afshan Azad as Dirbani

Okay, so she's a bit too old these days, but can you blame me? Who didn't love Bend It Like Beckham?

Parminder Nagra as Tana

Relationship Status: LYLAS

I adore this book so much. Sure, we might not be real sisters, but what we feel is just as strong. I want to introduce this book to all of my friends so they can all become good friends with this book as well.

Megan Crane's photo About the Author: Megan is an unabashed fangirl who is often in a state of panic about her inability to watch, read and play all the things.