22 October 2016

The Devourers by Indra Das

Summary from Goodreads:
For readers of Neil Gaiman, Margaret Atwood, China MiƩville, and David Mitchell comes a striking debut novel by a storyteller of keen insight and captivating imagination.

On a cool evening in Kolkata, India, beneath a full moon, as the whirling rhythms of traveling musicians fill the night, college professor Alok encounters a mysterious stranger with a bizarre confession and an extraordinary story. Tantalized by the man’s unfinished tale, Alok will do anything to hear its completion. So Alok agrees, at the stranger’s behest, to transcribe a collection of battered notebooks, weathered parchments, and once-living skins.

From these documents spills the chronicle of a race of people at once more than human yet kin to beasts, ruled by instincts and desires blood-deep and ages-old. The tale features a rough wanderer in seventeenth-century Mughal India who finds himself irrevocably drawn to a defiant woman—and destined to be torn asunder by two clashing worlds. With every passing chapter of beauty and brutality, Alok’s interest in the stranger grows and evolves into something darker and more urgent.

Shifting dreamlike between present and past with intoxicating language, visceral action, compelling characters, and stark emotion, The Devourers offers a reading experience quite unlike any other novel.

I had to wait until one of our merch managers was finished with the galley before I could get it in my hot, little hands.  Because The Devourers sounded b-a-n-a-n-a-s.

It's so hard to believe this is a debut novel.  Das's fantasy is an astonishing, weird, gripping, revolting, and utterly fascinating book.  Did I mention revolting?  These shifters/werewolves are made in the same vein as Glen Duncan's werewolves - cruel, emotionless, gross, vicious, inhuman, raw.  You can practically smell the rank animal-ness rising off the page.  Das pulls from many mythologies to create his shifters' histories (I'm sure I've missed some of them) and anchors his narrative in the history of northern India and Pakistan during the Mughal Empire of the seventeenth-century. Surrounding this story from the scrolls is the framing narrative of Alok and his struggle with his sexuality.

The Devourers is well-worth the read if you are looking for something different in the fantasy genre.  If graphic violence makes you squicky, it may not be for you.  (Oddly enough, parts of it reminded me of the Underworld movies in tone; not the setting, obviously.)

For funsies, check out Mahvesh Murad's "Midnight in Karachi" podcast episode with her interview of Indra Das.

Dear FTC: I read an ARC that we got in at the store.

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