26 July, 2016

#BookReview :: Dark Things by Sukanya Venkatraghavan

Somewhere on Prithvi, a mortal survives a supernatural attack. In the dark realm of Atala, an evil goddess prepares to do the Unspeakable. And a Yakshi finds herself at the heart of an other-worldly storm. Ardra has only known life as a Yakshi, designed to seduce and kill men after drawing out their deepest, darkest secrets for her evil mistress Hera, queen of the forsaken realm of Atala. Then, on one strange blood moon night, her chosen victim, Dwai, survives, and her world spins out of control. Now Ardra must escape the wrath of Hera, who is plotting to throw the universe into chaos. To stop her, Ardra needs to find answers to questions she hasn't dared to ask before. What power does the blood moon hold? Is the sky city of Aakasha as much a myth as its inhabitants - the ethereal and seductive Gandharvas and Apsaras? Who is Dara, the mysterious monster-slayer, and what makes Dwai impervious to her powers? A heady concoction of fantasy and romance, Dark Things conjures up a unique world wrought of love and sacrifice, of shadows and secrets, of evil and those who battle it.

Ardra is a Yakshi who serves Queen Hera. As a Yakshi, it is her job to find out the deepest and darkest secrets of men and then kill them. She performs this ritual habitually and passes on these secrets to her Queen. That is the life that Ardra knows till one blood moon her supposed victim survives her bewitchment. As if a mortal surviving her bewitchment was not a mystery enough… Dara, a monster slayer, spares her life for some unknown reason. Slowly questions build up in Ardra’s and everything seemed to be connected to the Queen she served and the monster locked away in a tower.

Wow! That was the word on my mind when I finally finished reading this book. First off, the characters are really well done. Ardra is a character who grows on you slowly. She is never painted as this larger than life, always right and ‘I-know-best’ protagonist. Instead she comes off as a character whose world is suddenly turned upside down and yet she emerges strong from it. While there are moments of self-doubt and insecurities, she never comes off as an pansy-irritating character that depends on others to solve her problems. Slowly but steadily she takes on everything that is thrown at her, asks the right questions and eventually does the right thing. On the other hand Queen Hera, in many ways, pushes Ardra to be her best. That is a sign of a well-drawn up antagonist because a protagonist can only be as good as the antagonist. A weak antagonist will never lead to the creation of a great protagonist. Then there is Dara, a character with a past that is hinted at but not clearly spelled out to keep an air of mystery around him. And that certainly worked – who doesn’t like a man of mystery?

Sukanya Venkatraghavan can sure weave a good tale. The book gets you hooked from the very beginning and before you know it you will be turning the last page! Her narrative is spot on in every aspect. She kept up the pace of the plot while building the world and its characters. She has provided just enough background information on each character and revealed secrets at the right moment to have the maximum impact. Even I did not see one of the twists coming! The world building has been done well enough. If I absolutely had to crib about one thing in the book, it would be the world building. I am a girl who loves details and while the world building would seem sufficient enough to most people, I want more. I always want more when I like something.

It is not often enough that I love a fantasy book written by an Indian author so much. Exceptions have been there, but the only other fantasy book that I have liked more than this is Shatrujeet Nath’s Vikramaditya Veergatha Series. Though these books are not comparable to each other for many reasons, the common thread between the two is the fantasy genre and the care taken to build the worlds with enigmatic characters. Dark Things is now my second favourite fantasy book written by an Indian Author and I would recommend it to all fantasy lovers.

Review Copy received from Hachette India

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