Title: Dark Things
Author: Sukanya Venkatraghavan
Book procurement: Received signed (yeee!) copy from the author for an honest review.
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.
Dark things. What can I say? Not at all what I was expecting. Most dark fantasy novels I’ve read or looked up seem to have the same kind of story or setting or characters. To be honest, I could do without werewolves and vampires for a while, I’d appreciate a fresh approach to these tired tropes. And then Dark Things came along.
It’s been a long time since I read about an evil goddess and have yet to delve into anything with Indian mythology in it. This was the kind of fresh I was looking for. An intriguing synopsis from an author I didn’t know about until my dear friend Vicky from Books & Strips told me about her. Sukanya Venkatraghavan, thank you for the signed copy!
Alright on to the review.
I enjoyed how the story was told. Really clever and I noticed it much later in the book, that the perspective changes depending on the people in the chapter. When following Ardra, it’s told from her perspective (third person) but when Dara or Dwai are all in the scene together, it’s not linked to one person’s perspective; I changes to we, me to they. Clever! Oh, and mysterious brooding Dara doesn’t have his own perspective because… that wouldn’t be mysterious now would it?
In overall, the novel was a great read and actually had a plot. Ardra who seduces and steals secrets from human men (I’m a man! Gasp!) doesn’t succeed at her task for the first time. It begins a long twisting tale of self-discovery and the power behind what makes her a Yakshi, reveals a shocking history of the surviving human Dwai, and an even more twisted revelation about the monster slayer Dara – and of course the evil that is Hera who will stop at nothing to achieve her goals. Nothing.
The setting is spread across a number of different places some dark, some beautiful, some really creepy but all oh so magical.
The characters are unique and well crafted. From Ardra who begins to ask some pertinent questions about herself. I love how her shape-shifting isn’t anything glamorous. Her struggle with her own evil in light of Hera’s goal made me sympathetic with her… even though she’s a secret-stealing killer Yakshi. Dwai is such a a softie. And mysterious Dara who refuses to reveal his past even at the sake of stopping evil – I was annoyed with him for most of the novel. And then the end… ah man I almost cried. And then a smattering of other characters each with their own unique personalities, from a famous India actor who is more than she seems, and a mountain beast guarding a secret to a mystical world and rainbowhued entity who just added more confusion than anything!
In overall it was a great book and I am definitely looking forward to reading more from Sukanya Venkatraghavan: I did not see those plot twists. I always see plot twists. Not this time. Well played!
Rating: A mystical 4 out of 5