The Bottom Line: An epic apocalyptic thriller steeped in Indian folklore and black magic. Recommended for fantasy fans seeking a truly original, high-concept tale of good versus evil.
Vacationers Rahul and Elisa travel to the western Indian state of Rajasthan, hoping to sample local cuisine and explore local cities. But things go from bad to worse as Elisa accidentally ruins their only map (cell coverage isn’t sufficient to summon Google Maps) and the pair go off course in the remote desert. Soon they came across the fictional village of Kendraa.
Clueless Elisa couldn’t be happier snapping photos she hopes to post to Instagram. But Rahul, whose family hails from India, senses something is awry. In one of author Jaydeep Shah’s most stunning passages – which reads like an ancient myth – we learn that Kendraa was the site of a prolonged massacre waged by a witch named Dali who enjoyed levitating and feeding on villagers and animals alike. At the moment her destruction is inevitable – thanks to a curse set from a local sage – she vows to return as an immortal.
Flash forward 4995 years, when a man named Dansh arrives hoping to find the cave where the witch died. He explains he and his men have traveled a long way to make a horror film based on the legend. In reality, they’ve arrived to wake the witch up. Dansh is still in the village when the unlucky pair come upon his village. And five years later, when a wary and weary Rahul agrees to pay Dansh for overnight accommodations in Kendraa, the pair are led directly to the witch’s cave.
Shah’s story of two travelers in mortal danger soon sprawls into an epic battle for humanity’s survival. While Rahul and Elisa remain central to the struggle, Shah quickly builds out a world filled with both warriors and otherworldly demons. The most compelling may be the commando Aarav Singh, whose resume includes taking down a number of terrorists in Mumbai’s infamous Taj Hotel siege. While Shah builds Aarav’s reputation as a fearsome warrior, he also leaves room for levity, such as an amusing scene when the warrior is trying to wrap his head around what they’re really up against: “You are saying that they’re real…not people in creepy costumes with some knowledge of magic tricks.”
Fans of Lord of the Rings-style epics will be right at home with Boondocks, and not just because there’s a clear demarcation between good and evil, as well as healthy doses of magic, fascinating supernatural creatures and fictional folklore. For Western audiences, everything about the novel will be new – the food, the language, the flavor and culture references both real and invented. That, plus Shah’s occasional references to modern-day brands such as Instagram and Dunkin Donuts, create a concept that successfully blends classic and contemporary into something truly fresh.
As a bonus, Shah ends Boondocks with a generous excerpt from Havoc, the series’ second installment.