Book Review: Magical Women Edited by Sukanya Venkatraghavan

Magical Women

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A weaver is initiated into the ancient art of bringing a universe into existence. A demon hunter encounters an unlikely opponent. Four goddesses engage in a cosmic brawl. A graphic designer duels with a dark secret involving a mysterious tattoo. A defiant chudail makes a shocking announcement at a kitty party. A puppet seeking adventure discovers who she really is. A young woman’s resolute choice leads her to haunt Death across millennia. . .
A compelling collection of stories that speak of love, rage, rebellion, choices and chances, Magical Women brings together some of the strongest female voices in contemporary Indian writing. Combining astounding imagination with superlative craft, these tales will intrigue and delight readers in equal measure.

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This was such an unexpected read and I’m so delighted. I had completely forgotten that I preordered this book and when it suddenly showed up on my kindle, I couldn’t resist and had to begin immediately. I’m a huge fan of anthologies, and this was a wonderful opportunity to discover the most compelling female voices in contemporary Indian publishing. This a great collection of tales featuring badass women, who are fed up of being told what they should and shouldn’t do, and decide to take destiny into their own hands. There is also an underlying theme about the devastation being caused towards our Mother Earth across many stories and I loved this nod to Indian mythology where we worship Bhoomata. There are obviously both hits and misses like any anthologies, but I definitely ended the book feeling quite magical.

Gul by Shreya Ila Anasuya 

This story had so many elements – the backdrop of the Sepoy mutiny, the mehfils of Lucknow, courtesan culture of the time and a beautiful tale of immortal love of two women.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Gandaberunda by S. V. Sujatha 

Wow this was creepy af. But written quite well. And I can’t say anything else without spoiling it.

⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Rulebook for Creating a Universe by Tashan Mehta 

This felt like a story about how women who stray from the so-called “rules” are always punished and used as cautionary tales. And that women should make their own rules and create their own destiny. This also seems like a very allegorical tale about the creation of a universe and I thought it was a good one.

⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

The Demon Hunter’s Dilemma by Samhita Arni 

This was a wonderful story – a demon hunter realizing that everything she has been taught is not necessarily true, that we shouldn’t be quick to judge a whole group of people just because of the actions of the few. Definitely a very timely truth.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Earth and Evolution Walk into a Bar.. by Sejal Mehta 

This story had so many layers to it, but the heart of it is how humans are destroying the earth and also how the superior intelligence of humans is only increasing their penchant for violence against each other, and what will happen when Mother Earth decides to retaliate. This was masterful storytelling and I would have loved for it to be longer.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Tridevi Turbulence by Trisha Das 

Written as a conversation between Goddesses, this story is a metaphor for how humans are abusing river Ganga and what would probably happen in the future if it isn’t stopped. Both witty and interesting.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Stone Cold by Kiran Manral 

Set in a futuristic world where every human touch is forbidden and cloning is the method to create the future of mankind, this story explores the theme of human desire. It was written very well.

⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

The Gatekeeper’s Intern by Ruchika Roy 

I’m not sure I really understood this story about life, death and afterlife but I think inherent message was that we should strive to create balance in the world, and not reinforce the negative things in life.

⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Grandma Garam’s Kitty Party by Shweta Taneja 

I think this was a story about wanting to be different from what our family believes in, but ultimately realizing the importance of trusting our family. But it takes places among a group of chudails and it was written in such a hilarious manner, it made me quite hysterical. Couldn’t stop laughing.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Carnival at the Edge of the Worlds by Shveta Thakrar 

This is kind of a little retelling of Nala and Damayanti’s story but I can’t say I understood it well.

⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Rakshasi’s Rose Garden by Sukanya Venkatraghavan 

Quite a creepy tale about a Rakshasi living in the modern world, what starts out like a gossipy story turns into something so much more painful. Wonderfully written and made me quite emotional.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Bahameen by Asma Kazi 

I can’t say I understood the deeper meaning behind the story but it kinda tells that even deeds done with good intent can have devastating consequences.

⭐️⭐️.5

The Girl who Haunted Death by Nikita Deshpande 

A very compelling retelling of Savitri’s story, I thoroughly enjoyed this one. A kind of cautionary tale about “be careful what you wish for”, I thought it was written brilliantly.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Apocalyptica by Krishna Udayashankar 

Another story about the devastation happening around in the world, not just due to climate change but also violence perpetrated by humans in general – this one is told through the eyes of the three Goddess who are fed up of their Trimurti husbands not doing enough and decide to take matters into their own hands. It’s brutal but definitely a wonderful read.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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14 thoughts on “Book Review: Magical Women Edited by Sukanya Venkatraghavan

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  1. I bought a copy of this book based on a recommendation from a friend and read it last week. Absolutely agree with your thoughts and also the rating you gave to the two stories that you couldn’t get, it was the same for me too – Nala and Damayanti and Bahameen, both stories were lost on me. Maybe they have a deeper meaning, like you wrote. I loved the Rakshashi’s garden and evolution and earth walk into a bar stories 😊 I’ll be posting a short review on this and Leila soon on my blog

    Liked by 1 person

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