Mad Sisters of Esi

·        Publisher ‏ : ‎ HarperCollins India (29 September 2023)

·        Language ‏ : ‎ English

·        Paperback ‏ : ‎ 424 pages

·        Genre : Fantasy

·        Buy At : Amazon


Book Blurb:

Myung and Laleh are keepers of the whale of babel. They roam within its cosmic chambers, speak folktales of themselves, and pray to an enigmatic figure they know only as 'Great Wisa'. To Laleh, this is everything. For Myung, it is not enough.

When Myung flees the whale, she stumbles into a new universe where shapeshifting islands and ancient maps hold sway. There, she sets off on an adventure that is both tragic and transformative, for her and Laleh. For at the heart of her quest lies a mystery that has confounded scholars for centuries: the truth about the mad sisters of Esi.

Fables, dreams and myths come together in this masterful work of fantasy by acclaimed author Tashan Mehta, sweeping across three landscapes, and featuring a museum of collective memory and a festival of madness. At its core, it asks: In the devastating chaos of this world, where all is in flux and the truth ever-changing, what will you choose to hold on to?


My Review:

As fantasy is not really my go to genre for holiday reads, I tried reading this book without expectations and judgement, and oh what a beautiful read this was. Such immersive narrative and world building at its best. Fictional tales and legends here were so believable and indulging. What a ride! So glad I picked it up, thanks to Blogchatter. 

Laleh and Myung are sisters, sole keepers of the vast and majestic whale of babel - a kind of universe where chambers of different worlds keep getting created. They know Great Wisa is their creator. They listen to the whale song- the ever present and ever changing one, make notes of newly discovered chambers in heart shaped leaves and keep exploring and documenting the birth and discovery of chambers. They are the only people they know, but Myung wonders about what if there are others. She wants to go outside the Whale. Laleh also dreams of people, but dreams can't be real, and her entire life is inside the Whale of Babel, she fears losing Myung. 

Myung can't help but explore outside the whale for existence of others. She becomes a traveler, leaving Laleh behind in the whale, traveling with other travelers across the black sea, hopping from island to island, till she reaches Ojda. She meets Blajine the keeper of Ojda, and tries to trace back to Magali Kilta - the sister of the Great Wisa.

But winning her confidence isn't easy. Laleh accompanies Myung’s adventures in dream and they finally get to listen to the take of how Wisa and Magali came to be sisters on the island of Esi. Esi - the island famous for its festival of madness that takes place in secrecy once in several years. And we readers bask in yet another amazing tale of childhood friendship and teenage years love. 

The narrative is interspersed with research papers from scholars on the elements of this universe, and Museums of Collective Memory. 

And the book cover is the most gorgeous one ever. I was drawn to this novel solely by the cover and a zeal to explore a new genre.


About the Author:

Tashan Mehta is a novelist whose interest lies in form and the fantastical.

Her debut novel, THE LIAR'S WEAVE, was shortlisted for the Prabha Khaitan Woman's Voice Award. She was part of the 2015 and 2021 Sangam House International Writers' Residency (India) and was British Council Writer-in-Residence at Anglia Ruskin University (United Kingdom) in 2018.

In 2019, she participated in FIELDWORK 0.2, a multidisciplinary residency that explored alternative infrastructures for the future. She was commissioned by the Barbican (London) to create an artefact that captures the essence of the experience; ON UNKNOWN THINGS was printed for limited release in 2021.

Her short story ‘Rulebook for Creating a Universe’ has been published in MAGICAL WOMEN and PodCastle, and was shortlisted for the 2020 Toto Funds the Arts Award. Her work features in the GOLLANCZ BOOK OF SOUTH ASIAN SCIENCE FICTION: VOL II, and she is working on her next novel.


This review is powered by Blogchatter Book Review Program.


Queeristan by Parmesh Sahani

  Queeristan (Amazon Link) Thanks to Audible Free Trial I listened to this amazing non-fiction on LGBTQ inclusion in Indian workplaces. Author Parmesh Sahani identifies as gay Indian, working closely with Godrej higher management and employees for years to create an inclusive workplace, both legally and in spirit. This book is a result of those years of experience, research, collaboration with individuals from difference spectrum of the society and organizations who has successfully transitioned into a queer friendly one.   Indian history is inclusive. From the Khajuraho temple architectures, to Konark to the Rig Veda, there is existing proofs even 2000 years ago of Indian inclusiveness of queer. It’s the draconian British law that criminalised it, which was scraped in 2009, came into effect once again following a sad judgement in 2013 and eventually was scraped off for good in 2018. I am in awe of the lawyers who fought this legal battle- colleagues and partners – Arundhati Katju

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