As I am getting to this review long after the book club discussion, I will be brief. I am not usually a fan of werewolf stories. I find the mythology tedious. Men are beasts, blah blah blah. This version is at least set in somewhere different, India, and rotates around a very strong woman in unfortunate circumstances. There are two primary stories, one told in the present with Alok the professor and one told in the past with Cyra that prostitute/mother. The book weaves together many mythologies from many different cultures to create a new mythology that is a little interesting.
A few thoughts.
Cyra’s tale. She is neither a victim nor a hero. She is a survivor. Which makes the motivation for chasing down the creature who raped her circumspect. Yeah, she doesn’t want to have this demon baby and is dealing with some crazy stuff. But why would a woman who is surviving in incredibly harsh circumstances, by herself, with very little resources, risk her life to confront a man beast? She is a great character, but her fascination with both Geuvadan and Fenrir makes no sense to me.
Alok: Yay for queer characters. Boo for self-hating queer characters. It feels like the metaphor for second “true” selves in relation to a mostly closeted and shamed queer narrator is a bit heavy handed. Alok is a historian and as such, can’t help but be invested in translating the scrolls. His slowly acknowledged attraction to stranger also makes sense. His sections of the book are the most boring.
The bodily fluids. I bet if I went back and counted the number of sentences involving piss, shit, blood, semen, dismembered body parts or bones it would be well over 25% of all the sentences in the book. I get it, they are hedonistic creatures who revel in consumption. But multiple scenes referencing naked stinky dudes peeing in circles after taking off their clothes just bogged the story down and read like a very specific fan fic fetish.
I am glad I read the book and happy to have participated (at least as an observer) in the book club, but I don’t think I will recommend this book to anyone else.