Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Book Review: The Sorcery Of The Senses By Tanima Das

A divorced man stumbles on a family heirloom when he visits his deceased parents' house. It opens a portal through which he is able to converse with the five senses. They make him see his previous lives, where he, as the chosen one, spectacularly failed in spite of possessing amazing powers. In this life, he is an overall failure and doesn't have any superpowers. The Senses believe that this may help him take on the evil versions of the five senses, who are out to make the universe a hell.

After re-reading the above synopsis, I realised that if this novel was written as a comedy, reading it would have been great fun. But this is not a comedy, and I didn't have much fun reading it. The Sorcery Of The Senses is the debut novel of Tanima Das. It is a fantasy novel that checks every box on the fantasy story checklist. The plot has magical elements and characters with special powers doing interesting feats. The world-building in the novel is not bad. There are three distinct worlds described in the story, and the writing is immersive enough to transport you there. Characterization is excellent, with all the major characters getting a good story arc and making the reader empathise with them even when they end up doing foolish deeds, which is almost every time.

Every fantasy needs an intricate quest for the protagonist to undergo and a formidable nemesis who severely impairs his progress. The novel lacks on these two accounts. This is the first part of a series of books. Though there is definitely a quest, it just begins at the end of this book. Also, we never get a good look at the antagonists, though they are mentioned briefly. These turn out to be the handicaps of the book, and owing to them, the book ends without a hook—something that can compel the reader to grab its sequel when it is released.

The protagonist, Dhruv, doesn't feature much, as most of the story told in this book deals with his two previous lives. But the character, with all his flaws, manages to make an impact. I really loved the realistic way in which his marital issues are depicted. His ex-wife also turns out to be a very sympathetic character, though I guess the author may surprise me in the sequel. The three senses that make their appearances in this volume unfortunately turn out to be damb squibs. Their relevance in the plot is reduced to providing exposition. The characters of the two past lives of the hero are far more interesting, especially the story of the blind princess. The first one had an issue with everyone making really bad decisions, but still, the characters were colourful and interesting.

There are no gimmicks employed in the narration, as the author decided to plainly report the story. But the simple narration turned out to be impactful, especially when magical elements were described. Ghriz moving into the poison forest and Mong curing the illness of the king are two very interesting segments that benefitted most from the plain-sailing narration.

The Sorcery Of The Senses by Tanima Das is the first part of a fantasy series that doesn't make the reader crave its sequel. It is well narrated and inhabited by good characters, though it lacks a hook for the reader in its climax. I do feel that the author missed the chance to make something crazy with material that had the potential for an over-the-top plot. Still, it is a pretty good debut, and fantasy lovers will not complain after reading it.

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