The Matsya Curse by Shweta Taneja

Giant spiders hanging out in a bar, delicately featured Bharundas, shrieking at high pitch and Maut Worshippers banging their head and tapping their feet in tandem with high music. Unknown and unheeded, among these charas smoking, piss drinking Sups, a preta tantrik from Banaras is roaming on the streets of Delhi, to unleash death and create a formidable army of undeads.

Nishadas from deep throes of Jungle are being converted into state of the art paintings. The vulgar rich of Delhi are lining up to force themselves on these teenagers, not in the name of kinky sex, but to seek a drop of the Wombs of Immortality.

A Goddess of bygone era has joined the ghastly project of preta tantrik and the ancient Ritual of Seed of the Moon has become a curse on poor Pashus and Manavas of Modern society.

Matsya-Curse-Shweta-Taneja Intrigued? Well, what I listed above is nothing but a tip of the iceberg of what I have just devoured. Here, I am talking about Shweta Taneja’s latest novel “The Matsya Curse”. It is the second book in the series of Anantya Tantrist Mystery, wherein the writer has successfully created a Supernatural Delhi within the well known localities and hangouts of our Delhi.

And, strangely, none of this seems, well strange. The book begins on such a note that you get ready to embrace anything and everything, the imaginative writer is willing to serve. Setting is perfect for a high adrenaline thriller, the narrative detailed and engrossing and effect on your mind, numbing and horrifying.

I am not much into thrillers and mysteries, and that too fantastical, supernatural ones, where another reality is created and you are slowly sucked in. But when Shweta Taneja approached me for a review of her latest release, wherein a female detective, Anantya was to proclaim World order, I just couldn’t say no.

And, as I finish the novel, reading it at a breakneck speed, staring intently on the pages, experiencing the excruciating pain, Anantya suffers, repelled by the gory rituals and mantras, she so often indulges in and numbed by her ingenious expletives and frequent consumption of Rakpiss, I am nothing but dumbfounded at the sheer import of this hellish, one of a kind, detective to enter Indian Literary scene.

Anantya is a female tantrik, a rarity in the Tantra World, where females are only used (abused) for Shakti by their male counterparts. She has a painful history and has acquired bold mannerism and harsh speech, in an attempt to stand tall in the puny world. Armed with septifocals, yugma locket, blade and a plethora of mantras, she takes it upon herself to rescue Nishadas and bring Neel, her ex boyfriend back into senses.

In her mission, she is ably supported by her friends Shukra and Madhu. As she faces and conquers one enemy after another, indulging in naked, painful duels with Sups, she becomes a larger than life figure. Or rather, a character straight out of Marvel comics. If you are a fan of X-Men, Hellboy or Wonder Woman, I do not think you would even blink an eye, while Anantya indulges in massive battles single handedly. Kudos to the author for creating such a home grown ingenuous character.

However, there was a moot point in the novel that I cannot agree upon. The use of Immortals from Indian mythology and reducing them to weaklings and naysayers, didn’t cut ice with me. Right from Ashwathama to Hanuman to Meera to Markandeya. They appeared only as a shadowed version of Indian Mythology.While she has successfully created a make believe world of Supernatural, the author could have easily created a new breed of Ancients as well, those who would have been based in the world of Anantya, where mantras and tantras, piss and rakta are frequently used as medicines and charms. I think, it would have added to the novelty of this series and I could admire her ingenuity even more.

Other than this niggle, I liked the way story progressed. I could draw parallels between undead of Matsya Curse and the ever popular zombies of Hollywood. Only here, they were outnumbered by even more exotic pretas, daityas and rakshas.

Shweta’s descriptive narrative style is spot on, and one can easily visualise the complicated fighting scenes. I also liked the idea of using Italic fonts for dream sequences and mantras, separating them from the main text. And last, but certainly not the least, the cover page is really cool and eye catching. George Mathen, who has done the cover illustration impressed me a lot.

All in all, Harper Collins has done remarkable work in presenting an impeccably edited book. A good read indeed.

Title : The Matsya Curse
Author : Shweta Taneja
Published by : Harper Collins
Edition : 2017 (Paperback)
Price : Rs. 399
No. of Pages : 248

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