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Review: The Devourers by Indra Das

The Devourers

Indra Das

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.

My Rating:

books, reviews, book review, two star review

Indra Das provides a most surreal take on the classic werewolf tale in The Devourers. The layered tale starts with an intoxicating night where a man who introduces himself as “half-werewolf” meets our protagonist, Alok. This stranger weaves a short yarn that is as transformative as the shape shifter is, bewitching Alok as a means to ensnare him for what he then requests; to transcribe a series of hand written scrolls. Alok agrees, immersing himself even further into the story of two centuries old beings, Fenrir and Cyrah, that propel the tale forward.

While the story of the shapeshifting Fenrir is interesting, though perhaps a touch violent for some, it embraces the line between what it means to be human and what it means to be a wolf. When Das breaks away from this initial tale, and the next set of scrolls arrives for Alok to interpret, the reader is cast into the life of Cyrah. Raped by Fenrir and now growing his half-blood child in her womb, she embarks on a somewhat ambiguous journey to find Fenrir, with the help of another shapeshifter, Gévaudan.

Unlike Fenrir’s portion of the story, which is engaging, his character interesting and likable, Cyrah’s is tiresome, her character grating.

There is a peculiar devotion among all the characters that seemingly stems from nowhere at times. Gévaudan has clear hatred for the humans, and yet remains fiercely loyal to Cyrah, a devotion not seen by any other character, either human or non-human. Very little happens plot-wise within the pages of this novel; Fenrir and Cyrah’s storys reading more like diary entries, and Alok’s story is over when he has finished transcribing the scrolls, rendering his role as rather pointless.

Imagine watching a surrealist film; it is often poetic, striking, nonlinear and playful. Das’s work has very little one could call playful; it is fusty and wretched, albeit rich in description, reminding me of a tapestry, but not one captivating enough to hang on the walls of a home. The Devourers refuses to sentimentalize the feelings and emotions of its characters, making it hard to invest any emotion as a reader.

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