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Review: Nusantara (A Sea Of Tales) by Heidi Shamsuddin.

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Review: Nusantara (A Sea Of Tales) by Heidi Shamsuddin.

Nusantara: A Sea of Tales by Heidi Shamsuddin is a collection of folklore, fairy tales, myths and legends from the Nusantara region. 

This book consists of 61 short stories from various countries within the region.

If you’re not familiar with the concept of Nusantara, keep reading this blog post as I’ll explain more in the next section.

The author of this book decided to write a compilation of short stories from various countries in the region as she realised from her travels that stories have travelled from one place to another. 

She mentions that these stories spread orally and also in written format.

Disclaimer: This is a review copy from Times Reads in exchange for an honest review. Do check out their stockist list here.

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Book Information:

nusantara a sea of tales book review
Image from Goodreads

Title: Nusantara – A Sea Of Tales

Author: Heidi Shamsuddin

Genre: Asian Literature, Mythology

Pages: 223

Publisher: Penguin Random House SEA

Goodreads Rating: 4.0

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Kinokuniya

What And Where Is Nusantara?

nusantara a sea of tales book review
The distribution of the Austronesian languages, per Blust (1999). Image from Wikipedia

Nusantara is a Javanese word for “outer islands”. It is often referred to as Maritime Southeast Asia (because most of these places are located on the ancient sea routes of Southeast Asia).

The author uses the term Nusantara to group tales from countries that share the Austronesean language. Some of these countries are – Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Southern Thailand, the Philippines, East Timor, Madagascar, Taiwan and Guam.

What I Liked About The Book:

nusantara a sea of tales book review
Image by Brewing Writer

Cover Design

I’m not judging a book by it’s cover. I simply want to appreciate the fact that the cover design is very fitting and well thought-out.

This is because Nusantara is often referred to as Maritime SEA. I also like the play of words in the title – “sea of tales”.

Author’s Commentary 

After every tale, the author adds a note on not only her thoughts but also a few facts about the origins of the tale and in which journals they’ve been recorded in. 

She also explains different types of tales and why these tales might have come into existence in the first place. 

Some types of tales featured in this book:

  • Geomythical Tales (how islands, mountains and geographical areas were formed)
  • Cautionary Tales (tales created to warn people about the dangers of the unknown – forests with animals and poisonous plants)
  • Moral Tales (to teach people about good and bad deeds)

It is very interesting how humans may (or may not have) created these tales to convey certain messaging.

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Kinokuniya

What I Disliked About The book:

nusantara a sea of tales book review
Image by Brewing Writer

There is nothing much to dislike about this book. 

There are stories from different countries and the author’s note at the end of every story was very helpful for readers who are interested to know more about the origins of the stories.

However, there were too many stories! 61 little mythical stories was a lot to digest. 

Let me share with you the table of contents:

Images by Brewing Writer

These stories sometimes tell you the most unimaginable things because they’re mostly myths (nothing wrong with that, I love reading myths).

I felt like I could not read it fast enough in one sitting or a few days because I would not be able to enjoy them. 

Instead of 61 stories, I would have preferred less stories and for them to be more in depth. 

Final Thoughts

I really enjoyed reading this book. I got to learn more about the stories that have been passed on from one generation to another in my country and neighbouring countries.

Although 61 stories were a bit too much for me to read in one-sitting, I enjoyed reading this book at my own pace. 

My personal favourite stories were the geomythical ones (eg: The Origins of Akinabalu, Mat Chinchang and Mat Raya).

It’s so magical and the fact that you can actually visit those places and see them with your own eyes makes me excited.

While reading, I found myself googling about certain stories to learn more about their origins, diving into different versions of these tales and if they might actually be true (LOL)!

Overall rating: ⅘ 

Would I recommend this book?

Yes! If you love Asian literature and reading mythology (or if you love reading fantasy!) you should definitely check out this book.

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Kinokuniya

Review: Nusantara (A Sea Of Tales) by Heidi Shamsuddin.

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