Book Review: The Hundred Names of Darkness (Nilanjana Roy)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Pushkin Children’s Books

Pages: 316

Release Date: July 7th 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

In the sequel to her critically acclaimed, bestselling novel, The Wildings, Nilanjana Roy takes us back to the Delhi neighbourhood of Nizamuddin and its unforgettable cats – Mara, Southpaw, Katar, Hulo and Beraal. As they recover slowly from their terrible battle with the feral cats, they find their beloved locality changing around them. Winter brings an army of predators – humans, vicious dogs, snakes, bandicoots along with the cold and a scarcity of food Unless Mara can help them find a safe haven, their small band will be wiped out forever. With the assistance of a motley group of friends Doginder, a friendly stray Hatch, a cheel who is afraid of the sky; Thomas Mor, an affable peacock Jethro Tail, the mouse who roared and the legendary Senders of Delhi – Mara and her band set out on an epic journey to find a place where they can live free from danger.

Review:

This book picks up where The Wildings left off – after the battle with the ferals, the Bigfeet are making life hard for the wildings, and that coupled with a hot dry summer mean they’ll face starvation unless Mara can find somewhere else to live.

Again, this took me longer to read than a book of this length normally would. I think it’s because it does read more like a classic than the usual YA I read, and I always read classics slower/struggle with them a little. But I really enjoyed entering this world again, spending time with the familiar characters, meeting some new ones and seeing them all grow and change.

Mara meets some fellow Senders and learns what it means to be a Sender. When a chance accident forces her outside her home she has to learn to be brave in the outside world. It was great to see her facing her fears and stepping up to her role as Sender. We also get to learn a bit more about her history, with some surprising revelations.

While we do see a lot of the old characters we loved in the first book, I missed Ozzy and the zoo animals in this sequel – I really wanted to see more of them. Still, the new characters made up for the lack of tigers. Thomas, a peacock who lives on a golf course, was a great new addition and made me laugh a fair few times.

The villains of this story weren’t as scary as the ferals, but what they lacked in creepiness they made up for in volume. I loved the way the different plotlines of the book wove into each other and how everything was resolved in the end. It was a neatly tied-off ending but I’m still holding out hope that there’s more to come from Mara and her friends!

4

Book Review: The Wildings (Nilanjana Roy)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Pushkin Children’s Books

Pages: 336

Release Date: July 7th 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

A small band of cats lives in the labyrinthine alleys and ruins of Nizamuddin, an old neighbourhood in Delhi. Miao, the clan elder, a wise, grave Siamese; Katar, a cat loved by his followers and feared by his enemies; Hulo, the great warrior tom; Beraal, the beautiful queen, swift and deadly when challenged; Southpaw, the kitten whose curiosity can always be counted on to get him into trouble… Unfettered and wild, these and the other members of the tribe fear no one, go where they will, and do as they please. Until, one day, a terrified orange-coloured kitten with monsoon green eyes and remarkable powers, lands in their midst—setting off a series of extraordinary events that will change their world forever.

Review:

I’m a pretty big cat lover so when this was offered to me to review I couldn’t say no. It was also compared to Watership Down, a childhood favourite of mine, so it felt like I was destined to love it. And I did…but not right away.

I was about to write that this took me nearly a month to read, as that’s what it felt like, but after consulting Goodreads, it was only 10 days. Still, that’s slow reading for me and I think there were times when I just didn’t want to pick this book up. I’m not sure if it was a bit of a reading slump or if it took me a while to get into it.

The Wildings tells the story of a group of stray cats living in Nizamuddin in Delhi, whose world is disrupted one day when a new kitten with extraordinary powers appears in their city. Mara is a Sender, a cat with powers who often appears in times of trouble. She’s also a house cat and afraid to go outside, which alienates her from the wildings. While she learns to control her powers, a group of feral cats threaten the harmonious living of not only the wildings, but all the creatures of Nizamuddin.

As mentioned, it took me a little while to get into this. I think it was just getting used to the style: it feels a close in style to classics such as Watership Down and The Wind in the Willows in the way it’s written, and I guess I just wasn’t expecting it. It slowly grew on me and the ending was really tense and I raced through it then.

It’s hard sometimes to write a story about animals that’s interesting and gets you emotionally involved without making them too human-like, but Roy does this perfectly. Each cat had its own distinct traits and personality and I never forgot that they were cats. The idea of the link the animals used to communicate was really different and I loved how it was used throughout the book.

The ‘villains’ of the story made a bit of a late appearance but I thought they were excellent. There was a real sense of dread around the Shuttered House, and when one cat accidentally stumbled inside, the scenes with the feral cats in there were genuinely creepy. I could really hear Datura, their leaders, voice and it sent shivers down my spine each time.

While this took me a while to get into, I really enjoyed it in the end and am looking forward to picking up the sequel soon. If you’re a cat lover like me or looking for a modern classic then this is for you!

4