A good book transports you. It lets you taste the air and feel the dust on your fingertips. The language in which it’s written flows naturally, like the rhythm of your heartbeat.
Indra Das’ The Devourers is such a book. A beautiful fantasy tale spanning centuries and generations, it snatches you up and takes you across the world and through the years, so that you inhale the smoke from the Kolkatta street vendor carts, feel the thick leaves of the Indian jungle cut your skin, hear the thunderous roar of the Rakshasa as it emerges from the blood-soaked mist.
The Devourers is the story of a professor named Alok who one night meets a mysterious Stranger who claims he’s half-werewolf. The Stranger asks him to translate a story set in seventeenth-century India, etched in part on scrolls of human skin. On these scrolls, Alok finds the testimonies of Fenrir and Cyrah, he a member of an ancient race of shapeshifters who are forbidden to love, she his rape victim who is determined to find him and make him atone for his crime. Alok his horrified and disgusted by the Stranger’s story, and yet he finds himself drawn into a lush world of lovers, corpses, and demons.
If you’re looking for a romantic and bloodless monster story, The Devourers is not for you. Fenrir’s race shifts shape in a spray of urine and bleeds boiling poison at a moment’s notice. They don’t have fur so much as quills that slice the flesh of anyone they touch. Just as India is a country in which the sweat and spit of humanity is not ignored on a daily basis, so The Devourers is a carnal tale of the supernatural, covered with bodily fluids and wheeling insects.
But Das’ writing is so beautiful and succinct that even the grossest parts of humanity are seen as merely honest. His simple descriptive language pivots and pirouettes, surprising and delighting the reader while never becoming so lofty as to confuse them. Usually a book is a fast read because it’s easily consumed, like junk food. Meanwhile, the prose in The Devourers is like sweet liquor, hard to swallow at first but soon impossible to stop consuming.
This is not the first time I’ve sung this book’s praises, and it won’t be the last. Rarely have I read a book so strange, and wonderful, and cool as this one. From start to finish, The Devourers is a joy to read. If you choose not to, it’s your loss, and I feel earnestly sorry for you.
The Devourers is out now from Del Rey Spectra. You can buy it here.