Note: The Spanish translation following this post is by Daniela Toulemonde.
Having read several of Indra Das’s short stories (reviewed here), I ordered his first novel, The Devourers, as soon as I could find the North American edition from Del Rey Books. It arrived when I was in the last leg of my WIP’s second draft, so I sat it on my desk and admired the cover, illustrated by Chris Panatier, for three weeks before I so much as read the title page.
Sorry for the sloppy photo of The Devourers cover. Hats off to artist and illustrator Chris Panatier for capturing the novel’s wonder and beauty.
When I finally started the first chapter I was afraid I had such high expectations I would be disappointed and absolutely unfair to the author. I was not disappointed. I was overwhelmed by Das’s shape shifters, the beautiful writing and the creatively imagined Indian landscapes from the 17th century to today. This one is going to win prizes, people. I promise you that.
Here’s a little taste of Das’s writing.
When the sun rested at noon we passed a group of resting dervishes under the greened shade of a chinar tree, turbaned heads bobbing in a drugged stupor from drinking bhang, and I wondered whether I, too, had been drugged into a trance days long. I felt fevered, whether from the strangeness of these days or simply from catching a cold I couldn’t say. The holy men basked in winter light falling through the leaves, their reddened eyes rolling to watch us pass them by, their fingers soiled from crushing the buds and leaves they put into their potions. I wanted to ask them: Can you see this bone-white man walking beside me, dressed in pelts and hauling fardels? Can you see the thing he can become? Have you spied it at night, galloping across the land? Gévaudan peered at them with hungry eyes, and the air sang with silence.
The Devourers begins as a buddy story, and our protagonist, a history professor named Alok Mukherjee, is a bit Vyasa, a bit Watson, a bit Clarice Starling. His casually met counterpart identifies himself as half werewolf in their first encounter and puts Alok into a trance where he has visions of even stranger characters in a story that the half werewolf tells him. The history professor is hooked and compelled to discover more about this strange man, and so was I. Continue reading