Review: The Devourers
The Devourers , Indra Das’s debut novel, is an intoxicating and troublesome tale of an Indian history professor being enmeshed in a cycle of outcast “werewolves” interacting with humans throughout the centuries. It is not what I expected. But I don’t think I’m disappointed. I like The Devourers, but I’m not in love with it, either.
Das’s take on werewolves, or shapeshifters, or rakshasas, or the myriad other terms for them is interesting and unique. But it is also very familiar territory for the readers of urban fantasy.
The Devourers is a beautifully written novel. The language is flowing and enticing. The reader, like Alok (the history professor who acts as the frame narrator), is enmeshed into the story of Fenrir and Cyrah before they even know it.
The limited cast is amazingly well done and realized. Especially Alok and the mysterious “half werewolf.” The bitter loneliness, the act of romantic mystery that hides, perhaps an even deeper loneliness is excellent. Cyrah, the lone woman of consequence in the novel (which is a problem), is a masterful creation. Her story, her character is absolutely compelling.
But she is also too modern. For a woman of the Mughal Empire, she reads as if she is a modern Indian woman. The same problem, honestly, also flaws Fenrir and Gevaudan. The two read as modern or postmodern human men, not centuries old non humans.
The plot is engrossing and flows nicely. The Mughal Empire narrative is gorgeous and surprising. This is not paranormal romance. Rather, The Devourers is best described as literary dark fantasy. The Kolkata narrative is a romance in the way these type or narratives are (Alok is a closeted gay or bisexual man and rakshasa culture tends to bisexuality). It is beautiful and bittersweet. And transformative.
That is, I think, the key to The Devourers: Transformation. Alok is transformed by the Stranger. The Stranger is transformed by Alok. Fenrir is transformed by Cyrah. Cyrah is transformed by her experiences hunting Fenrir. A shapeshifter is defined by their transformative nature, the human form and the other form.
The Devourers is not a perfect novel. But it is a rich and evocative one. I found it enjoyable. But not without its flaws.