Tag Archives: magic

Magical Women. Stories edited by Sukanya Venkatraghavan

Magical Women Title: Magical Women
Stories edited by Sukanya Venkatraghavan
Publisher: Hachette India
ISBN: 978-9388322027
Genre: Fantasy, Magic
Pages: 232
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 stars

An anthology isn’t easy to edit. There are varied voices – each with their own agenda, writing style, and each writer that adds wonderfully to the collection. Sukanya Venkatraghavan, author of Magical Women has done a wonderful job of the anthology of 14 Indian women writers writing fantasy and all things magical in the aptly titled, “Magical Women”.

All these stories may seem similar at some level, and probably they are – most of them reflect on Indian magical creatures and stick to making them relevant for our time and age. What is also wonderful is how the “feminist angle” is subtle, but strong. It doesn’t shout out from the rooftop, but it is there – in your face, making you aware of how you read some narratives or stories.

The collection starts off with “Gul” by Shreya Ila Anasuya – a story of love, a story of freedom, a story of longing and nostalgia that was rounded beautifully. A read that I still think of once in a while.

There are also the obvious stories of goddesses in the modern context and they work superbly as well. The one that stood out for me was Nikita Deshpande’s “The Girl who Haunted Death” – a story of Savitri and her love for her husband. But this one of course is with a twist that I would not want to reveal. The prose and the context of this story astounded me – almost made me think of various conclusions and interpretations, and that’s what a good story is supposed to do.

All these stories infuse new life to the form of storytelling – they don’t follow a linear plot and even if it seems that they do, it is usual very deceptive. Kiran Manral’s story, “Stone Cold” for instance is dystopian in nature and deeply rooted in ancient myths and culture. The merging of the two makes it unique, but not only that – the brevity of the story makes it even more interesting.

We live in times when patience runs thin. People need to consume content at a fast pace, and something that is also very relevant and thought-provoking, and above all entertaining. Sukanya Venkatraghavan has done a fantastic job of merging these elements when it comes to setting up this anthology. More than anything else, the writers have individually contributed to the whole idea beautifully.

Yes, like any other anthology, you don’t expect to love them all. I have my favourites and then there are the ones that aren’t favourites. However, every story will find its reader. The one who will love that story more than the others.

Whether it is “Gandaberunda” by S.V. Sujatha, a tale of a sinister tattoo, or “Apocalyptica” by Krishna Udayasankar which will take you by surprise, even though you think you have an idea of what it is going by the title, every story says something unique.

I loved the overtones of feminism and also its undertones, depending on the writer. Neither the writers of these stories, nor the stories themselves fit in a box. I think for the sake of convenience we shall catalog them in a genre. After all, “Magical Women” aren’t meant to be handled by all. Definitely not mere mortals. Read the book though. It is all worth it.

Bottled Goods by Sophie Van Llewyn

Bottled Goods by Sophie Van Llewyn Title: Bottled Goods
Author: Sophie Van Llewyn
Publisher: Fairlight Books
ISBN: 978-1912054305
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 190
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 stars

I have read almost more than half of the Women’s Prize longlist of this year, and hands down this is one of the top 3 favourites of mine. Bottled Goods is the kind of book that makes you contemplate and ruminate over life and its dynamics at the end of every chapter almost, which doesn’t happen very often when you read a book. Bottled Goods wrenches you and takes you to a place where you start wondering about good and bad, right and wrong, and the need to want to leave your home and yet stay.

The book is set in communist Romania and at the heart of it is Alina living with her husband, Liviu, quite satisfied, with her head down and going about her life. This is all well and good till her brother-in-law defects to the West and she and her husband come in the eye of secret service. There is torture from the agents – emotional, mental, and physical, eventually taking a toll on their marriage. In all of this enters Alina’s aunt Therese who can help her escape the country through the old folk ways.

Van Llewyn writes brilliantly and with great brevity. No word or sentence is out of place. Whether she is talking about Alina’s rocky relationship with her mother, husband, or country, everything is just perfect. I never thought I needed more to hit home. I have not read any book with Romania as a setting so far, and I am only intrigued to know more about it in the time of Ceausescu and what did normal folk go through, living day by day.

Bottled Goods as the title has so many meanings to it. The yearning to get out – as if you are bottled goods itself, the meaning of not being able to take bottled goods out of the country, or even aspirations when it comes to perfume or bottles of aerated drinks that aren’t accessible. The atmosphere of the book is spot-on. Llewyn manages to create tension and menace right throughout the book, infused with humour, regret, and rumination over what has been lost.

Bottled Goods is the kind of book that opens your world to what was going on in the world and does it delicately, at the same time not sparing any details. The characters are rounded, and communist Romania emerges very strongly as another character. For me, the magical elements were magical, and I did not consider them to be metaphors (though some readers could). Overall, I am hooting for it to win, only because it is something so different, empathetic, real, and more than anything else written with great finesse and style.

Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley

circus-mirandus-by-cassie-beasley Title: Circus Mirandus
Author: Cassie Beasley
Publisher: Scholastic
ISBN: 978-1910002575
Genre: Children’s Fiction
Pages: 306
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

The book “Circus Mirandus” has a very interesting premise. A boy who is all of ten or eleven I think – Micah Tuttle. He lives with his grandfather Ephraim. He has spent all his life till now – ten years that is, hearing tales of a magical circus. Grandpa Ephraim is now very ill. What he does is, he tells Micah that all tales about Circus Mirandus were actually true and the circus does exist. He also lets Micah know that the Light bender or the Man who bends light gave him a wish which he wishes to use now. Micah has a purpose and plans to make things happen one way or the other.

