The Hundred Names of Darkness by Nilanjana Roy fantasy book reviewsThe Hundred Names of Darkness by Nilanjana Roy

In The Hundred Names of Darkness, Nilanjana Roy comes back to the cat colony she so convincingly established in The Wildings, back to the neighborhood of Nizamuddin in Delhi, and her irrepressible young Sender, Mara.

The challenges the cats are facing now are more nebulous — and more realistic — than they were in The Wildings. Instead of a tightly-knit and vividly characterized group of feral cats (led by the chilling Datura, and a more convincingly mad villain I’ve never met!), the threat now is human development. The Bigfeet are building roads, cutting down trees, and polluting Nizamuddin. This human incursion into the previously-ignored and animal-inhabited spaces affects everyone, from the smallest mice to the predators at the top, the cats and the cheels (hawk-like birds). Animals are becoming ill, getting run over, and starving.

The human influence on the animals isn’t entirely bad, though. When Southpaw is badly injured, Mara is able to introduce him to her Bigfeet, who take care of him, getting him veterinary attention and feeding him, ultimately saving his life.

But it becomes clear that the Nizamuddin cats will need to move. The problem is partially solved when Southpaw stumbles across a golf course a few miles away from their neighborhood. Ruled by a small group of snooty cats entrenched in their tradition, and a couple of golf-loving peacocks, the golf course has enough space for everyone. The only problem is, it’s a few miles away. How can an entire cat colony traverse that distance?

The other problem with the golf course is that it’s being invaded by bandicoots.

Here again in The Hundred Names of Darkness, Roy excels at describing a monomaniacal animal — the leader of the bandicoots, who dreams of turning the golf-course into a Bandicoots Only club, booting out all other animals, including the Bigfeet (although how he intends to manage that, I don’t know). His group of bandicoot cronies are creepy and hilarious, and his ultimate comeuppance is marvelous.

If possible, I loved the little details of The Hundred Names of Darkness even more than I loved The Wildings. Roy’s imagination is so playful; you’ll meet Supreme Court cats named Affit and Davit, a dog named Doginder, and a peacock named Thomas Mor. My favorite minor (ish) character was Hatch, the young cheel who is afraid of flight. He channeled a surly teenager perfectly, muttering “whatever” each time his father spoke to him.

Although I was sad not to spend more time in the zoo with Ozzy the tiger, Mara has new Sending adventures that were equally interesting. She meets with several other Senders in different places across Delhi (and beyond) and their experiences of Sending together were fascinating. And, as with The Wildings, Mara’s ability to Send features prominently in the last climactic moments of the book.

My very favorite part, though, was the story in the middle of The Hundred Names of Darkness — a sort of cat-myth, which tells the tale of the legendary cat who discovers the titular Hundred Names of Darkness. It was lovely, elegiac, the kind of story I’d want to read as a fairy-tale any day — preferably curled up with a purring cat.

Published July 12, 2016. In the sequel and conclusion to her critically acclaimed, internationally bestselling novel, The Wildings, Nilanjana Roy takes us back to the Delhi neighbourhood of Nizamuddin, and its unforgettable cats–Mara, Southpaw, Katar, Hulo and Beraal. As they recover slowly from their terrible battle with the feral cats, they find their beloved locality changing around them. Winter brings an army of predators–humans, vicious dogs, snakes, bandicoots–along with the cold and a scarcity of food…Unless Mara can help them find a safe haven, their small band will be wiped out forever. With the assistance of a motley group of friends including Doginder, a friendly stray; Hatch, a cheel who is afraid of the sky; Thomas Mor, an affable peacock; Jethro Tail, the mouse who roared; and the legendary Senders of Delhi, Mara and her band set out on an epic journey to find a place where they can live free from danger.


  • Kate Lechler

    KATE LECHLER, on our staff from May 2014 to January 2017, resides in Oxford, MS, where she divides her time between teaching early British literature at the University of Mississippi, writing fiction, and throwing the tennis ball for her insatiable terrier, Sam. She loves speculative fiction because of what it tells us about our past, present, and future. She particularly enjoys re-imagined fairy tales and myths, fabulism, magical realism, urban fantasy, and the New Weird. Just as in real life, she has no time for melodramatic protagonists with no sense of humor. The movie she quotes most often is Jurassic Park, and the TV show she obsessively re-watches (much to the chagrin of her husband) is Buffy the Vampire Slayer.