Her Radiant Curse by Elizabeth Lim is a fantasy blended with elements of both English and Asian folklore. While Lim tells a tale of two sisters and their unbreakable bond, she also relates key truths about human nature—those that regard greed, treachery, and trust.

The only time Channari Jin’aiti feels truly alive, truly free, and truly awake is when she is in the jungle. Since her sister Vanna was born, Channi has hunted the Demon Witch who has taken the body of a tiger as her vessel and searches for the dragon pearl. “The Channi of the jungle and the Channi who lives in her adah’s (father’s) house are two different girls. One races barefoot in the jungle, a queen of the wild, content and free. The other sits on a broken stool, peeling taro root all day” (31), secluded, hidden, and starved for affection. Channi is a prisoner of four walls since her father limits her exposure because of her deformities. Were it not for her sister, whom she has vowed to protect, she would have left Adah’s house long ago.

Because of Adah’s desire to save his dying wife, Channi has a serpent’s face—the curse of the Demon Witch for Adah’s attempt at deception. It was Vanna—the Golden One—whom Angma the Demon Witch desired. Now, to hide her monstrous face, Channi wears a mask and tolerates the taunts and cruelty and shame. According to the curse, Vanna will be free until she turns seventeen. Then, Vanna will be in Angma’s clutches and Channi’s face will be beautiful again. But Channi, who has lived for seventeen years with a monster’s face is willing to continue living a cursed life; she is willing to pay that price to save Vanna’s life.

Oblivious to the curse, Vanna loves her sister unconditionally, and Channi—with the affirmation of Ukar, her snake friend—has grown fearless, strong, and loyal. In the jungle, Channi is Lady Green Snake, and she learns that sometimes poison is a medicine in disguise.

On her quest to save her sister, Channi must take on evil men as well as dragons and demons. She also learns of love, which she thought was unlikely for one like her with a serpent’s face. However, will an alliance with Hokzuh—half dragon, half man—be her detriment or the path to salvation?

In the folds of this story, Lim tucks significant truths about how fate twists our threads and how finding kinship is critical to self-acceptance and even to survival. “Someone who knows what it’s like to feel misplaced, to be hurt by others simply for not belonging. We’re monsters on the outside. Outcasts. But inside?” (243). It is this search for belonging that defines us. We grow up wearing masks—some conceal our hearts; others conceal our faces. Yet, life is often about pretending. We succumb to the pressures of what others want for us, and under the influence of that pressure, we allow others to define us, to predetermine our worth instead of defining ourselves and pursuing happiness on our own terms. Another lesson that Channi and Vanna must learn is that “all the riches and power in the world cannot buy someone who loves you truly” (327).

  • Posted by Donna

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