Thus begins the tale of Micah and his friend Jenny Mendoza and how they battle to get Micah’s grandfather his wish come true. At the same time there is Micah’s great Aunt Gertrudis who thinks magic is all bollocks and nothing good ever came out of it. She is one character you will not like very much. I know I didn’t.

Over all, the premise is a good one that makes you turn the pages. At some points you think the book is long and could have been cut short but maybe it is worth it as the story progresses. I am almost sold on reading only children’s fiction because it is at least feel good and doesn’t get me all wondering about the big issues of life and living. The parts of the circus are interestingly written, so much so that you just imagine you’re there or want to be there.

“Circus Mirandus” is one of those heartwarming books that make you want to believe in magic and everything nice. The book is simply magical and the illustrations are stunning. Please read this book to believe in things that you did as a child.

SuperMutant Magic Academy by Jillian Tamaki

Supermutant Magic Academy by Jillian Tamaki Title: SuperMutant Magic Academy
Author: Jillian Tamaki
Publisher: Drawn and Quarterly
ISBN: 978-1770461987
Genre: Comics, Graphic Novel
Pages: 224
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

I love graphic novels. The genre makes me smile all the time. Well, mostly all the time. There are times when I go all morose as well, but that’s only because of the plot and nothing more than that. So when I received a copy of Jillian Tamaki’s new graphic novel, “SuperMutant Magic Academy” by the publisher, I was overjoyed.

Supermutant Magic Academy - Image 1

What is the book about?

It is true to its title. It is about Mutants, who are in an academy, and of course who are magical. That being said, they are almost like any other teenager – bursting with puberty, adolescence making them think otherwise and going through the same old pangs of growing up and deciding whether to love or not and how does one then become popular.

Supermutant Magic Academy - Image 2

Why should you read this book?

There is humour in the book, loads of it and also sprinkled with a whole lot of irreverence and not to forget their paranormal abilities that are juxtaposed brilliantly against the everyday teen concerns. The world is but surely familiar and yet it is the abilities that come along in the book, that take you by surprise and sometimes shock.

Supermutant Magic Academy - Image 3

I cannot talk about individual characters because there are so many of them, but needless to say that you might just fall in love with each of them and their little quirks. It is a mash-up of Hogwarts and Gossip Girl (I know some of you might be cringing but that’s what it is and it is a delightful read at that).

Supermutant Magic Academy - Image 4

Tamaki’s illustrations are almost perfect and invite you to a world like none other. Her characterization is sharp and full of detailing, page after page and that is what also will appeal to the serious reader in some of you. Tamaki has a knack to understand the psyche of her characters and to bring each nuance to life through her illustrations and story-telling capacity. There are just right enough doses of angst, hopelessness and so much hope at times that you will wonder where that came from in the book.

Supermutant Magic Academy - Image 5

“SuperMutant Magic Academy” will take you through vignettes of every single character and their kinks – from Trixie, a dinosaur girl to Everlasting Boy who is immortal, to Wendy who has cat ears and also you will meet Marsha, the grumpy friend who carries a secret torch for Wendy and many more, equally weird and strange. The thing though is that you will fall in love with each and every one of them and hope that the book doesn’t end. I could not stop thinking about them long after I had finished the book and I am almost certain that I will go back to it. This is also the kind of book that can be enjoyed by anyone – from teenagers to the middle-aged readers. I wish there is a sequel in line for this one.

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SuperMutant Magic Academy

The Three Incestuous Sisters by Audrey Niffenegger

The Three Incestuous Sisters  by Audrey Niffenegger Title: The Three Incestuous Sisters
Author: Audrey Niffenegger
Publisher: Jonathan Cape
ISBN: 9780224076869
Genre: Graphic Novel
Pages: 176
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

This one is a strange book. And at the heart of it, not so strange after all. It is all about envy, longing, and gorgeously illustrated. Though the book can be read almost immediately and maybe within fifteen minutes, you still will pore and ponder over it. The book has a very Goth appeal to it (which I personally loved) and it somehow just adds to the atmosphere and no better time to read this book than Winter.

The Three Incestuous Sisters - 1

The book as the title suggests, is about three sisters, Bettine, Ophile and Clothilde, who live together in a lonely house by the sea, miles away from the city, when a stranger named Paris arrives and everything changes for the sisters.

The Three Incestuous Sisters - 2

Bettine, the youngest, falls in love with Paris. The oldest, Ophile also feels that she loves the young man and then the whole story falls into place, with the middle sister Clothilde playing her own role.

The Three Incestuous Sisters - 3

Niffenegger’s writing is simple and weird in most places, as you will experience when reading the book. The relationship between the three sisters is strange and then there is also the element of magic involved.

The Three Incestuous Sisters - 4

There is a lot which is left to the reader to deduce from the story. There are fewer sentences and everything is said through pictures, which is befitting for a book like this one.

The Three Incestuous Sisters - 5

And to top it all, the book is not creepy at all as the title suggests. The relationships are almost mystical in nature and pass time like sand through a sieve. It is a beautifully conceptualized book and I cannot give away much or else it will turn out to be a spoiler. All I can say is that you need to experience “The Three Incestuous Sisters” for yourself and trust me you will not forget it.

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