TITLE: The Djinn Falls in Love & Other Stories
AUTHOR: edited by Mahvesh Murad and Jared Shurin
RELEASED: September 2017; Solaris
KEY INFO: anthology, diverse stories about djinn, cultural diversity
REPRESENTATION: women of color, people of color, m/m, Muslim
CONTENT NOTICES: possession of children, physically binding women, explicit sexual scenes, incest between siblings, death, torture
The Djinn Falls in Love & Other Stories is a collection of 22 short stories which showcase authors from all over the world and centers around djinn. In their introduction, editors Mahvesh Murad and Jared Shurin describe how they wanted to produce an anthology which unites stories of the djinn from many different cultures and representing the djinn in all of their rich diversity – from wish-granters and pranksters to siblings, taxi-drivers, and even lovers. This anthology draws together an incredible collection of stories which ensnare the reader in the fascinatingly sexy and addictive world of the djinn.
→ The Djinn Falls in Love by Hermes – ★★★☆☆ ←
The poem in which the anthology is based around has been translated from Arabic into English introduces the collection with its beautifully poetic language.
→ The Congregation by Kamila Shamsie – ★★★★☆ ←
An intriguing first story which introduces the sometimes ethereal nature of the Jinn through the eyes of its protagonist, Qasim, a young Muslim boy who finds himself coming into contact with the Jinn one night at Mosque. Shamsie’s story uses visceral imagery to explore mythology, Islam, and familial longing.
→ How We Remember You by Kuzhali Manickavel – ★★★☆☆ ←
An eerie and mysterious story about a group of young children whose friend undergoes a surprising transformation after disappearing suddenly for 4 hours one day while out playing. How We Remember You captures the essence of childhood cruelty, regret, memory, and fear of the Other.
→ Hurrem and the Djinn by Claire North – ★★★★☆ ←
A really enjoyable story which is told via a conversation between you and the narrator in a way which you can’t help but be drawn into. The narrator confides in you a magical tale of the beautiful Sultana Hurrem and the suspicious men who attempted to control and bind djinn to find out whether Hurrem was ensnaring the Sultan with her wicked talents.
→ Glass Lights by J.Y Yang – ★★★☆☆ ←
I adored J.Y Yang’s Tensorate series but found that Glass Lights didn’t stick with me for some reason. The story itself, about a young girl who discovers that she is a djinn from her dying grandfather, is well-written as J.Y is a very talented author but the plot wasn’t memorable.
→ Authenticity by Monica Byrne – ★★★★☆ ←
Not a story for everyone, but one that I definitely enjoyed. We follow a young film student on a quest for what she calls ‘authenticity’ that finds her in bed with a handsome young djinn, learns of his role in the local filming a pornographic movie, and invites herself along in her search for authenticity.
→ Majnun by Helene Wecker – ★★★★☆ ←
Majnun was one of my favourite stories in the anthology which really captivated my imagination. Zahid is called to a local house to exorcize a young boy who has become possessed by a djinn, but when he arrived Zahid discovers it is an ancient and powerful djinn, Lalla Aisha Qandisha, a woman is used to getting her own way. Throughout the story, we discover that Zahid is a reformed djinn who converted to Islam and now exorcizes troublesome djinn – but will he be able to truly escape Lalla Aisha Qandisha’s grasp?
→ Black Powder by Maria Dahvana Headley – ★★★☆☆ ←
One of the longer stories in the book, Black Powder takes the story of the djinn and plants it firmly in the American imagination in this intriguing story. In it, the Kid, the Hunter, the Priest and the narrator’s stories all converge in the narrator’s out of the way gun-shop in the remote mountains. It reminded me a lot of the tv series Supernatural in a way and there were elements that I enjoyed, although I felt that the story was too long and a little bit too ambiguous for me.
→ A Tale of Ash in Seven Birds by Amal El-Mohtar – ★★★☆☆ ←
I know there are a lot of readers of the anthology who fell in love with this beautifully lyrical short story and there is definitely a lot to appreciate for those who like poetry. I thought it was a lovely addition to this anthology but unfortunately isn’t my cup of tea!
→ The Sand in the Glass is Right by James Smythe – ★★★★☆ ←
A strange story which is told through two/multiple perspectives in different time periods about a young man who finds the magic lamp and falls into a very deep hole. The Sand in the Glass explores interesting issues such as life, death, regret, power, and morality.
