[Book Nook] ‘The Descent of the Drowned’ Is A Promising Debut Steeped In Tragedy

Book Nook is a little corner of Screen Queens dedicated to books. From book adaptations to book reviews this will be a place for readers of SQ to engage with the oldest form of entertainment, the written word.

Title: The Descent of the Drowned

Author: Ana Lal Din

Publisher: White Tigress Press

The Descent of the Drowned is an Indo-Persian fantasy that melds a darkly beautiful tale about the darkness of humanity and the vengeful spirit that resides within a scorned woman.

The story follows Roma, a sacred slave of a goddess and a member of the lower caste. She has been devoted to serving the Goddess Lamia and forced to serve patrons in an unfair society that sees women as mere vessels without a voice. Roma must rise from the ashes to claim her vengeance or be smothered into silence forever. On the other side, we have Leviathan, the bastard son of the seemingly immortal and tyrannical Firawn. Raised to be the weapon wielded by his vicious father, Leviathan knows a different kind of prison; one that has scarred his mind and hardened his soul. Leviathan must break free from his evil father to reclaim his soul and pave a path to salvation. Roma and Leviathan’s destinies collide and little do they know just how important they are in saving humanity–or destroying it.

This is not only a debut novel, but the first of a trilogy. Our author, Ana Lal Din, puts so much of herself into her creation. There is a real sense of empathy for her characters and a passion to create an epic fantasy that you can sense from the first page. However, this debut, there is much growth and development to be had. While the characters are carefully drawn and the world built upon a basic understanding of Indo-Persian culture and pre-Islamic Arabian mythology, the writing sometimes lacks that connective tissue. Meaning, the characters seemingly teleport from one place to another, events happen in rapid succession with no clear timeline, and the crux of the narrative doesn’t pick up until the back half of the novel – which can feel somewhat frustrating as the first half lags with a ton of exposition and buildup.

Despite some flaws in the writing, the actual content of the book is fiercely engaging. Firstly, this is not for the light-hearted, and I struggle to suggest it to teens. It is very much a narrative for adults or those who are prepared to read about, well, the worst of humanity. This book has everything from sex-based violence, self-harm, PTSD, poverty, human (child) trafficking, forced drug addiction, and a myriad of horrendous actions done to our leads or characters they cherish. It is a depressingly accurate book on the dangers and harsh reality of colonized land and societies that value human suffering over all else. Due to Lal Din’s background, the book feels honest and raw rather than condescending and violently stereotypical. There is a keen awareness that despite this being a fantasy, the reality depicted in her novel is a pure reflection of our world today.

Ultimately, what will keep readers engaged until the end and beyond (The Blood on the Blade, I look forward to reading you), is Roma and Leviathan. Lal Din does an excellent job crafting characters whose actions and thoughts are so clearly realized that the anticipation of what they will do next has you in a panicked state. These characters are victims of circumstances beyond their control and it is in their ability to regain their freedom of choice that the book comes alive. The excitement that comes from them building up their courage to stand against the forces that hold them down has you feeling like you are standing on the edge of the cliff with uncertainty as what lies below. The book is slow and tough to jump into, but well worth the struggle as this ends with our characters being at a dangerous crossroads. What will happen next?!

To sum this up, Lal Din has quite the book on her hands. The Descent of the Drowned is a socially aware fantasy that makes you want to scream into oblivion and that is the sort of thing any reader wants. What is most effective about Lal Din’s writing is her ability to evoke such strong and visceral imagery and emotion. She is well on her way to becoming a formidable force in the fantasy realm and is certainly an author to watch.

Purchase The Descent of the Drowned at your local bookshops or find an online vendor here.

by Ferdosa Abdi

Ferdosa (she/her) is a lifetime student of cinema. Three of her current favourite films are: Addams Family Values, Cinderella (2015), and Emma. (2020)On Twitter you can see her support women-led cinema, her ongoing love/hate relationship with Disney, her totally healthy obsession with Eva Green, and her great admiration for Guillermo del Toro.

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