Miranda @ Bibliodaze

I'm an awesome 24 y/o reader and writer of YA fantasy/historical fantasy. I mainly write about awesome ladies and the people who love them. I work at a library and I'm a contributing reviewer to Bibliodaze.

Toads and Diamonds

Toads and Diamonds - Heather Tomlinson I’m rather amazed I’ve never heard of Heather Tomlinson until the Book Smugglers reviewed this book and her other, The Swan Maiden. For all that this book had some problems it was still really well written, and Tomlinson deserves more recognition. The greatest part about the book was the fact that Diribani and Tana love and admire each other. In the original fairy tale, of course the sisters are polar opposites and the abrasive one hates the perfect one. Tana and Diribani aren’t the same, either (though they both come across as a little too perfect at times) but they love each other for their differences and admire the other’s best traits. This is wonderful and touching, and it needs to happen more often in YA. Their differences are even shown in the writing; Diribani tended to be more descriptive of her surroundings and tended to use lush words, and she would easily become distracted by a daydream. Tana was more practical, and while she had her moments of lush description, it wasn’t as often as Diribani’s. When Tana became distracted it was because she was planning, trying to secure her family’s future. Sometimes she let herself daydream but she almost always pulled herself back down to reality to focus on the task at hand. The biggest issue I had with the book was the pacing, I think. It started off a little slow, then when the girls got their blessings it sped up, then it slowed down again as they went off their separate ways and tried to find footing in their new circumstances. Diribani’s storyline was the worst case of this, I think. The pacing in her story slows down to a snail’s pace, although I suppose it’s understandable because the dangers surrounding her and her gift are more subtle than the ones Tana faces. But because Diribani’s pacing was slow, Tana’s story turned out to be the more interesting one, because big things happened in hers. Her gift turned out to be a strong asset in restoring ecological order to her country, since a government official had ordered all snakes to be killed, and rats were running rampant. Tana also had a strong character arc throughout the book; she starts off as a woman with horribly low self-esteem and thinking she’s been punished with her gift for being a sinner, to a person who realizes she can use her gift for good, and someone who plans to save her entire village. I never quite got the hang of Diribani’s story line. Hers was mostly building a stepwell for the miners and pining away after Zahid, but having to slowly come to terms with the fact that they can never be together. I never felt like her gift had much importance in the long run except as a tool of subversion; gems aren’t so nice when there’s a greedy government official around, wanting to use your gift for himself. Whereas snakes were important for the ecological balance and also have a strong religious importance in their culture. There were some good side characters in Diribani’s story--the princess, her maid, and some others--but they couldn’t quite spruce up Diribani’s side of the plot. While Tana’s story had some pacing issues in the beginning as well, hers quickly resolved, whereas Diribani’s never quite did. I do respect Tomlinson for not feeling the need to tie everything off with one big happy ending, however. While Tana has a good chance of a happy ending in the future, Diribani’s is less clear. It’s a rather brave move in the genre that currently lives on happy endings, after a few books of “omg I love you but I can’t be with you BUT I WANT TO BE WITH YOU.” If you’re a reader who typically likes happy endings with everything in the book solved, Toads and Diamonds probably isn’t the book for you. The only other quibble I have is the ending. I felt like the villain was defeated too easily, and that his characterization was weak compared to everyone else in the book. He was just the typical fanatical greedy villain, and we never got much more than that for his characterization. The pacing felt a little rushed, too, after pages of slow moving plot. It fits with the rest of the story, of course, but I still wish maybe more time had been taken on it and made it a bit stronger. The writing itself was smooth and easy, and nothing except the pacing felt forced. Tomlinson has a truly lovely gift for description, and she shows it. Her character building was strong, too, and, as I said, while Tana and Diribani sometimes came off as a little too perfect, they were still strong characters. Tana ended up being the stronger one but Diribani wasn’t half bad herself. The fact that Tomlinson took the time to show that both religions present in the story had their good points and bad points was sadly remarkable. The fact that she showed Diribani staying strong and true to her religion while slowly learning about the white-coats religion, and learning to tolerate it, was even more remarkable. She also showed that not everyone who practiced a certain religion was a fanatic (as the government official, Governor Alwar, is) and intolerant of other religions. How often does one see this in YA? A lot of books simply make it black and white with no gray in between, but Tomlinson went for the harder choice and treated both religions respectfully. All in all while the book had some issues, I really did enjoy Toads and Diamonds for breaking away from the usual mold of today’s YA. I’ll definitely be checking out Tomlinson’s other books, The Swan Maiden and Aurelie. (Trigger Warning(s): There’s a scene of a group of soldiers sexually assaulting a young girl and slut shaming her. There’s also graphic descriptions of slavery later in the book, and one of the main characters gets taken hostage later on.)

Currently reading

A Feast for Crows
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Where the Girls Are: Growing Up Female with the Mass Media
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Progress: 259/720 pages