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Book Review: The Djinn’s Apple by Djamila Morani (translated by Sawad Hussain) #TheWriteReads #BlogTour

My dear bookish friends,

Whenever you get the chance to read something out of your usual reading genre you should really go for it – I might not have picked this book up otherwise and really would have missed out on a true gem! Please read on to find out what today’s book in the spotlight on my blog, The Djinn’s Apple by Djamily Morani, is about, and for my detailed review!

A huge thank you, as always, to TheWriteReads, Neem Tree Press, and the author for my review copy and spot on this blogtour (none of which influenced my review or rating in any way).
About the Book

Historical fiction meets crime fiction in The Djinn’s Apple , an award-winning YA murder mystery set in the Abbasid period—the golden age of Baghdad. A ruthless murder. A magical herb. A mysterious manuscript. When Nardeen’s home is stormed by angry men frantically in search of something—or someone—she is the only one who manages to escape. And after the rest of her family is left behind and murdered, Nardeen sets out on an unyielding mission to bring her family’s killers to justice, regardless of the cost…

My Review

The Djinn’s Apple is a very special, a deep and captivating story. It is a YA romance, but that is not all: it is also a murder mystery, historical fiction and fantasy all intertwined. The book starts out with a terrible crime. Our young main character Nardeen witnesses her entire family being murdered, and her father being called a demon who deserved to die.

I have to admit that at first, it took me a little while to find my way in the story, but after a few chapters I found the writing style so compelling and couldn’t put the book down anymore. It is such a short read, I finished it in one sitting! At times I wished for a bit more – there was just so much I still wanted to learn about Nardeen’s world. But perhaps the brevity and immediacy was part of it’s appeal as well!

Nardeen has always had a remarkable ability: she read and memorised all her father’s books with ease. Her hunger for knowledge knows no bounds, and she wants to become a doctor and heal people just like father. Her mother was always worried about her for not eating much or going out more, but Nardeen is strong-willed and knows what she wants in life. I don’t think I have ever read a book set in Baghdad, and certainly not set in the time of the caliphat, but I know that a determined and headstrong young girl who pursues knowledge and wisdom in a way she does must have been very remarkable and seldomly found.

I have to say I was a bit lost sometimes when it came to the political connections and intrigues of the story, but they become much clearer later on. When Nardeen’s family is brutally murdered and herself first badly injured and then sold as a slave, her world turns upside down. How can she live without them? Without her proud mother, her siblings, the strong arms of her father? Nardeen swears vengeance and gets another chance to turn her life around. Her new mentor, similar to her father, is a knowledgeable teacher and great doctor. But he also remains a mystery, and one day, Nardeen will find out why…

Despite the short length and at times a little rushed feel of things, the writing was very thought-provoking and deep. I have come across many lines that really made me think and feel inspired – I’m sharing some of the most memorable ones below! I love quotes, and it has been a while since I read a book that made me get out my little sticky tabs, but this book had so many good quotes that I just had to!

What I loved was that there are many twists and turns I didn’t anticipate, and the moment when the book’s title starts to make sense! I love when book titles have a special, hidden meaning, and this one certainly changes the turn of the book! Also, I caught the mention of neem trees in the book! I’m not sure if that was a little nod to the publisher or just pure coincidence, but it made me smile! Little hidden signs like that (if it even was that) are so nice to come across!

Something else that needs to be mentioned – apart from the author and the translator’s amazing work – is the illustrator’s work as well. I love the cover, the map inside, as well as all the little illustrations throughout. It’s just a beautiful book! I really loved working with the cover to create this blogtour banner – the colours, the whole design is just so special! I also really liked that there was a glossary and a little section of background information on the historical context as well as a reader’s guide at the end of the book. I feel this would make the book an excellent choice as a school read! A little downside, however, is that I stumbled over quite a few missing commas – I wouldn’t mention it if it had been just one or two, but I couldn’t help but notice these many instances throughout.

How to wrap up this review? There is so much more that could be said about this book, and that means something when the book in question is just about 130 pages long! The Djinn’s Apple is a fascinating, compelling read but also a heartbreaking one. It is short but also deep, it is different to most of my reads but it made me want to branch out more again. I really liked Nardeen, I think she was such a powerful, inspiring character who deserved so much good in the world, even though she went through so much darkness and pain, and the fact that she let her heart be open after learning that trust is such a vulnerable thing was as remarkable as her entire character. 

4.5 stars for this captivating read, and I can’t wait to read more by this author-translator duo!

Do let me know what you thought of the book, or if you plan on picking it up soon! Thank you all so much for reading!


Memorable Quotes

“Lonely? Being alone isn’t as bad as people think it is. The true birth of a person isn’t when they come out from the womb into the world, but rather when they leave the world behind to look inwards, and that only happens when you’re alone.”

Some people have the knack of seeing your soul free from all the lies that are buried around it. When you look into their eyes, their souls march into you, and occupy every corner of you, crushing everything in its way and all you can do is submit. They have a strange power that leaves you in chains walking behind them with your head lowered.

I’d always thought that the moment you reveal your sorrows to others, is when you lose your right to be sad. Muallim Ishaq would say, “No matter how bad the pain, bury it, bury it deep. Pain was created to be buried. Let it go as deep as possible to melt, dissolve, and flow through your veins. Pain is what keeps us alive when you think about it.” My teacher taught me to boil inside like a volcano without my sky losing its peaceful clouds.

On this earth, it wasn’t enough to be smart. Being smart can get you into all kinds of trouble that being stupid won’t. You’ve got to be strong to protect your intelligence, you’ve got to discover secret escape routes for yourself to guarantee your safety in case someone wants you dead. Especially if they have the desire to do so and the ability to kill you as well.

“It doesn’t matter what you feel. What counts is that you show up when the door opens, and that people see before them a doctor. If you don’t believe in yourself, no one else ever will.”

It made me think, do we choose our own path or does the path choose us? Do we walk on it leaving behind fresh footprints or do we follow a trail that’s already laid out for us?

“What’s so great about loss, Muallim?”

“You no longer have what you used to worry about.” He made me realise that everything that awakens uncertainty in us and handcuffs our hopes, and puts limits on us, is fear. Fear over what we own, over ourselves, our family, our reputation, our health. Loss saves us the trouble of looking back. All that is behind us is destruction, and what’s to come won’t be worse than what we left behind. When you lose everything, you have nothing left to lose, and so you’re a winner.

Often, we’re not aware of just how deep the crack runs that leaves us in two, scattered, our soul torn between a lovets heart and a feverish, brilliant brain. We turn miserable, chased down by the curse of choice. Which one will you choose? Mind or heart, you’ll only ever be half satisfied, half-happy, half alive.

He was like me, grief lived in him. The body may only need time to heal, but the soul needs more than time. The soul needs another one like it to heal, and who knom, it could happen overnight, like me and my teacher’s souls!

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