Reviews

The Devourers, by Indra Das

maethoriel's review against another edition

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2.0

Felt like I was in a movie I didn’t understand.
Or like I was in a story my brain had to make sense of as I’m reading it. Like hamlet.

Not a fan.
Interesting story though
Felt like a fairytale

pnknrrd85's review

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I just couldn't get into it. Beautiful writing though!

rorikae's review

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dark reflective tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.0

‘The Devourers’ by Indra Das follows the story of shapeshifting creatures in India through two narratives translated by a college professor. 
The frame story focuses on Alok, a college professor who encounters a stranger one night in Kolkata who starts to tell him a story. The stranger asks Alok to translate two scrolls, which tell the stories of a shapeshifting creature and the woman that he is obsessed with. These stories weave together with the frame narrative to create a fable that leaks into the present. 
Das creates a fable that is wrapped in rich prose. His use of language is easy to understand but evocative. I listened to this book on audio and it leant itself to that format. 
Though the characters in the story aren’t necessarily likable, I was still interested in what was going to happen to them. The story is very focused on the two narratives that are told through the scrolls so we don’t get as much characterization for the professor in the frame narrative as I would have liked. Das discusses a number of themes in this work including hunger, obsession, and the influence of others on our own personalities. This last theme is explored in a visceral way through the fact that the shape-shifting creatures, sometimes called werewolves, sometimes something more, gain the memories of the humans that they eat. 
I would recommend this book, particularly if you are looking for stories steeped in folklore and with rich writing. 

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hiror's review against another edition

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3.0

Let's say, at the very least, I have mixed feelings about this book.

Starting with the good. The worldbuilding is solid, the prose fantastic, and Das' marriage of western and eastern folklore, weaving it through a history told for hundreds of years, is just phenomenal. It had a very Elizabeth Kostova's The Historians feel to it, with the interplay between past and present, and how the consequences of actions taken hundreds of years ago perpetuate through the ages. The characters themselves were sympathetic, and many passages were incredibly moving. The author also has a wonderful way of deeply setting a scene, of conveying the most visceral, primal and disgusting feelings into beautiful prose. I found myself, more than once, inadvertently muttering "gross!" as I read. That was not always a bad thing.

But it also wasn't always a good thing, either. It wasn't so much the spurting cum, the gratuitous violence, the scenes of sexual assault or the unending streams of piss flying from half-hard werewolf dicks. No, these are gross in a fun way. What was a bit gross in a different way, was Cyrah.

The Devourers fits into a subgenre of literature I keep accidentally coming across, in which male authors attempt to use meta-narrative to Do a Feminism while running their female characters through the gamut of rape, kidnapping, physical violence and all the other juicy bits of oppression in voyeuristic detail (see Imajica by Clive Barker). Though of course I appreciate the meta-narrative that Das intersperses (albeit via dialogue and internal monologue rather than action and plot), it only serves to fight the narrative itself.

Similarly to Imajica, where Barker rapes and tortures his entire female cast and then says, through his cis male narrator, that women are strong and powerful, Aluk takes the role of advocate for our rape victim Cyrah. She questions Fenrir's actions, speaks on behalf of the reader when she refuses to feel sympathy for a rapist (I can almost hear the voices of every woman present at whatever workshops Das put this manuscript through). But these protests of Cyrah's treatment in the narrative do not change the bones of the narrative itself. Though the reader is explicitly told that Cyrah is strong, that she has her own life and agency, the reader is shown through the story that she is still the abused plaything of the male characters—no matter how sassy her internal monologue gets about it. She talks big, she challenges orientalism, she has her own thoughts and dreams--and then she gives in to the will of men more powerful than she. She allows Fenrir to use her womb as a vessel for his creation, she sacrifices her blood for a man who had only planned to devour her, she does not destroy the product of her rape (just for once, please, for once, I want see a narrative where a woman contemplates terminating her rape pregnancy and it's not depicted as killing an innocent child).

This battle between meta-narrative and narrative is particularly stark when Cyrah tells Fenrir, “I will not be your human idol, your little goddess of suffering.” But, functionally, in the narrative, she is our goddess of suffering. When she suffers Fenrir’s rape, when she is violated in her sleep by Gevaudan’s probing tongue, when she endures physical abuse by his hand, when she bleeds to save his life, and then bleeds again to give birth to Fenrir’s son, and then, again when she is murdered and eaten by that son.

All Cyrah ever does is bleed for these men, over and over, while insisting: “I will not bleed for you. I will not be a victim.”

And that’s kinda gross. Less of that, more werewolf piss, please.

Also, the trans stuff. Though it's handled a bit more delicately than Cyrah's agency, I feel like if Das had leaned into Aluk's identity earlier, given clues and foreshadowing (if you're about to argue that her being bisexual is foreshadowing to her being trans, then please direct yourself to the closest Gender 101 class), then it would've ended with a much better payoff. As it is, Aluk's transition is addressed in about 5 glorious sentences at the very end. The transness of werewolves is present throughout the book, an it's one aspect of the world that I found very interesting, but it wasn't woven particularly smoothly with Aluk's identity. I would've loved to have learned more about the gender politics of werewolves (because let's be honest, being AFAB and trans makes you real tired of human gender politics real fast).

