Shiva's Fire



An introduction to India's complex social system.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The life of village women in India is not the same as that of most women in the United States. The reader may question the difference. One girl talks of running off with an outlaw; one teenage male defies his royal father and outdated tradition by leaving


A band of robbers is heard shooting. A girl is carried off by the outlaw she loves. Characters fear violence; a tiger carries off two children; a tiger attacks an elephant driver. Deaths during a cyclone; the protagonist's father is crushed by elephants.


Young romance without sex.

Not applicable
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Drinking, drugs, & smoking
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Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that the minute details introduce American readers to India's complex system of social levels. Principles of Hinduism (simply explained) pervade in this well-written story.

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What's the story?

A girl is born during a cyclone. Surviving villagers blame the female infant for the death and destruction. As the girl grows, she is isolated until a great master of Indian classical dance recognizes her extraordinary talents. This lyrical story encourages readers to ask how and why some people are accepted into society and some are not.


Is it any good?


The slow and descriptive literary rhythm of this meditative story line captures mature readers. Suzanne Staples' main character, Parvati, faces young adulthood in a way that feels familiar to many young readers. Is friendship and love more important than self-realization? Must a girl make sacrifices to learn her art?

Staples is known for her meticulous research: She lived in India for four years and returned there to finish the book. Her stories are so dense and her descriptions so involving, some readers may give up -- but the author does provide a useful glossary. SHIVA'S FIRE is most gripping in its tense scenes of the cyclone destruction and of a tiger's attack. The author often builds drama in a way that unnerves the reader for many pages.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how Parvati is treated by her family and her community. How do you think you'd feel about her if you lived in her village? Do you know people whose talents have made it difficult for them to be accepted by their peers?

Book details

Author:Suzanne Fisher Staples
Genre:Coming of Age
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:January 1, 2000
Number of pages:288
Publisher's recommended age(s):12 - 14

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Kid, 11 years old April 9, 2008
Kid, 11 years old December 9, 2009

Confusing for younger girls, but addictive and thought-provoking

It descibes the menstrual period, and has breif, minor violence, but overall it's very well written, and in complete detail. Perfectly addictive! Some Indian words are confusing though, but the book I read had a glossary(extremely helpful!)
Adult Written byLemonMrang April 9, 2008


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