The Devourers by Indra Das

I know they say not to judge a book by its cover, but if you saw this staring out at you from a bookshelf, could you resist it?

DEVOURERS-cover.jpg

I do the majority of my reading on a tablet, but I almost gave in and bought a physical copy of The Devourers by Indra Das because this cover just speaks to me. The soft colors, the mysterious stranger among the plants, the fact that it looks sweet and beautiful from a distance, but as you get closer, you see the bones…

It’s fitting that I finally decided to read this book in October, because it’s definitely an eerie read suitable for the Halloween season.

The Devourers takes place in India and starts with a stranger approaching our narrator (a mild-mannered professor) and introducing himself as a half-werewolf. Alok, the narrator, is at once scared and intrigued, and thus begins their strange relationship.

The half-werewolf declines to give his name, but he hires Alok to transcribe a couple of scrolls that tell two stories — that of a werewolf, and that of a human woman. How they tie into the story of the nameless stranger becomes apparent as their tales unspool.

My opinion of this book swung wildly while I was reading it. On the one hand, the author has a real way with words and completely sucked me in. I repeatedly lost track of time while caught up in the prose. On the other hand, sometimes the characters say or do something so ridiculous that it feels almost like you’re reading shifter erotica — but without the erotic elements (although there is some of that eventually).

This book is definitely not going to be for everyone. The lightness of the cover belies a lot of darkness in the pages. There’s murder and rape and cannibalism. There’s a real sense of menace that can leave your breath caught in your throat. I’m honestly surprised this book didn’t give me nightmares — though it’s a testament to how well written it is that while I was worried about it plaguing my dreams, I couldn’t stop reading it before bed.

Despite some misgivings, and despite the fact that I can’t recommend it to everyone, I over all enjoyed my reading of this book.

Pros: Lyrical writing, queer protagonists, a setting not normally seen in SF/F novels (modern and historic India).

Cons: Graphic violence, rape, a few over-the-top concepts.

Final verdict: Best enjoyed on a rainy October day with a hot cup of chai.

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