Review: Fire Boy by Sami Shah, by Shelley Timms

Title: Fire Boy
Author: Sami Shah
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
Favourite Part: The interludes between the regular plot that describe the destruction and pain Djinns cause to civilians. Sounds dark, but it gave more insight into the mythology surrounding them!
Favourite quote: “The only thing more powerful than a horny djinn is a girl who does not want to get married.”

Fire Boy is a YA Urban Fantasy set in Karachi, Pakistan, and is based on mythological creatures from the Quran, which are called the Djinn. In Arabic and Muslim culture, a djinn is considered a sentient spirit that has the ability to possess humans and can wreak havoc on the townspeople. In Fire Boy they are described as ‘creatures made by Allah just like man, except they are made of fire and not earth like us’ and can be ‘good, evil or neutrally benevolent.’

I had first heard about this book way back in 2016 in an episode of the ABC’s Books and Arts podcast, and immediately added it to my to-read list on Goodreads. I was lucky enough to find it at my local library recently. Fire Boy is a shining example of how weaving different cultures into stories can create a rich, interesting plot that touches not only on the mythological aspect of religion, but also the real-world implications as well.

The urban fantasy aspect of the book was what I fell in love with the most, with the beautiful descriptions of a bustling Karachi, punctuated by the unfortunate reality of violence and war that stains the landscape. Shah peppers descriptions of gunfire and destruction between the storyline, and it adds to the thrilling atmosphere of the book.

We follow Wahid, a teen living with his family in the city, and as the story goes on we learn that he has a close connection to the djinn. He was left at his family’s doorstep as a baby and has powers that prove deadly to djinns. When he and his friends get into a car accident at the hands of evil djinns, it sets in motion a quest to find answers, and ultimately puts him and his friends in danger. He learns of the types of djinns that exist in our world, and the reader experiences the different aspects of djinns and Muslim culture alongside Wahid. I enjoyed the fact that reality was included so effortlessly into the storyline as Wahid and his friends experience typical teenage life while also delving into a fantasy world. Shah has masterfully built a fantasy world amongst the modern landscape of Karachi.

While the representation of women is slightly problematic in Fire Boy, I took it with a grain of salt considering it was derived from the mythology of the djinns, who are traditionally portrayed as flirtatious women that harm men for lusting after them and are mostly depicted as evil entities. I would liken it to the mythological siren or harpies. That being said, Fire Boy is a well-written, eye-opening book about Islamic culture written by an Australian author, and champions the diversity we so desperately need in fiction. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys young adult fantasy and diverse themes, and cannot wait to read the sequel, Earth Boy.

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