Book Review: Alif the Unseen by G Willow Wilson
I hate to give people such high expectations of something before they even read or watch something. But Alif the Unseen is the BEST thing after the Harry Potter series, and even better if you’re not a Harry Potter fan.
Intertwining cyberspace hacking, the Arab Spring, young romance, politics, Muslim mysticism and jinns is a book that sounds impossible to write but G Willow Wilson has done it and did it really well. Doing so has made the book a genre-bender because putting it in any one category is not giving the book justice. It was really difficult to put this page-turner down the minute I started on it. There are surprises & thrills at every turn.
The characters are lively, engaging & real. They defy stereotypes while their stories depict real situations in the Middle East. Except for Vikram the Vampire & his sister – they are jinns, so I wouldn’t know about jinn stereotyping. An interesting quote from the book reads,
“Superstition is thriving. Pedantry is thriving. Sectarianism is thriving. Belief is dying out. To most of your people the jinn are paranoid fantasies who run around causing epilepsy and mental illness. Find me someone to whom the hidden folk are simply real, as described in the Books. You’ll be searching a long time. Wonder and awe have gone out of your religions.”
So yes, maybe there is a jinn stereotype. And even then, G Willow Wilson creates jinn characters that defy those stereotypes.
It is an amazing novel debut that straddles between reality and the supernatural, and yet what’s most captivating is the fact that Muslims rarely write about the supernatural in such a way before, and especially not in the English language. It is also worthy to note that the passions & frustrations described in the book gives the readers a glimpse into the sentiments of those involved in the Arab Spring.
A truly enchanting book that leaves you wanting more, Alif the Unseen is a must-read![divider]
Ameera is the Editor of Muzlimbuzz.sg, a chronic reader and a news junkie.