This is going to be a very long review with many confusing points so grab a cup of tea and sit back.
Savage Blue is like a breath of fresh air, atleast it is after you’re halfway through, and it seems to be a great change in the Indian fantasy scene. The story follows two characters, Shyam and Akila Raina (if you know Hindi you’ll know the wordplay there, she is alone for the most part in the story) and focusses more on Akila’s timeline throughout her life. Akila and Shyam are both in their hospital ward (at school) and follow a cat out into the garden and into the nearby woods. It starts pouring and hailing yet the children follow the cat and are led to a rather creepy place. What follows is not really something Shyam recalls correctly but from that point on we see what happens to Akila as she grapples with being thrown into a world where she, a ten year old child, has to handle everything by herself.
The beginning is Shyam narrating facts to his Psychiatrist so you get the impression that it is from the POV of a mentally unstable person (which I still think it is) and therefore making him an unreliable narrator. But that intriguing point quickly dissolves and it turns into just regular old fantasy. If you’ve read Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean At The End Of The Lane you’ll find that there are so many similarities at the beginning but those too, dissolve away.
After the initial episodes, hospital, psychiatrist etc, what we are presented with are two timelines, Akila from the age ten to Shyam and Akila when they are older. The supposedly 29 and 30 year old in the first few portions in the adult timeline were honestly behaving like 15 and 16 year olds immaturely giggling at sexual things. And the adult portions at the beginning are just that….adult. It’s got nothing but sex and sex and sex.
This would have been okay if it had the tags “erotica” somewhere in the description because I don’t read or enjoy erotica. While this is a personal preference, I also have to mention it switches between innocent ten year old Akila struggling to find food for herself to 30 year old Akila having sex with Shyam. So that itself might make someone (me) uncomfortable. After a while though the adult portions pick up and become so much better and more involved in the story that I’m glad I didn’t skip them entirely.
Now…..that’s all the negatives it has. The rest of it was OH SO BRILLIANT! The vivid descriptions and the world building was so well done that I couldn’t stop imagining the different worlds she was visiting and the horrors and the pleasures that were in them. (If you’re wondering what it looked like in my imagination picture a more colourful Virtual Villagers I with massive danger in the world instead of massive vegetables. Also imagine that the relic they uncover might actually kill them all. Akila as a character is brilliant, resourceful and isn’t the helpless little female character that most Indian books have. In fact it is Shyam who is helpless and confused here. And while the ending turns that around a bit, it makes sense and you still adore Akila.
And the author masterfully manipulates the different worlds and the timeline lengths to make it feel like you’re building up to a ridiculously action packed climax. A story filled with flying dolphins, French and Tamil ancient relics, danger, insectoids, flying unigendered female creatures, giant salamanders, chimeras and massive titans, Savage Blue is just brilliantly imaginative and leaves your head filled with colourful worlds and possibilities.
This was such a memorable book, one that is a keeper in my shelves. I’m having trouble rating this though because the beginning adult portions were 1 star for me (which is a pity because this had such strong Neil Gaiman potential) while the younger timeline were 5 stars for me. You’re probably thinking, well didn’t you have a clue from the cover? I did, but I didn’t expect it to be JUST that in the beginning portions. So….while the remaining adult portions did redeem the beginning I don’t think I’ll be able to wholeheartedly recommend this book to people who don’t necessarily enjoy erotica because that is sort of important to the plot. So I’m meeting in the middle and giving it a 3 star.
As for me, While I’ll definitely keep the author’s books on my radar, I’ll be skimming through them at a bookstore instead of auto-purchasing them. But keep in mind that this is my personal preference. You may just enjoy the beginning portions as much as the rest of it. Perfect for those who enjoy fantasy but don’t mind some serious erotica involved. This is sort of a rave review. Atleast it is for 75% of the book and that should be enough to make you want to read it. If nothing else, buy it for the younger timeline.
From the author of the award-winning graphic novel Simian, comes an electrifying new fantasy adventure
Akila Raina, the principal’s precocious daughter, was only ten when she disappeared. Shyam, who was with her that fateful night, is daily haunted by a dream of it – a dream more grisly than reality could possibly be. Until Akila mysteriously reappears twenty years later, grown-up and gorgeous.
She tells him of surreal worlds, her travels between them, her encounters with strange creatures, their own connection across the realms and the malevolent power that lies at the heart of it all. And then she shows him…
Bold and passionate, Savage Blue is an unnerving ride into unknown worlds.
*I requested a review copy from the publisher, who very kindle provided me one. Opinions expressed are my own.