I appreciate Das’ commentary at the back, admitting he has never been sexually assaulted, tacitly acknowledging he has never had to fear pregnancy, he has never known what it is like to have reproductive agency taken away from him. He does admit that he accepts feedback and is willing to do better, and I hope he does. I would read his prose from here to the end of the earth, it really is that good.

seules's review against another edition

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5.0

i am changed

anaitiye's review against another edition

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3.0

This is another case of my reading a book weirder than I had accounted for, but I won’t hold that against it. I really enjoyed the shapeshifter mythology here, but the plot was too slow-moving and the author’s fascination with urine is more appropriate in a dungeon than these pages.

zezee's review

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challenging dark emotional mysterious reflective tense slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? No
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes

3.0

This is a beautifully written story that touches on Indian folklore and includes mythical beasts — werewolves that are sometimes referred to as shapeshifters and djinns. I remember when the book was recently published. There was so much buzz about it and how great it is. It made me want to read it, so I bought a copy and left it unread on my bookshelves, as I usually do. Couple years later, Rachel from Life of a Female Bibliophile and I decided to buddy-read it. That was last year. It didn’t work out.

We both weren’t feeling it. We were uninterested in the plot and bored by the pace. It also wasn’t what either of us expected it to be. I was expecting something exciting and fast-paced and a lot more fantastical than what’s presented. (It felt more like magical realism than fantasy.) So we were both disappointed by the book and decided to buddy-read something else, but there was something about the story that made me want to finish it. Maybe it was Cyrah, who has so much fire in her that she tracks down the monster who raped her to hold him responsible for what he had done, or maybe it was Gévaudan’s nature — the fact that he’s different from his companions and seems more mysterious than them; or maybe it was just that the story is weird and my curiosity kept me tied to it. Whatever the reason was, it made me mark my place and return to the book a full year later when I was more patient with the story. I just picked up where I stopped and kept going.

I slowly sunk into the rhythm of the story’s narration and, at a snail’s pace, my interest in it grew. I didn’t like the story. I guess it disturbed me. It was too gruesome sometimes and nasty, what with how the werewolves transition and mentions of eating other beings. I don’t know why it disturbed me in this story because usually I’m not as affected by such things, being a fan of fantasy and horror and having read and seen a good bit of dark, twisted stories in books and shows. But this one turned me off.

What kept me reading was the prose, which is very evocative and is probably why the gruesomeness turned me off. I could easily imagine the settings and characters: how they look and what they smell and sound like. I was also drawn to Cyrah and the mystery that the protagonist is involved in — basically, who exactly is the dude who keeps giving him manuscripts, which are sometimes presented on cured human skin, to transcribe. As the protagonist, Alok, who’s a professor, transcribes these manuscripts, we learn more of the stranger’s tale and, apparently, his background. It’s a gruesome and, in some parts, beautiful tale. Parts of it surprised me a little, such as how Cyrah and Gévaudan’s relationship develops. But most of it I didn’t care for. I just wanted to know how it all ends.

However, despite how I felt about the story, it is one I would recommend. It’s different in how it presents its werewolves, but the creatures still retain their fascination. I thought it interesting how the trio of European werewolves consider themselves in relation to the human race, and later how Cyrah is considered by other shapeshifters. There is also LGBT representation, and, as I’ve mentioned before, the writing is beautiful. However, if you decide to read a physical copy, check to make sure it has pages 213-244. I had to borrow the e-book from my library to get those parts.

Overall: ★★★☆☆


It’s a good story, possibly a great one. It didn’t work for me, but it’s one I would recommend for its presentation of the fantastic and its prose.

Quotes from the book:


“Continuously, he consumes me.” 

 As posted on Zezee with Books. 

nithya_natalya's review

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adventurous challenging dark emotional hopeful mysterious medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

5.0

This is one of the most incredible books I've read in recent memory. I'd been in the mood for a queer monster vibe, and this was sheer perfection. Like any good monster story, this novel explores what it means to be human—specifically a human pushed to the margins, and existing in a space between worlds. Though oftentimes full of bloody guts and gore, the novel was also surprisingly tender. There were moments that as Alok wiped away their tears,  I found myself doing the same. A really beautiful story of a monster stepping into their humanity, while a human steps into their queerness. 

CONTENT WARNING, sexual assault and abuse
This book does contain rape. While it was hard to read, as a survivor myself, I found Cyrah's story resonating with me, not in a triggering way, but in a way that felt liberating. She is always depicted as a powerful, multi-dimensional human. It never felt as though the male characters were the ones "empowering" her. Her power was not something given or taken by men. She was driven by a power that already and always existed within herself. 

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blundershelf's review against another edition

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4.0

A wild bloody disgusting ride

greysonk's review

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Too gory for me