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Sons of Darkness (The Raag of Rta #1) by Gourav Mohanty - book review

Write on: Fri, 01 Jul 2022 by  in Janelle's Reviews Read 582

5/5 stars

 

Stop what you are doing and read this book. 

Sons of Darkness is breathtaking in its scope - the worldbuilding is incredible, the prose top-notch, the plot complex, and the characters engaging. Based off the Indian epic Mahabharata (some 1.8 million word poem written in ancient Sanskrit), Sons of Darkness is hailed as the first Indian grimdark fantasy series. If you're looking for something original, immersive, and compelling, look no further. 

I will try to be succinct without giving away spoilers. At its essence, this story follows the interweaving plots of several characters. Krishna and his third wife Satyabhama (who is one bad-ass character, let me TELL you) are leading the Mathuran Republic in a war against the Magadhan Empire. Krishna is, by all accounts, a brilliant strategist who clawed his way to the top of the Republic and is behind the walls of an impenetrable city, which is under a years-long siege. Then there is Karna, a Resht (the lowest caste in this society) who has proven himself as a mighty warrior, and became friends with a Prince who raises him in status. He has a young nephew, and their relationship is endearing. There is Mati - a pirate princess with ulterior motives and a conniving mind, and Nala, a girl with vengeance on her heart and blood as firm as steel. These are just a few of the characters who make up this sweeping tale. 

It all converges together about halfway through the book at a competition to see who will win the hand of a princess. But there is treachery afoot - one thing after another builds on top of each other until, with a broad stroke of genius, Mohanty unveils a story so engaging you can't put it down. Make no mistake - this is certainly a dark book (TW - rape scenes). But as the characters struggle against the various blocks keeping them from their goal - ranging from racism, to sexism, to traitors, and more - you see the inherent dignity in humanities fight against the darkness both within and without - inner demons and actual demons, gods and enemies. 

The magic system is complex - there are Elementals who supposedly don't exist anymore. There are shraps, which are a type of curse but will drain the one doing the cursing until they die. There is a long-dead society of gods who mated with humans to create half-gods. There is an ancient order that seems to have a hand in how the world operates, seemingly having magic themselves. It takes some getting used to, but once you get a grasp on it, the world opens up from just being threads in a story to a whole tapestry of color and texture. 

As a whole, Sons of Darkness is a wild ride. It takes its time and doesn't rush through, leaving the reader times to chew on things slowly and savor them before being hit with action and battles and blood.

5/5 stars. No doubt, Mohanty will be listed among the greats of this genre of fantasy. This could possibly be my favorite book of the year so far. I eagerly look forward to the rest of the series. 

Janelle

By day Janelle is a nurse, mother to two autistic sons, and writer. By night, she's immersed in other worlds. Reading fantasy is her happy place. And drinking wine. And eating tacos. 

Grab her flintlock fantasy series The Rodasia Chronicles, or her epic fantasy series The Steward Saga on Amazon.