In the Cursed Heart
A thrilling horror fantasy with intriguing roots in colonial history
Author Rima Orie based the tropical country of Awaran, which she describes so evocatively, on her parents’ South American homeland: Suriname, until 1954 a colony of the Netherlands. She found the building blocks of her fantasy world in the period around 1880, after the abolition of slavery, when Indian contract labourers were brought to the country.
The largest population groups in Suriname can be recognised in the people of Awaran: original inhabitants, Africans, Hindustani-Surinamese and Javanese. Although they largely live separately, in Orie’s book – unlike in reality – these groups are fighting together in a guerrilla war against the colonists, who are inspired by the Dutch.
The protagonist, Priya, ends up at the military jungle fortress of Kuwatta as a trainee soldier. She has been carrying a big secret with her: she was born during the blood moon, which means she possesses a special gift, one that most people consider a curse. For this reason, blood children are usually killed after birth, but Priya’s mother saved her life.
In Kuwatta, her curse suddenly counts as a blessing: she can manipulate the souls of humans, animals and monsters and order them to carry out physical actions. That’s right – monsters. Kuwatta is not only fighting against colonists, but also against a terrifying creature and against zombies with bleeding mouths, who attack every night.
There’s lots of hacking and slashing in the bloody, feverishly written fight scenes, but Orie gives that horror aspect an organic place in the cleverly constructed tale, which also has successful psychological storylines. The strong Priya develops from a pariah into a hero, while processing her difficult relationship with her family.
Orie writes in a cinematic, compelling style and has created a spinetingling book that refers back to colonial history in an intriguing way. Her fantasy debut with an eastern touch (De zwendelprins) caught the attention of readers and reviewers, and with this ‘horror fantasy’ she has confirmed her talent. The book was first published in the Netherlands in a beautiful limited edition, with tropical leaves printed on the edges, endpapers with full-colour illustrations, a dust jacket and a cloth cover with gold print.