The Descent of the Drowned by Ana Lal Dina is a hard hitting fantasy novel set in a violent ancient-arabic-persian-indian inspired world. Its genre branded as YA hadn’t prepared me for the violence found in those pages which was more akin to Game of Thrones than any YA book I ever read. Do not glance over the trigger warning with a shrug, this is not a book to put in every hands and it will hollow a chunk out of you as you survive with Roma the horrors of her word.
The world building is this book is impressive, the culture, nature, beliefs everything is vibrantly leaping out of the page and locking you into its vicious world. You suffer in those pages, you need a breather when you flick them, you drown with Roma… but her strength keeps you rooted.
This reads like the prequel to a big epic, the birth of the legend, and I must say I want to know how it will spread. But the punitive nature of the read holds me back. You have to be in a good place to read this, confident… because this will hurt. I can’t believe some of the practices in there are taken from documented past practices. It is appalling to remember how vulnerable women have been through time and in so many civilisations and in so many places even now… I am baffled, I was shocked and sad and wondered what the book wanted to say at times. Since it is YA, what message did it want to give?
The story leeps right into its world – no helping hand here for the reader. There is a glossary at the end, but I didn’t use it, it pulls me out too much from the story. So at first I was a little overwhelmed with all the terminology, the language, the practices etc, but it carried the flow of the story, added to it’s palpable reality. I could not put the book down, kept hoping things would get better knowing that it couldn’t or the book would be very short. Not much happens for a long time, but that did not bother me. The build up was there, you could feel all the hooks pulling the ropes together, bringing you closer, the tension escalating to unbearable heights.
This is the type of book where you remember that human trafficking still exists and you want to take a stand against it. But still I think it might be much too real, with too much rape, torture and violence to be put in young hands. There is not much hope in those pages and for that I recommend it to new adults and up.