The Devourers by Indra Das follows the story of a group of werewolves over the course of hundreds of years. It’s told within the frame story of an Indian college professor interviewing a half werewolf in modern-day Kolkata, a la Interview With a Vampire. It’s dark, disturbingly visceral, and weaves together mythologies from multiple cultures.
Outside of the physical locations where the story takes place, the mythology is fascinating.
If you’re like me, you think of full moons, excess body hair, and a lack of self-control when you hear the word “werewolf.” The creatures in this story are so much more. They consume the souls of the people they devour, gaining a portion of their memories, personalities, and lifespan. This allows them to be effectively immortal.
Also, they’re not just limited to wolves. Devourers have a “second self” that they can shape however they want. Many choose to appear like a giant wolf, but others choose to grow wings or scales. According to the half-werewolf in the story, djinn, vampires, and other monsters all have some basis in the devourers.
The frame story follows Alok, a somewhat jaded college professor in Kolkata, India, and his interactions with a half-werewolf who refuses to give his name. Alok is a flawed character struggling to find happiness, though we don’t get to dive too much into his character. The half-werewolf is mysterious, and we learn very little about him for most of the book.
The meat of the story takes place hundreds of years ago and follows a young woman named Cyrah. As an unmarried Muslim woman, she has to fend for herself to survive. This attitude helps her stay alive when she meets Fenrir, a pale-skinned northener who claims to be something more than human. Cyrah is our main link to humanity in the book, and the character you’re most likely to identify with. You don’t get to see a lot of her personality other than her strength of will, but she was enjoyable to read.
One night, Alok leaves a crowded party to smoke outside and is approached by a stranger claiming to be a half-werewolf. The stranger asks Alok for help transcribing a story written on ancient scrolls, which tell the story of a young woman’s encounters with werewolves many years ago.
The Devourers focuses more on characters, mythology, and imagery than it does on plot. Both the frame story and the story told in the scrolls are somewhat loosely defined, but the interactions between characters and the decisions they make carry the novel.
This was not a fast-paced book, largely due to how vivid the imagery was. It’s been a while since I’ve read a book that used so many adjectives, but the style works for this type of story. It serves to highlight the gruesome nature of the devourers.
It took a little while for the “main story” from the scrolls to take over, but things sped up once they did. However, this is a book that’s best enjoyed by taking your time reading it. You definitely don’t want to rush through.
Should You Read This?
If you like interesting mythology, vivid prose, and stories within stories, you will probably enjoy this book. If you’re one of the people that dislike the sex appeal of vampires and werewolves in pop culture, you’ll find this a breath of fresh air. (For example, devourers issue challenges by pissing on each other.)
The Devourers is not a fast-paced book. There is a lot of vivid description, and it serves to paint disturbingly detailed pictures of the violence in the story. There’s a good bit of gore, and more bodily fluids (like seriously every fluid) than you’ll likely read about in ten other books together. Also, it’s difficult to identify with many of the main characters, partially because of the alien nature of the world they find themselves in.
Recommended Beverage Pairing
Kolkata Street Chai
Sit back with a hot cup of chai and immerse yourself in The Devourers. Alok enjoys this beverage on several occasions throughout the story, so you can almost feel as if you are experiencing firsthand.
On second thought, this is not a story you’d want to experience firsthand. The chai is good, though.
Ingredients (serves 2):
- 3 cups water
- 1 oz freshly grated ginger
- 3 tsp loose leaf black tea
- 3 green cardamom pods, coarsely ground
- 1.5 cups whole milk
- 3 tbsp raw cane sugar
- Put the ginger in the water and bring to a rolling boil
- Turn the heat down to medium-high and simmer for 2 minutes
- Add the tea leaves and simmer for 5 minutes
- Add the milk and ground cardamom
- Once the mixture begins to boil again, leave for 7 minutes
- Add the sugar and strain into 2 mugs