The Devourers is one of those books where I liked it so much that I don’t even know what to say about it. I read it in one sitting, ensconced in a fever dream, and because it was so intense and then over so quickly I had such a hangover afterward, wanting more. It’s like the Hannibal of books: fellow fans of the (too-short) TV show will understand when I say that it has that same quality of being breathtaking and captivating, literally beautiful, but also deeply, inherently disgusting.
I’m going to just be lazy here and grab the Goodreads synopsis: “On a cool evening in Kolkata, India, beneath a full moon, as the whirling rhythms of traveling musicians fill the night, college professor Alok encounters a mysterious stranger with a bizarre confession and an extraordinary story. Tantalized by the man’s unfinished tale, Alok will do anything to hear its completion. So Alok agrees, at the stranger’s behest, to transcribe a collection of battered notebooks, weathered parchments, and once-living skins.
From these documents spills the chronicle of a race of people at once more than human yet kin to beasts, ruled by instincts and desires blood-deep and ages-old. The tale features a rough wanderer in seventeenth-century Mughal India who finds himself irrevocably drawn to a defiant woman—and destined to be torn asunder by two clashing worlds. With every passing chapter of beauty and brutality, Alok’s interest in the stranger grows and evolves into something darker and more urgent.”
In addition to the intoxicating richness of the paranormal narrative that Alok reads and transcribes, a rather fascinating portrayal of gender and sexuality also emerges. The “advanced race” are essentially pansexual, but as it’s par for the course it’s not discussed with much import, and Alok himself is rather fluid both in his preferences and in his expression. These facts are established not so much to make a statement, but to add to the theme that is present of confidently inhabiting one’s self and one’s desires.
In short, this book was utterly engrossing, unique, and thoughtful. I wish I had never read it, so I could read it again for the first time.