Book Review: Boy of Fire and Earth by Sami Shah
Book Name: Boy of Fire and Earth
Author: Sami Shah
Publisher: Picador (Pan Macmillan)
Book Blurb: Born of a smokeless fire, and raised in Karachi, Wahid’s life comes apart when he loses the girl he loves to vengeful djinns. Setting out on a journey to recover her soul and find out the truth of his own origins, he is accompanied by Iblis, the Devil himself. Together, they traverse a city infested with corrupt cops and hustling beggars, and discover deathly creatures lurking under its sinister surface, even as the threat of Judgement Day looms large.
Sami Shah’s Boy of Fire and Earth is a dark, and often funny, novel of great imagination and power.
Book Review: Sami Shah’s book, Boy of Fire and Earth is unlike any book I have ever read. The tale is of a boy Wahid who lives in Karachi and comes across as a simple, average young lad at first. The initial few chapters are a bit harrowing and nothing much happens but if you manage to linger on, then the book transforms rapidly and doesn’t disappoint you in the end. Sami has used colloquial terms and a liberal usage of profanity ensures the novel is highly relatable as this is how the youth converses. He has a tendency to dwell off topic but that is understandable since he is still developing as a writer.
The tale is about Wahid who is adopted by a family in Karachi and at first his life seems pretty ordinary. He is friends with Hamza, partner in crime and confidante. The story takes a dramatic turn when Wahid meets his crush Maheen at a party and while returning back is attacked by Djinns.
This encounter leads him into a murky supernatural world where he also learns about his own heritage. Will Wahid prevail?
Sami’s creation of this new parallel world of fantasy infested with Djinns makes for a remarkable read. This genre is a bit unexplored in the subcontinent unlike the west and it is quite surprising why authors haven’t taken advantage of this void. The entry of Sami Shah who manages to regale us with this horrific and hair raising tale of Wahid’s misadventure is therefore a welcome development.
Sami moves between narratives and this makes the attacks more vicious in nature and all the more compelling. The hallmark of this story is Sami’s ability to move between these two parallel worlds that he builds, for instance immediately after the attack on Wahid, we have him meeting a professor who has recently penned an article on Djinns. Wahid expects some help in locating Djinns but the professor explains: “So, now, with my department getting no money and the number of students enrolling falling every year, I stole a trick from my old friends. I said I was going to use djinns for energy. Complete nonsense, I know it. And you must have laughed when you read it. Many did. But did you know who didn’t laugh? The majority of the country. All these mindless idiots who will believe anything…”
I think you measure a writer’s greatness in terms of his ability to show and not tell; and this is where Sami excels for you cannot put down this book once you start reading it.