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  3. Review: The Devourers by Indra Das – The Speculative Herald

Reviewed by Galen Strickland. The Devourers is similar to several other fantasies I've read, where there are multiple levels to the story and multiple ways they can be interpreted. Alok Mukherjee is a history professor in Kalkota, India. He is approached by a man who claims to be a werewolf, or more precisely, a half-werewolf.

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He wants the professor to transcribe some manuscripts for him, which he himself has endeavored to translate from the original scrolls. The stories in the scrolls were purportedly written by the stranger's father and mother.


Even at the end I suspect all of it is in Alok's imagination, even when he claims the stranger finally presents him with the original scrolls, which seem to be made from human skin. Werewolf is just a generic term for the type of creature the stranger claims to be, with several other similar mythological beings identified from other parts of the world.

For almost the entire book the stranger refuses to give his name, but later tells Alok to call him Izrail, even though he claims he was never given a name by either of his parents. If the scrolls are to be believed, his father was a shape-shifter named Fenrir, a kveldulf out of Norse mythology. His mother, Cyrah, was human, a citizen of the Mughal empire of the early 17th Century.

Her story begins near Agra when she encounters Fenrir, who rapes her with the intent of fathering a child. Fenrir had been traveling with two other shape-shifters of different origins. The narrative goes back and forth between conversations Alok has with the stranger, and the different portions of the stories from the scrolls. The first part was written by Fenrir to Cyrah, the second part by Cyrah to her son.

There are also segments where the stranger tells Alok of his own experiences, but it is easy to believe he might just be a clever hypnotist. Or, as I said in the first paragraph, all of it could be fabricated by Alok.


Is it possible Alok fantasized his encounters with Izrail while contemplating a book he wanted to write, at the same time agonizing over the turmoil of his own life? Other than that, I guess I expected a fairly standard adventure plot. First, though—I need to tell you about what happens in this book, without giving too much away. Alok is a lonely, depressed history professor living in Kolkata. One night, he is approached by a sexy stranger who claims he the stranger is half werewolf. The stranger gives Alok two manuscripts to read and transcribe.

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The manuscripts tell the story of three European werewolves who arrive in Mumtazabad, in the Mughal Empire, in the middle of the seventeenth century, and their encounter with a human woman, Cyrah. There are brutal fights, declarations of love, an epic chase along the Yamuna river, and the blossoming of a beautiful friendship.

Review: The Devourers by Indra Das – The Speculative Herald

And, as Alok reads and transcribes these tales, he keeps seeing the stranger, and their friendship turns into something more than just a friendship…. The day died like fire in the leaves. Monsoon has arrived again. The curtains billow with damp air like the sails of European ships tumbling on the crests of the Indian Ocean, using monsoon to take them to this far land and its foreign monsters and gods and goddesses.

The sun shatters through clouds clinging to the edge of the ocean, its million shining pieces flung across the leagues of water, carried from the crests of surf by wind and thrown to burn in her black hair, turning it bloody gold. I was going to include a joke about how Das describes things so vividly he probably has extra-fine senses and may therefore actually be a werewolf, but it turns out this is not at all an original thought—in this interview with The Qwillery, Das reveals that loads of people joke about him being a werewolf.

Of course, it would be exhausting if the whole novel was entirely written this way. The humans are more straightforward and no-nonsense, and Cyrah, in particular, knows exactly what to say to deflate a werewolf who is waxing obnoxiously about the werewolf code or some horrific ritual or other. The second thing that makes this book special is just how grown-up it is.


And, the morning after the rape, Cyrah decides to go look for Fenrir to confront him, so she can have the last word on what happened. And in this interview , he says. The best way for a man to write women is to listen to women, read women, and treat women characters like human beings. Slipping into the mindset of a rapist is disturbingly easy, because our cultures support rapists, enable them at every turn. I mean, you see their voices every day, all over the internet, in comments sections, on social media, in terrible articles.

Fenrir is a more literate and thoughtful version of those assholes.

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