The Many Lives of Ruby Iyer – Laxmi Hariharan

ARC from NetGalley.

Ruby Iyer has left her wealthy SoBo (Southern Bombay) family– including her emotionally abusive mother– behind, and lives with her new friend Pankaj, a gay fashion blogger, in the suburbs. Her life is normal until she’s shoved off a train platform and survives an electric shock. Soon after, she meets the handsome cop Vikram. But before long, Bombay is plunged into chaos by the attack of Dr. Braganza and her army of cold-blooded, violent teenagers. Panky is kidnapped and Ruby and Vikram thrust into a fight for survival. Romance blossoms between them, but both are keeping secrets…

I was not a fan of this novel. I picked it up because I was intrigued by the idea of an urban fantasy set in India (I’m half-Indian). Unfortunately, while it had a fairly original plot and a vivid, action-movie style, I got frustrated by both the long wait to get to the plot and the character of Ruby. After Ruby suffers an electric shock, she saves a girl from the same man who attacked her, and later is mysteriously summoned to help a man who is about to jump off a bridge. These episodes take a long time and delay the introduction of the main plot. The bit about the suicidal man on the bridge is never explained.

Ruby herself is somewhat irritating. She at least acknowledges that her temper is a problem rather than cute (and the fact that she cuts as a coping mechanism signals that she’s not the most stable person), but it’s annoying to watch her repeatedly lose her temper with Vikram when he’s just trying to help her. “I do like him, really! It’s just… I don’t want him to see it…Yet.” Not the most mature attitude. I don’t demand that characters be perfect–indeed I liked Ruby’s flawedness, her rage that is both a weakness and a source of strength. But her immaturity annoyed me.  And Ruby’s repeated thoughts that she’s “different” and doesn’t fit in seemed cliched. “That’s me; always having to swim upstream against the tide, being different.”

There’s a twist at the end that is emotionally foreshadowed but insufficiently explained. Also, a major plot point is that the villain is descended from Catherine de Braganza, but the historical Catherine (wife of Charles II of England) was unable to have children.

The book ends “To be continued.” I won’t be following Ruby’s next adventure.

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