cover image Haveli


Suzanne Fisher Staples. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, $18 (259pp) ISBN 978-0-679-84157-9

Readers who rose to the challenge of Peter Dickinson's AK and Frances Temple's A Taste of Salt will be engrossed by Haveli 's intoxicating blend of heart-pounding adventure and significant social issues. Hunger for land, arranged marriage and the venerable tradition of shutr keena (literally, ``camel vengeance'': the stern law of death for dishonor) are among the potent forces that drive this stirring sequel to Shabanu: Daughter of the Wind. Married at age 13 to the powerful clan chief Rahim, Shabanu has spent more than half a decade keeping herself and her beloved daughter Mumtaz safe from the malice (``the scorpion in her bed, the rabid bat in her cupboard'') of her husband's three senior wives. She is willing to sacrifice almost anything to ensure that Mumtaz receives a good education: the financial independence afforded by a professional degree is one of the few ways in which a Pakistani woman can control her own destiny. The cruel arranged marriage of Rahim's idiot son to Shabanu's closest friend disrupts the indomitable heroine's plans and sets in motion a dramatic chain of events. Staples's portrayal of Pakistan is remarkably even-handed: she acknowledges the society's inequities while celebrating its beauty and warmth. The sights, sounds and even some of the smells of the Pakistani landscape are described in eloquent, unpretentious language. Ages 12-up. (Sept.)