Imagine a world filled with fierce, fiery beings, hiding in our shadows, in our dreams, under our skins. Eavesdropping and exploring; savaging our bodies, saving our souls. They are monsters, saviours, victims, childhood friends.
Some have called them genies: these are the Djinn. And they are everywhere. On street corners, behind the wheel of a taxi, in the chorus, between the pages of books. Every language has a word for them. Every culture knows their traditions. Every religion, every history has them hiding in their dark places. There is no part of the world that does not know them.
They are the Djinn. They are among us.
This was such an interesting collection of stories. I hadn’t heard of many of the authors before and that always makes an anthology more interesting to me – who doesn’t want new people to add to an unstable TBR pile?
Growing up with Aladdin, I really enjoyed that very few of the stories were in a similar vein – the variety of depictions of djinn nature and setting were fantastic. This variety made it a far more compelling collection of stories than if they had been the same old Middle Eastern trope, especially when several of the stories ventured into the future.
Standouts for me were:
The Congregation by Kamila Shamsie – This was such a beautiful beginning to the anthology, full of love and loss and longing, and had such a sweet and lovely ending. Would that we all find the contentment that Qasim eventually does.
Majnun by Helene Wecker – I really enjoyed the exploration of belief in this one. It was very well handled, and made for a compelling story. I also really enjoyed how the details were slowly teased out without needing to rush everything at the end – no small feat considering the average length of a short story.
A Tale of Ash in Seven Birds by Amal El-Mohtar – This is perhaps the shortest story in the book, and possibly the most heartbreaking. I could say more about this one, maybe even write a whole review just on it, but I don’t want to take anything away from it at all. Just go read it.
Reap by Sami Shah – This one was the creepiest in the book, and I loved it. The remoteness of the POV characters from where the actual story is taking place gives an otherworldly feel to the main narrative, while keeping you engrossed as you learn with those characters. I would absolutely love to see this turned into a considerably longer story – who can I harass for that??
Bring Your Own Spoon by Saad Z. Hossain – This one jumps into a post-apocalyptic setting, where the planet is pretty well ruined. Unlike the horror aspect of Reap, this one was terrifying in its realism, but despite that, our main characters find something good to pursue, and I think that’s something we could all do with these days.
History by Nnedi Okorafor – I really enjoyed this one, and it was a very strong end to the anthology. A bit like A Tale of Ash in Seven Birds, this one is hard to talk about without giving away the things that make it so wonderful. I will say though, the final line is pure brilliance, and I did chuckle when I read it.
As for the rest of the stories, I enjoyed them all to varying degrees and would definitely recommend them. There were a few, like The Sand in the Glass is Right by James Smythe or Message in a Bottle by K.J. Parker, that I loved the concept of but the formatting made it a less enjoyable read. Ultimately, it is a very strong anthology though, and I would definitely recommend anyone with a passing interest in all forms of djinn pick themselves up a copy.
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