Review: The Descent of the Drowned by Ana Lal Din

Goodreads Synopsis: She is bound to serve. He is meant to kill. Survival is their prison. Choice is their weapon. As the sacred slave of a goddess, Roma is of a lower caste that serves patrons to sustain the balance between gods and men. What she wants is her freedom, but deserters are hunted and hanged, and Roma only knows how to survive in her village where women are vessels without a voice. When her younger brother is condemned to the same wretched fate as hers, Roma must choose between silence and rebellion. Leviathan is the bastard son of an immortal tyrant. Raised in a military city where everyone knows of his blood relation to the persecuted clans, Leviathan is considered casteless. Lowest of the low. Graduating as one of the deadliest soldiers, he executes in his father’s name, displaying his worth. When he faces judgement from his mother’s people—the clans—Leviathan must confront his demons and forge his own path, if he ever hopes to reclaim his soul. But in the struggle to protect the people they love and rebuild their identities, Roma’s and Leviathan’s destinies interlock as the tyrant hunts an ancient treasure that will doom humankind should it come into his possession—a living treasure to which Roma and Leviathan are the ultimate key. Set in a colonised Indo-Persian world and inspired by pre-Islamic Arabian mythology, The Descent of the Drowned is a tale about power, identity, and redemption, and what it takes to hold on to one’s humanity in the face of devastation.

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Mythology

Publication Date: March 15th, 2021

Publisher: White Tigress Press

Length: 360 pages

My Rating: 4.5/5

Thanks to the author, White Tigress Press and Netgalley for the digital ARC of this book!

Life is simple for Roma, she is meant to dance and serve as a slave for the goddess, and take patrons to ensure balance is maintained in the world. But is it really the goddess she serves? Roma wishes for freedom from both the gods and the men that rule her life, and wants to protect her younger brother from the same fate she had. Leviathan is a vengeful man, determined to find out what happened to his mother, even when it means defying his father, the all-powerful Firawn. He wants to protect the people of the clans, his blood, who are ruthlessly mistreated by the Wardens and the members of the higher zaat. Roma and Leviathan’s lives collide as they both fight to do what’s best for the people they care about.

The Descent of the Drowned was my first read of 2021, and it’s going to be a tough act to follow. Wow did I ever love this book! The writing is superb, Ana Lal Din has a poetic way of describing things that really paints a picture in your mind. The plot is very intriguing, and I enjoyed the way it developed and became more complex as the story went on. The world is rich and full of intricate details that really pull you into the story. Roma and Leviathan are very different characters, but the way their stories slowly become more entwined holds the readers attention and leaves you wanting more.

“It was easier to rule a people once you put the fear of gods in, once you convinced them poverty was a divine punishment, not the consequence of men’s greed.” 

There are a lot of strong themes in The Descent of the Drowned, and the plot tackles some pretty heavy content. Ana Lal Din manages to strike a perfect balance, exploring these themes in depth and shedding light on some unsavoury topics without losing focus or overpowering the plot. There is a lot of mention of the caste system throughout the story, which I thought was excellently depicted. The topics of prostitution as tied to religious worship, and the mistreatment of the Hijra (transgender or third-gender) community are mentioned as well. I have not read a fiction novel that previously addressed either of these topics, and the way Ana Lal Din brought them into the story was well executed. Darker themes of ethnic cleansing and human trafficking are also broached, and I thought they were handled very well. This is definitely a book that will stay with you after you are finished reading it. 

I would not call this a happy story. It is dark, and powerful, and hauntingly poetic. You will feel several different emotions as you read it, but I think the strongest emotion will be the desire for a sequel as quickly as possible. I highly recommend this debut novel for any and all fantasy lovers, it is a must read book that will be available March 15th, 2021. 

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