Review of Shanti the Sadist Heaven by Alessandro Manzetti By Chantal Boudreau
I agreed to review this book because after reading Naraka, I considered myself a fan of Alessandro’s. His stylistic approach appeals to me, his use of vivid graphic imagery like extreme visual artwork laid out in written word. And I expected after the gory and at times brutal story in the first book I reviewed, I’d be prepared for what Shanti would have to offer.
I was wrong.
While Naraka messes with your mind, makes you squirm and sometimes makes your belly turn, Shanti is a solid gut-punch. It leaves you breathless with a sour taste in your mouth, and the need to look away, like witnessing a horrific accident. I found the story so disturbing I had difficulty returning to the book after putting it down and I’ve read some pretty extreme adult horror.
I don’t know if it was the obvious loss of innocence at the beginning of the story, clear victims of a dystopian society gone wrong (vs the prisoner/prison setting), or the fact that it seemed more like something that could be happening somewhere in the darkest corners of our current world (compared to the outer-worldly space setting of Naraka) but the horror proved harder to face. Or maybe it’s me – maybe I’ve softened in the interim – but I found Shanti a challenge to get through and I’m not sure what that says about me or this book. This just went places I didn’t want to go.
One of the notable points of the book, in addition to Alessandro’s both bewitching and bewildering style, is his strong characterization. I appreciated the way he used sisters, Juliette and Justine, as contrasts for one another, and Madame Desroches is convincingly cruel and devilishly mercenary. These are only a few of the myriad of colourful characters within.
Would I recommend this book? Well, that would highly depend on the reader. This is not a book for everyone, especially not those faint of heart. I asked myself how something could be so beautiful and so horrible at the same time. It is adult horror at is most graphic and grim, filled with the taboo and shocking to the point some would consider it “torture-porn”. If that doesn’t put you off, this might just be the book for you.