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Book Review of The Descent of the Drowned by Ana Lal Din

She is bound to serve. He is meant to kill. Survival is their prison. Choice is their weapon. As the sacred slave of a goddess, Roma is of a lower caste that serves patrons to sustain the balance between gods and men. What she wants is her freedom, but deserters are hunted and hanged, and Roma only knows how to survive in her village where women are vessels without a voice. When her younger brother is condemned to the same wretched fate as hers, Roma must choose between silence and rebellion. Leviathan is the bastard son of an immortal tyrant. Raised in a military city where everyone knows of his blood relation to the persecuted clans, Leviathan is considered casteless. Lowest of the low. Graduating as one of the deadliest soldiers, he executes in his father’s name, displaying his worth. When he faces judgement from his mother’s people—the clans—Leviathan must confront his demons and forge his own path, if he ever hopes to reclaim his soul. But in the struggle to protect the people they love and rebuild their identities, Roma’s and Leviathan’s destinies interlock as the tyrant hunts an ancient treasure that will doom humankind should it come into his possession—a living treasure to which Roma and Leviathan are the ultimate key. Set in a colonised Indo-Persian world and inspired by pre-Islamic Arabian mythology, The Descent of the Drowned is a tale about power, identity, and redemption, and what it takes to hold on to one’s humanity in the face of devastation.

My Rating:

books, reviews, book review, two star review

The Descent of the Drowned is an awkwardly paced epic fantasy by newcomer Ana Lal Din. 

Taking its themes from pre-Islamic Arabian mythology, The Descent of the Drowned plays with a rich tapestry that Ana Lal Din does an excellent job painting. Imaginative imagery is used early on to set up the context in which our characters live. Roma, a young woman, bound to slavery, and Leviathan, the bastard son of an immortal, have equally luminous backgrounds. 

The first half of the book is a struggle. Categorized as an info-dump, the story is plodding to the point that had me skimming pages to get to any penultimate event. That comes at around 60%, and therein does the pace of the book change. Ana Lal Din finally gets to the meat of the story, and while her writing is good, it’s not transportive. Far too much time is spent describing clothing instead of enlightening the reader on the magic system (which remains muddled to the end of the book). 

It does appear there are to be more in this series, and one can only hope the second book will have better pacing since The Descent of the Drowned feels more like a setup.

I should mention that this book contains a fair amount of triggers; rape, self-harm, suicide, transphobia, and trafficking of humans, to name a few. However, the author was explicit in her intention of drawing attention to these atrocities that still plague our world, so they do not make appearances without reason.   

Overall, this is a hefty, somber YA book. Ana Lal Din has thorough knowledge of the world and the lore of which she writes. Unfortunately, The Descent of the Drowned gets weighted down by plotting and pace. 

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