Cover image for Shiva's fire
Shiva's fire
Staples, Suzanne Fisher.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Farrar Straus Giroux, [2000]

Physical Description:
275 pages ; 22 cm
In India, a talented dancer sacrifices friends and family for her art.
General Note:
"Frances Foster books."
Reading Level:
990 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 6.8 11.0 39882.

Reading Counts RC High School 7.6 16 Quiz: 22308 Guided reading level: NR.
Geographic Term:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
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Item Holds
X Young Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks
X Young Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



By the Newbery Honor-winning author ofShabanu On a day when fish leap among the stars and birds soar beneath the waters, a remarkable girl named Parvati is born in a village in the South of India. As she grows, she becomes known for the peculiar events that seem to spring from beneath her dancing feet, and is widely thought to have supernatural powers. When a great master of Indian classical dance comes to see for himself, he recognizes in Parvati a rare talent and invites her to study with him at his gurukulam in the city of Madras. There she commits herself to a rigorous and solitary program of study, dance, and devotion. But when she meets a boy with his own extraordinary powers, her life is turned upside down, and she must question the one thing of which she has always been most sure - that she was born to dance. In this powerful novel rich with mysticism, Suzanne Fisher Staples tells the poignant story of a strong girl who refuses to squander her magical gifts in the face of life's ordinary but perplexing mysteries.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 8^-12. Staples, who wrote about the life of a Pakistani girl in Shabanu (1989) and Haveli (1993), offers a story set in India and brushed with mysticism. The heroine is Parvati, born during a devastating monsoon, who is destined to transcend her poor village beginnings to follow the extraordinary life of a classical dancer. The girl, who remembers everything from her birth on, is born the day her father, the maharaja's elephant keeper, dies. From almost her first moments, she is aware of the dance of life, and as she grows older, her dancing sets her apart from others in her village. Parvati's life is saved when a guru, a great master of Indian classical dance, recognizes her talent and takes her to his school in Madras. Then life begins anew for Parvati, who must dedicate herself to the religious and societal responsibilities that come with carrying on the lineage of dancers. The story's mystical underpinnings are infused with romance when Parvati meets the maharaja's son, and they learn how closely their destinies are intertwined. The injection of a romance in the final quarter of the book might not have worked in less-capable hands, but Staples makes this element seem like a natural evolution. One of the book's strengths is its vivid depiction of Indian life. Using language the way artists use paint, Staples writes with brilliant detail and mixes magic realism with hardscrabble poverty as she tells Parvati's story. A unique offering. --Ilene Cooper

Publisher's Weekly Review

If not for references to modern technology, this tale set in India might defy chronology; the folkloric narrative, primal settings and universal themes confer a timeless quality. Parvati, the heroine, has a mystical aura; some villagers think she carries doom because her birth coincided with an unprecedented cyclone that devastated the entire region. Parvati does not know if she is to blame for the destruction caused by the storm or the famine that followed, but she retains a memory of everything she has witnessed since infancy. As she grows up, animals flock to her, seemingly communing with her, and when music is played, Parvati cannot keep her feet still, no matter how hard she tries. Eventually, Parvati's talent for dance and spiritual gifts win her a scholarship to a gurukulam (a school run by a great teacher). But devoting herself to her studies requires sacrifices Parvati has not even dreamt of. The Hindu concept of dharma is as intricately woven into this saga as decorative threads are woven into Parvati's elaborate dance costumes. Staples's (Shabanu; Haveli) deceptively plain prose conjures a variety of moods, textures and images. Poetically and suspensefully expressing the sorrows and joys of the spiritual life as well as the life of the artist, this is a spellbinder. Ages 12-up. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 7-10-From the day of her birth, the day of the cyclone that kills her father and devastates her village in southern India, Parvati is aware of the events spinning around her and knows instinctively that she is different. Her struggle to understand herself and accept her duty as a supremely gifted dancer is the stuff of this splendid story. When Parvati is 11, a famous dance master, drawn by the tales of the miracles that surrounded her, comes to her village asking to take her to Madras where she will be trained in classical dance and music and become a devadasi, a servant of the gods. Not only does this allow Parvati to dance as she has dreamed, but it also provides an income for her impoverished family, though she may never see them again. In the Guru's school, Parvati encounters the same suspicions and jealousy she encountered in her village, but she also makes a friend and develops her talent to an extraordinary level. Two years later, she is invited to return to her home area, to stay at the palace of the Maharaja himself, and dance to celebrate his birthday. There, Parvati and Rama, the Maharaja's son, are drawn to one another. By caste and class as well as by their ordained duties, it would go against established order to run off together. The ending is open, magic with possibilities. As she did in Shabanu (Knopf, 1989), Staples reveals the richness of another culture through the narrative details. Using traditional material; aspects of the Hindu god Shiva Nataraja, the lord of the dance; and particulars of modern Indian daily life and religious practice, Staples has spun a tale as smooth and lush as the silk of a sari. It should delight her readers.-Kathleen Isaacs, Edmund Burke School, Washington, DC (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.