I wanted to read this book because of the setting. I am usually not a horror-themed reader, but given that the stories were placed in Southern India (where I come from, not the exact state- but close enough), my curiosity was aroused.
My first mistake was thinking that the entire book is a continuous narrative. Even after the first set of stories, I kept thinking that. Only when I reached the very end, I realised that was not the case. There is a small plot point that hovers in the background of the narrative. It sets the atmosphere and is the foundation of the collection but does not have a direct bearing on the rest of the plots.
I would highly recommend this for those who are on the lookout for some dark sort of -short stories(some longer than others) set in a place they have not probably read stories from before. The writing is very evocative, and the main reason for my rating is that I did not ‘enjoy’ all the stories equally. There were some that were quite fascinating in that dark way but the others not so much. I will not go into the individual ideas, but the main driving force at the beginning is the story of an Englishman hiding his true heritage while working for an Indian King. It felt like a very unique angle to approach such a story because we have a man serving under a ruler who himself reports to other invaders while taking sides in the Europeans’ struggle to hold onto parts of India. There is a significant line at this point that struck me. To paraphrase it, our original protagonist(the man with many names) thinks it is strange that the Europeans put so much effort, time, and money into conquering the country to be in the land (to own it) but not be of it (in terms of learning about and from the native people).
I found each individual character introduced to be very vivid (and many times seriously sinister), and that made the entire read worth it. I am a little more sensitive to certain imagery than the average person, so I think the eerie and unsettling atmosphere will be better appreciated by those who are on the lookout for it – It is not too beyond the realm of standard horror if I think about it.
Coming back to the depiction of the locals and local life through several centuries (as all the chapters continue to jump leaps and bounds ahead in time with every successive book), it felt quite thorough and realistic. I did not find anything uncomfortable or stereotyping, at least not enough to detract from the plot itself (while sometimes adding to it).
Even though it is not my usual genre of reading, I am glad I gave it a shot!
I received an ARC thanks to NetGalley and the publishers but the review is entirely based on my own reading experience.