The Djinn Falls in Love and Other Stories (1) Paperback – March 14, 2017
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"Gorgeous" - Tor.com
"Vivid, enthralling and endlessly varied. A wonderful collection." - M.R. Carey
"A treasure chest of literally wonderful and marvelous stories, with a kind of richness that fantasy only rarely achieves." - Tim Powers
From the Author
(From the introduction by Mahvesh Murad and Jared Shurin)
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**The Congregation** by Kamila Shamsie - 4/5. This is the first story in the anthology (after the poem) and I think it was a strong opener. About a boy and his twin who is a jinn and their lifelong desire to be united. There's a particularly touching quote near the end of the story, from an exorcist, "All he's ever wanted is to be possessed. There is no evil here, only love. God save us from a world that can't tell the difference."
**Hurrem and the Djinn** by Claire North - 4/5. The voice of this story does remind me somewhat of the opening of the Disney version of this to be honest, but I liked it. A twist on the classic One Thousand and One Nights mixed with some fantastic original magic scenes, I really liked this. I liked the prior Claire North title I read as well, so I will be trying to fit more of her work into my reading.
**Reap** by Sami Shah - 4/5. This was one I couldn't stop reading. I'd actually lean toward classing it as supernatural horror, a genre I don't generally enjoy, but all the same this was a great story. I would have read a longer, more developed version of it for sure. The one thing that detracted from it for me is while there's something supernatural going on, without a doubt, it's one of those stories where there aren't really djinn involved, necessarily. There might be, but it's never explored.
**Message in a Bottle** by K.J. Parker - 3.5/5. I liked this one for the clear writing style and the magic of the world created. I thought the necromancy felt a bit like Max Gladstone's Craft books, in the best of ways. I'm not sure I loved the ending, but I enjoyed getting there. K.J. Parker is an author I've been trying to get to, so it was nice reading this short story.
**Bring Your Own Spoon** by Saad Z. Hossain - 4.5/5. Loved this sort of dystopian sci-fi tale. Touching on how food can create community set against a society where currency has shifted, but the poor are still poor and access to basics like clean food and water are not guaranteed. I really enjoyed the cooking/urban foraging type thing going on in this story. I would absolutely read a followup about Imbi and Hanu discovering what's beyond the city.
**The Spite House** by Kirsty Logan - 3.5/5. This was probably the closest to a "traditional" genie story that I found in the anthology. The author did a great job of subverting the wish-fulfillment (but be careful what you wish for and how you wish for it) trope.
A number of the stories within are quite good. But some stories try so hard to be so clever and different that they wind up straying from the theme of the book: djinn. While I certainly didn't expect the stories to all be lamps and wishes, I felt like some of the stories got so far away from the mythological underpinnings that they were hardly about djinn any more. Still, there are a number of real gems in the book, and I am glad that I read it. I did not feel like I had been cheated in my purchase--it's an anthology, after all, and different stories appeal to different tastes.
My favorite story of the bunch was Helene Wecker’s Majnun, partially because I just loved the story itself, but I think the fact that her novel The Golem and the Jinni is one of my favorite books of all time influences this somewhat, and therefore when I saw the name Helene Wecker correspond to a story about djinn in an anthology about djinn, well… I squeed. I squeed myself. It was a great story, that even within the 10 or so minutes it took to read, made me really like its characters.
I had other favorite stories in here as well. The story Reap by Sami Shah was really interesting in that it told the story from the point of view of American soldiers using drone technology to watch a small village in Pakistan, so you see this whole story and its (in this case, quite terrifying) djinn in a different way. The people being watched seem to know what is happening, what is terrorizing them, but the people watching have no idea what’s happening, and when strange things begin to happen to them too, it takes it to a legitimately scary level. It’s really quite interesting to think of what an outsider would think in that situation.
The story Black Powder by Maria Dahvana Headley was also really interesting to me because the djinn takes the form of a gun, and the whole story has a bit of a western… or perhaps almost a post-apocalyptic western feel to it. It had not one by two of my favorite quotes from this whole anthology in it: ‘A hunter is always looking for wishes to come true, and if it takes blood and rending to get them, then it does.’ and ‘Wishing for love is like wishing for more wishes.’ Just fantastic!
Kuzhali Manickavel’s How We Remember You was nice and short, and also beautifully written. The story just pulled me in. It was a lament, or an apology, or a bit of both. It was nostalgic, and sad. Very well done. Also, and this is a bit of an aside, this is a piece of work that I can show people that shows how a story can be beautifully written, while at the same time, have the f-bomb in it (because yes, I have had this argument).
A Tale of Ash in Seven Birds by Amal El-Mohtar was another beautifully and cleverly told story which is, as the title suggests, told in birds. The djinn in this tale changes shapes as the story progresses, from one type of bird to the next to the next until they are, what can only be described as the ultimate bird. Because, when you’re just trying to survive in a crazy world of birds, one needs to become the bird to end all birds.
There is included in this lovely anthology one of my favorite parts of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, which is named here Somewhere in America, which follows the (rather unexpected at times) exploits of Salim, a traveling salesman from Oman, and his encounter with a jinn in New York City.
In the end, this covers just some of the stories in this anthology, and as I said, I enjoyed all of them. I really enjoyed most of them. As far as anthologies go, it's a win!
