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Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Djinn-son Duology by Sami Shah (reviewed by Łukasz Przywóski)

Order Djinn-son duology over HERE (USA) & HERE (UK)

OFFICIAL AUTHOR INFORMATION: Pakistani Comedian and writer Sami Shah has been profiled in the New York Times and ABC's The Australian Story. His autobiography, "I, MIGRANT" has been nominated for the NSW Premier's Literary Award WA Premier's Literary Award, and the Russell Prize for Humour Writing.

Sami is currently based in Melbourne, Australia.

OVERVIEWMost people think djinns live in lamps and grant wishes while dressed in turbans. Nothing further from the truth. Djinns are terrifying, capricious and proud creatures. Made of fire, they’re stronger, faster and deadlier than any human. When you meet one, don’t ask him for a favor. Be polite and careful not to offend him. Who knows, maybe you’ll survive?

Shah’s Fire Boy and Earth Boy duology (in some regions published as a single volume called Boy of Fire and Earth) blew my mind. I loved this book. It’s a dark, funny, and compelling urban fantasy tale based in Pakistan’s biggest city - Karachi. A young boy, Wahid, comes to terms with his unique abilities and sets out on an adventure to recover the soul of the girl he loves from vengeful djinns.

Helped by the devil himself, Wahid will cross the line between worlds and explore Sufi mysticism. Sounds New-age-y? It shouldn’t. Shah’s raw talent, unexpected turns and twists, and an intelligent plot make this tale compelling and genuinely surprising.

As a westerner, I found the eastern setting and mythology fascinating and fresh. From Dajjal to the djinns or Pichal Pairee — the novel introduces various Islamic mythical creatures in all their splendor. The mythology and cosmology derived from Qur’an explore the notion of the multiverse and thin layers between mythical and physical. I absolutely loved the passages of the book that delved into metaphysics and theology. Plus, Iblis (The Devil himself) shines as a secondary character.

Wahid is a dorky, instantly likable protagonist. He loves comic books and fantasy and has no clue how to approach the girl he likes. Following him on the journey of self-discovery was fun. While Wahid’s arc builds upon Chosen One and Coming of Age tropes, it does so with great style.

I think some readers may have a problem with females’ representation in the book - the ones we meet are perfect victims, old hags, or flirtatious types. I didn’t mind, but I realize it’s an issue often found in the genre books and some readers react badly to it. Have it in mind before picking the book.

The tone of the book switches between funny and gritty. When the story gets violent, it pulls no punches. Some scenes and deaths shocked me. Djinns get terrifying and I’m thoroughly impressed with their portrayal.

The city becomes a character as well (literally). Shah loves Karachi. Deeply. I’ve never been to Pakistan, but somehow he made me feel what it would be like to walk through vibrant and dangerous streets of this city. Home to over a dozen ethnic communities, Karachi is diverse and volatile, sometimes frightening but also magnificent. The Fire Boy reads like a dark ode to Karachi displaying its darkest secrets. I need to go there one day.

It seems the author intended the duology to be a single volume. In the West, it’s published as two books, in India as one. My advice - don’t treat it as a duology. It doesn’t work as one at all. That’s why I review both books as one.

Shah’s Reap short story shines in Djinn Falls in Love anthology. The combination of Shah’s talent, creativity, and engaging storyline propelled Fire Boy and Earth Boy to my 2018 best reads.


Clipping Path said...

Amazing post with lots of informative and useful and amazing content. Well written and done!! Thanks for sharing keep posting.

Łukasz said...

Thanks a lot for your kind words.


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