Retellings of fairy-tales, folk stories and myths are huge at the moment (and have been for a while). Authors like Angela Carter, Philip Pullman and Joanne Harris have explored many of the stories which are hugely familiar to us all and made us think very differently about them. There doesn’t seem to be a fairy-tale character who doesn’t now star in their very own YA franchise and my favourite, Alice in Wonderland, crops up everywhere. The universal themes of stories which we have heard from our childhoods help to give us a sense of familiarity (which the best authors then undermine like mad). But of course not every culture tells the same stories so I was interested to read this collection of tales based on the tales of djinns (or jinns or genies) which we only know in the West from Disney films.
Contrary to everything I thought I knew (and which most people raised in cultures where these beings are as well-known as elves and gnomes are to us could have told me) most djinn don’t live in bottles. They don’t necessarily spend all their time granting wishes and they don’t all speak like Robin Williams – these djinn are much more interesting and diverse. These djinn are people. Interestingly the biggest named author in the book (the incomparable Neil Gaiman) wrote one of the stories I liked least – although, to be fair, it was a chapter from American Gods and maybe I could tell that, while complete in itself, it wasn’t a whole story. The rest of the stories cover a multitude of genres and time periods: I particularly enjoyed some of the more sci-fi/dystopian ones (Saad Hossain’s Bring Your Own Spoon, for example), but most of them had some elements of speculative fiction in there. The one which may stick with me longest, however, was chillingly real – REAP by Sami Shah – and featured a blend of magical beings and realistic drone warfare.
A really interesting collection and, like the best short story anthologies, it will lead you towards lots of brilliant new authors.