Edited by Jared Shurin and Mahvesh Murad, this gorgeous anthology features a diverse array of authors, including Nnedi Okorafor, Neil Gaiman, EJ Swift and James Smythe.
The collection comprises dreamy tales with a palpable middle-eastern flavour, reminiscent of One Thousand and One Nights. Many of the stories are set in the middle east. What holds them together is that they all feature the legendary djinn, a creature from Arabian mythology – commonly known as the genie from Aladdin’s lamp.
This is a read to savour. The stories, whether whimsical, humorous or thrilling, are equally satisfying, many with a delicious twist at the end.
My favourites were the ones rich with delicious detail that transported me to cities of winding bazaars and golden minarets.
In The Congregation by Kamila Shamsie, a boy named Qasim wakes up thinking that everyone has already left for mosque. He races through the village, past the colourful shrine of Sufi Saint Gulab Baba and the Tree of Blessings, and takes his place among the men. Only then does he realise that the carpet is decorated with dark doorways and that the whole congregation is made up of djinn.
In Saad Z. Hossain’s heart-breaking story, Bring your own Spoon, Hanu is visited by the djinn Imbidor, who after tasting Hanu’s delicious cooking one night, suggests they open a restaurant together. The story is set sometime in the future, in a Dhaka city slum, riddled with disease and poverty, where Hanu’s cooking brings hope to those who taste it.
Hurrem and the Djinn by Claire North is a lavishly woven tale set in the Ottoman empire, about a group of the sultan’s men who believe the sultan’s favourite consort Hurrem is commanding a djinn and using his supernatural powers to influence their ruler. It’s so beautifully written that the words practically sing from the pages. Out of all the stories, North’s clever ending stayed with me the longest.
I was delighted to see an excerpt from Neil Gaiman’s American Gods in this anthology. I loved the book and just finished watching the series. (It’s so good!) Fans will love this very saucy excerpt, entitled Somewhere in America, featuring one of my favourite characters – Salim, who encounters a djinn in a New York cab. It’s made me want to pick up American Gods all over again.
Short stories are just the thing when you need a snack-size bite of fiction before bed or something to read while commuting, and this is a fantastic collection guaranteed to take your mind somewhere exotic.
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