Book Review: The Devourers- Indra Das

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Most people would think of Indra Das’s debut novel The Devourers as a rewrite of a classic tale about a werewolf or a speculative work of fiction. The story itself at some point pokes at werewolf stories and their apparent non-diversity when the protagonist mentions to a different character that they’re the first Indian werewolf he has come across or even heard of.

However, it wouldn’t be just to classify this novel as such because there’s so much more to the plot. The book is also a war story, a story about love, monsters, and violence. Readers are ultimately thrown into the realisation that there’s an apt representation of racial, sexual, and cultural violence that we as humans continually subject each other to. 

The tale is layered and begins in modern Kolkata with Alok, a young man who is also a history professor and the protagonist of the novel. Alok is hired by a stranger t help him translate a number of scrolls. The stranger also mentions that he’s a half-werewolf, or a shape shifter that can turn at will. Alok, taken in by the strangers’ story, decides to help him.

As Alok keeps typing out the manuscripts, he comes to the realization that they are based on the real life stories of two people from past centuries. One is Fenrir, a werewolf, and the other is Cyrah, a young woman. The scrolls seem to be written by Fenrir and at some point, he lays bare his feelings for Cyrah, his raping her, and the violent atrocities he engages in with the excuse of protecting his unborn child. 

The narrative of the rape incident is extremely disturbing. However, the book moves its focus to Cyrah and her voice is dominant throughout the rest of the book. The rest of the contents of the scroll take the reader back to Cyrah’s journey to reach Fenrir as well as her struggle to finally accept that she was carrying a half-human child.

Cyrah tries to understand the motives of Fenrir but she must also try to come to terms with the difference between humans and shape-shifters which also brings a valid question to light: “what does it mean to be human?”

At the beginning of their meeting, the werewolf tells Alok to take whatever he would from the story. There’s definitely a lot going on in the novel. It is full of unanswered questions and ethical confrontations that would definitely spark vigorous discussions amongst readers as well as scholars. 

For instance, one of the most asked questions about the book is why Cyrah was Persian while Fenrir is Norse. There’s also the question of how readers were to work out the fact that Alok hides his sexual identity due to the fear of social isolation and physical violence. There’s also an important question about Cyrah’s relationship with her friend Gevaudan who is also a shape-shifter. Interestingly, Gevaudan has a strong revulsion for humans but is loyal to the love he has for Cyrah. 

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