A boy in Bangladesh with an unusual heritage finds himself enmeshed in a secret society of supernatural creatures.
Hossain’s debut (Escape from Baghdad!, 2015) was a delicious mashup of pulpy adventure novel and sarcastic war satire, so why not follow it up with a supernatural adventure steeped in Eastern lore? It begins with a boy discovering his true calling. Ten-year-old Indelbed is a smart youngster living under the shadow of his eccentric father, Dr. Kaikobad. Dad keeps his son in the dark about most things, including school and the fate of his mother, whose death certificate says only “Death by Indelbed.” But when Dr. Kaikobad falls into an “occultocephalus coma”—the beginning of much jargon-laced worldbuilding—Indelbed’s family is forced to confess that his mother was a djinn, a supernatural creature in Islamic culture anglicized to “genie.” His older cousin Rais is not impressed: “And you guys all believe in magic? Like Harry Potter-type magic?” he says to another cousin, the Ambassador, who tells them the news. It turns out Indelbed is a half-breed, now the subject of a hunt by a violent splinter group of djinn. After his father’s lawyer, Siyer Dargo Dargoman, sells Indelbed to psychopathic djinn Matteras, he winds up in a “murder pit” with exiled Ifrit Givaras, who has the unenviable task of teaching Indelbed the ways of the djinn and keeping him safe from the carnivorous rock worms that roam the pit. “You came here a frightened little boy,” says Givaras. “I have indeed made you a monster. You said you wanted to survive. This is the price. There are no knights in shining armor in this world, boy. When fighting monsters, what else can you do but become one?” What follows is an epic fantasy adventure with spellcasting duels, steampunk-ish vehicles alongside flying carpets, and a battle of wills between virtual gods and a hero with the heart of a dragon.
A delightful fantasy adventure with a YA spirit, a PG rating, and a rich introduction to Arabian mythology.