- Started: 25/05/18
- Finished: 01/06/18
Djinn City by Saad Hossain was a book with a solid beginning, fantastic middle, and lackluster end. I’m so disappointed that it didn’t live up to all that was set up to be.
There was a lot to love about this book. I loved the writing in this book. Hossain’s writing style was convoluted at times (I looked up plenty of words while reading it) but the choice of pretentious diction created a charming tone reminiscent of Claire North’s The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August. Every excessively fancy word used reflected the tediously complex nature of Djinn society which was a great choice.
I also loved the setting of Bangladesh. I lived in Dhaka for two years so the world this book was set in was very familiar. The descriptions of the beggars, street vendors, and rooftop gardens were all things I could easily call to mind and remember fondly. The fondness in which Hossain wrote about his city was quite lovely to read.
Indelbed and Kaikobad were the standout characters in this book. I found their POVs compelling, gripping and highly emotional at times. Unfortunately the third POV, Rais was bland and annoying in comparison to our other excellent protagonists.
Indelbed was such a sympathetic character from page one. While literally every thing goes wrong for Indelbed in this book his resilience and lack of wallowing in his misery really make him a likeable and compelling MC. My biggest gripe with this book is that while it builds Indlebed’s character successfully his arc goes nowhere in this book. The third act of this book takes his character to a very unusual place with no resolution at all.
Kaikobad’s chapters were also such a joy to read. I loved how the sprawling history of the Great War and Gangaridai is presented to us through his perspective. I loved every minute spent with him. His intelligence and deep love for his son made him one of my favorite characters in the book. His chapters were the most emotional and well written sections of the book. The reflection of the cost of war and the effect the Great War had on the once magnificent city of Gangaridai were quite moving.
I don’t know how to feel about the world building in this book. All aspects of Djinn society were interesting and well integrated into the book. The complex legal and political system the Djinn abide by, and, my favorite aspect of the world building, the obsession Djinn had with legal minutia and gaining status were so well done and interesting. While I don’t know if that is a common trait of Djinn but it was very fun to read in this book.
The integration of hard science into the Djinn magic and biology was something I wasn’t expecting in a fantasy novel. I did not enjoy lengthy paragraphs explaining (in excessive detail) how Djinn biology worked from an evolutionary standpoint, or for Djinn magic to be explained using physics concepts. While it didn’t detract too much from the story and was actually necessary for the plot, most of the time it just confused the hell out of me.
The biggest problem with this story was the plot. Like a mentioned before I was not very taken with Rais’ perspective for most of the book. This was because it’s section was the most plot heavy; and damn was it slow (read: boring). I found most of what happened during his chapters uninteresting especially in comparison to Kaikobad and Indelbed’s POVs. The problem here was I feel Hossain made the overall plot of the book too convoluted.
This story thematically boils down to the conflict between traditionalism & conservatism vs. liberalism & scientific thought set to the backdrop of Djinn society. When the story focuses on those ideas it does it well, but superfluous things (and characters) were added in making the book a slog by the end.
I’m not sure if this is the first book in a series because while Goodreads doesn’t list it as such it definitely isn’t written as a stand alone; the plot and character arcs are left entirely unresolved making it an unsatisfying read overall.
In conclusion if this is the first book in a series I’m definitely going to check the next one out but if it’s a stand alone I’m disappointed this book didn’t finish as strong as it could’ve.