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Magical Women — Sukanya Venkatraghavan

Magical Women

Sukanya Venkatraghavan’s 2019 Magical Women is a speculative fiction anthology that showcases a few of India’s best women writers.

“Gul” by Shreya Ila Anasuya

An aged woman once a courtesan, now a professional singer and married woman, tells how she met the love of her lifeduring the bloody aftermath of the Indian Rebellion of 1857. Decades later, the story had an unexpected sequel.

“Gandaberunda” by S.V. Sujatha

Men saw Amaya as easily seduced or at least easily forced. Her twin Anani saw men as deserving prey. Anani was never far from Amaya.

“Rulebook For Creating A Universe” by Tashan Mehta

The people of the island are charged with creating new universes, a process guided by a detailed and inflexible rulebook. An idealist young woman sets out to correct a systemic error in their method. Too bad for her that this society abhors innovation and innovators. Particularly if they are women stepping out of their ordained roles.

“The Demon Hunter’s Dilemma” by Samhita Arni

Sent out by her beloved guru to stalk and capture the monsters who fill the Hasdeo Arand forest, Antara begins to doubt. How does she know what her teacher has told her is true?

“Earth And Evolution Walk Into A Bar…” by Sejal Mehta

A cruel and self-centred mankind tests the limits of the Earth’s tolerance and finds them.


It’s not a coincidence that I use the word “mankind” and not “humanity” in the previous lines.

“Tridevi Turbulence” by Trisha Das

Faced with the fact that embracing their traditional roles means being exploited by men, goddesses conclude that the only winning move is not to play the game at all.

“Stone Cold” by Kiran Manral

The Brotherhood had a crystal clear vision of humanity’s future. Their inflexible, authoritarian vision failed to account for the desires of mortal flesh — and the wishes of forgotten gods.

“The Gatekeeper’s Intern” by Ruchika Roy

What seemed to be a near-death experience was in fact an actual death experience followed by a resurrection. The survivor may attain godlike status … if they are willing to accept godlike responsibility.

“Grandma Garam’s Kitty Party” by Shweta Taneja

Tired of life as a Chudail, Jaanu yearns to become a normal human woman. Conformity comes at a price that Jaanu may not be willing to pay.

“The Carnival At The Edge Of The Worlds” by Shveta Thakrar

Prajakta embraces the adage “know thyself.” She succeeds, at a cost.

“The Rakshasi’s Rose Garden” by Sukanya Venkatraghavan

The rakshasi who lives in Apartment 606 A tends a garden. From time to time she presents her gossiping neighbours with extra-special gifts.

“Bahameen” by Asma Kazi

A time traveler is trapped in a particularly unpleasant version of Earth, one with features that make escape both impossible and inconceivable.

“The Girl Who Haunted Death” by Nikita Deshpande

Legend says Savitri stalked Death until Savitri’s beloved husband was resurrected. Legend leaves out important details….

“Apocalyptica” by Krishna Udayasankar

Mankind is irredeemable. Nor is it immune to a vengeance undertaken by motivated goddesses.

General comments

Most of the stories feature gods and goddesses, even the stories set in the future.

The editor’s introduction makes the collection sound optimistic. It is not. Many of the stories explore sexism, injustice, resistance, and revenge. A few stories make the case for burning down the world.

The authors are angered by the state of their world. This does not prevent their stories from being finely told and skillfully shaped. Anger has honed craft, which makes the stories eminently readable even when they break one’s heart.

If you found Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy too optimistic, consider this anthology.

Magical Women is available here (Amazon), here (, and here (Chapters-Indigo).


  • Robert Carnegie

    It may be explained and/or not relevant that, if Wikipedia reports correctly, a chudail (or any of a dozen alternative spellings) is occasionally a tree spirit but always the ghost of a human woman (or a newborn girl) who died in any of several circumstances that make their vocation of pursuing bloody revenge on all living men hard to argue against. In organised religion they follow Kali, but they also appear as independent operators. By the sound of it, they should outnumber us.

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  • Mike D

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