Publisher: Penguin India
Published: March 2019
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
It was always the same dream, a dream that began with darkness and blood.’
When Assistant Commissioner of Police Aditi Kashyap is called upon to solve a gruesome triple homicide in a Mumbai suburb, she is dragged into the terrifying world of the Saimhas-werelions-who have lived alongside humans, hiding amongst them, since ancient times.
Faced with the unbelievable, Aditi has no choice but to join hands with Prithvi, an Enforcer called in to hunt down this seemingly otherworldly murderer.
But can Prithvi overcome the nightmarish burdens of his dark and violent past to unravel the mystery hidden deep within this secret world of werelions? Can he be trusted to save lives, or will he choose to serve a different, more powerful, master?
Read on, as Aditi and Prithvi race through the dark underbelly of Mumbai-from quiet suburbs to gritty brothels, from forgotten colonial tunnels to the lights and glamour of the inner city-in search of a dangerous truth.
In search of a monster.
Truth be told. Indian books are severely lacking when it comes to the fantasy genre. It is more due to the fact that mythological fiction (read re-telling) has become synonymous with fantasy. Also that the genre is considered one for children (they could not have been more wrong).
I received a signed copy of the book as a part of a giveaway hosted by The Sunday Book Club. A fabulous Sunday afternoon on a Twitter chat discussing the fantasy genre with the author herself, with some excellent inputs from fellow book club members.
Beast is one of my favorite Indian fantasy fictions in recent years and features in my favorites books of the year. An urban fantasy, the author Krishna Udayasankar has created a crisp, fast-paced thriller that has you turning the pages.
The author picks on the concept of Narasimha, but turns it entirely on its head. There is no similarity between the simhas and the Vishnu avatar other than that they half human, half lions (werelions) too. That makes the book quite unique. India has such a rich history of mythology. A good fantasy can pick a character and build on it, rather than re-tell the tale from a lesser know character’s perspective.
On the outside, the story appears to be one of a cop and an enforcer solving a murder mystery. But the book also follows the journey of Prithvi, an enforcer who struggles to walk the fine line between right and wrong. The choices he makes and the consequences he has to live with. Although the narration switches back and forth, it does not lose the thread and keeps you hooked.
The characters of Prithvi, Aditi, Rahul, Noor, Tara, and also the side characters are well etched. What I liked was that none were entirely black or white. I enjoyed the author’s writing style. She delves into the human side of the story. Human emotions come into play throughout that makes the characters relatable. Prithvi’s journey from a teenager struggling to cope with what he is, to the enforcer he ends up being. The people he meets along the way, and how the interactions and experiences shape his character. All have been well written.
I do hope the author is planning a sequel to the book. Or perhaps a series. It did leave a few questions unanswered. I would particularly love to read Tara’s story.
I would highly recommend the book to anyone who is looking to read an Indian urban fantasy mystery thriller. It checks all the boxes.
Beast by Krishna Udayasankar is available for purchase at Amazon