The Devourers - Indra Das

The Devourers

by Indra Das

 

The Devourers is an utterly unique story, a lyrical, dreamlike, all-consuming experience. It's a story within a story, interwoven with metaphor and symbolism. On the most mundane level, it's a story of monsters, of shapeshifters, a story of rape, of what happens after, of how a woman victimized by a monster seeks to regain empowerment. The Devourers spans many eras, but the backbone of the story takes place in modern-day Kolkata, where a jaded historian meets a fascinating stranger with an enthralling tale. The historian undertakes the task of transcribing some ancient manuscripts the mysterious stranger gives him, and these in turn give us the stories of a band of monstrous shapeshifter and the human woman Cyrah. Through the historian's transcriptions, the story of the devourers is told in the voices of maidens and monsters, all set against the lush backdrop of Kolkata:

"A king of wolves in a land of tigers."


The book is lavish with symbolism and imagery. Devouring and shapeshifting take many forms throughout the novel, with meaning layered upon meaning and intertwined with symbolism. It's an examination of rape and victimization and agency, and also a fascinating exploration of gender fluidity. It's hard to read the story without drawing parallels between the werewolves and imperialism in India. As Cyrah says of the (white, European) shapeshifter,

"He took what he wanted, with no regard for my opinion on the matter."

As becomes clear when we learn that Fenrir was originally female, it's no coincidence that the werewolves appeared as (white) men. Yet in this story of a woman trying to regain her agency, I found myself frustrated by the predetermined outcome, that Cyrah would keep the child. It still feels bitter to me, as though she lost her agency through that forced choice. I took a certain amount of solace in the son devouring the father.

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If you're looking for a gorgeous, multilayered story, a folkloric quest interwoven with existential journeys, then The Devourers is well worth a look.

 

~~I received this ebook through Netgalley from the publisher, Random House Publishing Group-Ballantine, in exchange for my honest review. Quotes were taken from an advanced reader copy and while they may not reflect the final phrasing, I believe they speak to the spirit of the novel as a whole.~~

 

Cross-posted on Goodreads.