Tuesday, May 7, 2019

The Devourers by Indra Das

There are two types of people in this world: those who like vampires, and those who like werewolves. I've always been a vampire gal, but there's something intriguing about shape-shifters and that blurring of the line between humanity and beast. That's why I was excited to find THE DEVOURERS in the Kindle store, a book about rakshasa, or man-eaters/shape-shifters, in India. The cover was gorgeous, the summary was intriguing, and it promised to be dark and fantastical - plus, it's non-Western fantasy, and I want to try and support that, because there is not enough of that.

THE DEVOURERS was everything I thought it would be and more. Don't be fooled by the three star rating. Three stars means I liked it but probably wouldn't reread it because it has some flaws. Even so, it's worth the first read. It has Interview with a Vampire vibes from the Gothic beginning, when a college professor named Alok is approached by an attractive young stranger claiming to be "half-werewolf." He tells Alok a story that ensnares him like the first hit of an addictive drug, and Alok is desperate to meet again.

There are several characters in this book. Alok and the stranger are the foundation for the story, and the bookends that hold all the stories-within-stories together. Within the stranger's tale are many other characters, including a Muslim woman named Cyrah, a Norse shape-shifter who calls himself Fenrir, a French shape-shifter named Gevaudan, and the son of a forest demigoddess named Izrail. Even though the book is relatively short, it has an epic feel, and each story builds into the other. Sexuality and gender expression are also very fluid, which makes sense because of how these werewolves digest their victims (including their souls), and also because it seems like time would erode a lot of the hang-ups that anyone would have about sexuality and gender, anyway. I liked that a lot.

If this book has a flaw, it is that it is hard to read. The POV switches can be confusing, and even though the writing is gorgeous and it mostly works, it can be confusing at times. I think people who have trouble paying attention might have trouble following who's talking. The pacing is also uneven. Most of the story was amazing - that beginning, tho - but the middle is a major slog.

Anyone who's looking for something dark and different and who enjoys paranormal fantasy would enjoy THE DEVOURERS. It's got Indian and Muslim characters, LGBT+ characters, and a really strong and fascinating female character who has some of the best lines in this book. The story-telling and writing are reminiscent of Tanith Lee, who is one of my all time favorites. I'd love to see this author write a follow-up about vampires, or some other well-known monster with a twist.

3 to 3.5 out of 5 stars

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