→ Reap by Sami Shah – ★★★★★ ←
Reap absolutely blew me away with its originality and terrifying plot in this story about a group of US military soldiers carrying out drone-surveillance on a village in Afghanistan and who witness some creepy A.F events. I read this while outside in the beautiful sunshine on a hot day but it sent chills right down my spine and made me feel very uncomfortable sitting out in the open. I LOVED the way the story was told and how it turned power dynamics on its head. If you’re looking for a horror-filled story for Halloween, look no further than this.
→ Queen of Sheba by Catharine Faris King – ★★★★★ ←
A Latinx family in Los Angeles is getting ready to celebrate Christmas when 12-year-old Juanita starts to get strange visions/flashbacks when she touches cloth. Thankfully her Auntie Opal is on hand to explain what on earth is happening and about her special talents.
→ The Jinn Hunter’s Apprentice by E.J Swift – ★★★★★ ←
I loved this story a lot and appreciated that it offered a little bit of science fiction in amongst a largely fantasy orientated anthology. A Jinn Hunter’s Apprentice turns up at a spaceport to assist with a spaceship that has been grounded following a spate of creepy events happening onboard which have terrified the crew. This reminded me a lot of Illuminae & Gemina, and I really enjoyed it.
→ Message in a Bottle by K.J Parker – ★★★★☆ ←
A poor scholar is left with the task of doing something which could either save all of humanity or kill it. A previous scholar left behind a bottle marked ‘for the Plague’ but with no other instructions and everyone is terrified as to what the bottle holds. Does it contain a cure which will save them all or will it unleash an even deadlier plague which will wipe humanity out? How will the scholar unravel the mystery and what will he do with the knowledge he might gain?
→ Bring Your Own Spoon by Saad Z. Hossain – ★★★★★ ←
Another favourite of the anthology, Bring Your Own Spoon was a brilliant addition to this collection and explores a new side to the djinn in this dystopian story about rebellion, community, friendship, power struggles, poverty, and friendship.
→ Somewhere in America by Neil Gaiman – ★★★★★ ←
Yes, this is the djinn story that came to my mind the moment I came across The Djinn Falls in Love & Other stories and I was over the moon to see that it was reprinted from American Gods with permission from Neil Gaiman. It’s an incredibly sexy story about a Salim, an unsuccessful salesman who is sent to New York to sell tacky trinkets, and an Ifrit who has been stuck driving a taxi around for many years. This was one of the standout stories for me in American Gods, and a must-read (as well as must-see) excerpt.
→ Duende 2077 by Jamal Mahjoub – ★★★★☆ ←
Set in a future Britain which is ruled by the Islamic Caliphate, Dhaka is a detective surrounded by mystery and trouble who is hired to by Colonel Asgari to unravel a murder investigation, but nothing is ever as simple as it seems in a world full of political entanglements, wavering loyalties, and deadly secrets.
→ The Righteous Guide of Arabsat by Sophia Al-Maria – ★★★☆☆ ←
In this uncomfortable story, a young man suspects that there’s something not quite right about his new wife. She wears too much make-up, has a sexual appetite, and keeps a vibrator in a stuffed teddy bear on her bed. After suspecting that his new wife is possessed, he decides to take matters into his own husbandly hands which results in her death. Serious Content Warnings for this story.
→ The Spite House by Kirsty Logan – ★★★★☆ ←
A really, really interesting story about a djinn who resides in a ‘spite house’, a building which is constructed or modified to anger its neighbors, who finds herself caught in an abusive relationship with a woman who discovers that Esha just can’t help but grant wishes, whatever those wishes are…
→ Emperors of Jinn by Usman T. Malik – ★★★☆☆ ←
Another strange story about a group of children who find themselves caught up in supernatural circumstances. I didn’t like this one as much as I liked the earlier child story and there were also sexual themes which made me uncomfortable.
→ History by Nnedi Okorafor – ★★★★☆ ←
Another contribution to this anthology that I was over the moon to see as I love Nnedi Okorafor’s imagination and rich writing. It drew together the truly powerful magic of the djinn in this tale of the rise and fall of History, the most famous singer and dancer in all the world, but whose secrets are about to catch up with her in the most public way possible. I thought it was a very fantastical way to end the anthology, ensuring that it went out with a great big bang!
One of the things that I adored about The Djinn Falls in Love & Other Stories is how incredibly imaginative and diverse the stories are. Stories of the djinn, jinn, and genie’s come from all over the world and it was great to see an anthology which brought together so many different interpretations of the djinn as well as excellent global writing talent. This is definitely an outstanding anthology which I will be recommending over and over again in the future!