HWJN Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

Home Top Ad

Post Top Ad

HWJN Review

Alexander Wallace enters the urban fantasy world of HWJN.
Before attending DISCON III, I had never heard of Ibraheem Abbas or Yasser Bahjatt. This changed when the latter was giving away copies of HWJN at a table in the dealer’s room. I figured it’d be a good idea to read more non-Western fantasy to broaden my horizons.

Long story short: it was quite fun. I read it in an evening (it helps that it’s a rather short book).

In the language of Western speculative literature’s categories, HWJN is an urban fantasy, set in the authors’ homeland of Saudi Arabia. It is very much an urban setting, starting with a human character and her family moving into a new apartment. The ‘fantasy’ portion is there immediately, for your narrator is a djinn, far older than any human alive today. This Djinn, named Hawjan (from whom the title of the book is derived, although its particular form comes from the peculiarities of Arabic as a language), rapidly becomes obsessed with the family’s daughter, in her early twenties and in university, whose friends have acquired a ouija board that Hawjan finds he can manipulate.

This spirals into a story of the gulf of understanding between beings of very different natures and backgrounds, as well as a whirlwind tour through the world of the djinn. Hawjan and this girl clearly are fascinated by one another (and I will say now, it never becomes anything that veers into the uncomfortable, thankfully) but also are separated by things beyond the comprehension of one or the other. You find out that Hawjan has a very particular background in the supernatural world, one that leads to some compelling sequences.

The translation of this book from the original Arabic is crisp and readable; there’s a reason why I could blitz through it in the span of a single evening. It matches the tone that a story like this should have, with enough levity to amuse you but enough gravity to ensure that the emotional beats land well. The only problem in this regard is one particular passage where the authors use ‘feminism’ when they really ought to have used ‘femininity’ in a scene that is hopefully reflecting the prejudices of the main character and not of the authors themselves.

Hawjan is the sort of protagonist that is well-regarded in urban fantasy: an outsider who’s just a bit of a wisecrack. He combines knowledge of the supernatural with a knack for understanding the all-too-natural foibles of human beings, enough to be amusing, but with enough misconceptions to be endearing. Despite their otherworldly status, Abbas and Bahjatt are clear that djinns are as fallible and as human as anyone else is.

HWJN is pure fun that happens to be set in a country far from any likely readers of this column. It is perfect for the urban fantasy fan looking for something new. I sincerely hope we have not seen the last of Hawjan, for his story is simply too entertaining to cast aside so casually.

Alexander Wallace is an alternate historian, reader, and writer who moderates the Alternate History Online group on Facebook and the Alternate Timelines Forum on Proboards. He writes regularly for the Sea Lion Press blog and for NeverWas magazine, and also appears regularly on the Alternate History Show with Ben Kearns. He is a member of several alternate history fora under the name 'SpanishSpy.'

No comments:

Post a Comment

Post Top Ad