Top international reviews
Lots of varying view points I only wish each story was longer.
My first encounter with such an entity was in ‘Aladdin’. NO, I’m not talking about the Disney variety. The books told me that it was a supernatural, extremely powerful entity, capable of granting wishes, but also with a whimsical side that can grow into something nasty.
Then came the ‘American Gods’, that epic of our times which keeps on shaping our thoughts knowingly or unknowingly.
What did I gleam from that tract?
Jinn are supernatural entities, supposedly created by God, out of fire. And, they have weaknesses, pain, sorrow, regrets.
Two decades passed. I came to know that the jinn are there in other myths and tales as well. I even got to read some of the other tales.
But an entire book of stories about the jinni? I was not very enthusiastic, and kept apprehending that the stories would be similar in nature.
How wrong I was!
Now, let me go about this exquisite collection one thing at a time.
(*) The ‘Introduction’ by editors Mahvesh Murad and Jared Shurin is the perfect place to start the book. It gives a very basic idea about the stories, without spoiling anything. Most importantly, it recollects the multi-cultural canvas upon which the jinni had made their mark.
(*) ‘The Djinn Falls in Love’: A poem by Hermes, which gives this anthology its title, and begins the book in a haunting, soulful manner.
1. “The Congregation” by Kamila Shamsie: A brilliant, poignant story, that has its wit, humour, compassion, and love in all the right places. 5/5
2. “How We Remember You” by Kuzhali Manickavel: A cruel story that paints human children, and humanity in an unforgiving paint. Didn’t like it that much. 3/5
3. “Hurrem and the Djinn” by Claire North: I had a real blast while reading this story. With its sharp wit, astute observations, and remorseless yet humorous depiction of sex as a power-play, the story is one of the finest pieces that I have read in recent times. 5/5
4. “Glass Lights” by J.Y. Yang: Good stories succeed in bringing out the tales hidden within us, in the guise of the characters. This one did it. It brought out the pain, the loneliness, and the wistful dreams that cry within every one of us. 4/5
5. “Authenticity” by Monica Byrne: An inverted story brimming with erotic & sensuous appeal. 3/5
6. “Majnun” by Helene Wecker: Another wonderful story where we learn more about our love, failings, loss, and hope of redemption while secretly dreaming about the fall. 5/5
7. “Black Powder” by Maria Dahvana Headley: Total crap! After a series of witty or haunting stories, we finally get the rubbish overhyped story that is the bane of every anthology. 0/5
8. “A Tale of Ash in Seven Birds” by Amal El-Mohtar: Another crap, albeit more poetic, and shorter. 1/5
9. “The Sand in the Glass is Right” by James Smythe: With its non-linear narrative and cyclical plot, the story lost, found, again lost, and finally found me. It could have been much-much better. 3/5
10. “Reap” by Sami Shah: We have a real, no-prisoners-taken thriller here! Stunning stuff. 5/5
11. “Queen of Sheba” by Catherine Faris King: Began nicely, morphed into something mushy, ended terribly. 2/5
12. “The Jinn Hunter’s Apprentice” by E.J. Swift: Awesome stuff! The world-building that has been achieved in a single story would make novelists eat their rugs. And the twist-ending! Loved it totally. 5/5
13. “Message in a bottle” by K.J. Parker: This story had no jinn whatsoever. This story is a real black diamond gleaming with its wit, humour, sympathy, and darkness. Must read. Repeat read. 5/5
14. “Bring Your Own Spoon” by Saad Z. Hossain: Loved it. Would cherish it for a long-long time. Who knows? I might even dream about a sequel, where the dark & poisoned present gives birth to a bold future. 5/5
15. “Somewhere in America” by Neil Gaiman: This excerpt from ‘American Gods’ needs no description. If you have read it, you know. If you haven’t, rectify the situation as soon as possible. 5/5
16. “Duende 2077” by Jamal Mahjoub: An astonishing story which can be read as the first chapter of a dystopian thriller, or a fantasy that is mind-boggling in its scope & prospects. My only query: has the author embarked on the noble quest of converting this embryo of a story into the raging knight whom we seek? If not, then somebody PLEASE persuade him. 5/5
17. “The Righteous Guide of Arabsat” by Sophia Al-Mania: Under a mildly amusing tone, this is a grim story of male fear of feminine sexuality, and the extent to which it can go to restore ‘normalcy’. 3/5
18. “The Spite House” by Kirsty Logan: A grim story which followed the well-trodden path of monstrous humanity and suffering supernatural entities. Didn’t like it. Felt like a waste. 2/5
19. “Emperors of Jinn” by Usman T. Malik: Another grim story where the jinn is absent, and human sadism & violence reigns supreme. You know, it’s fine to spread the wing across South Asia, but if the only colour you can find there is black… 1/5
20. “History” by Nnedi Okorafor: Interweaving braids of African myth, beliefs, music, and pop culture made this story intriguing & readable. But that’s where it stopped. 3/5
Therefore, a total score of 70 out of 100, making a rounding off to 4 stars out of 5. BUT, that score is misleading, as I found an unbelievable 9 out of 20 stories that received five stars from me! That, as any reader would deduce, would make this book near magical, and a must-read!
Go for it. Now!