Book Review: Djinn City by Saad Z. Hossain

When Kaikobad, emissary to the djinn, gets put into a supernatural coma and his son, Indelbed, disappears (put into a murder pit with a djinn who may not be entirely sane), Rais becomes an emissary in order to find out what happened to his cousin Indelbed. But as Rais and his mother delve deeper into djinn politics, they discover a plot that could have serious consequences to humankind, and it's up to Rais to stop it.

Book Review: Djinn City by Saad Z. Hossain | reading, books, book reviews, paranormal/urban fantasy, djinns
Title: Djinn City
Book Number: Book 1
Pages: 460
My Rating: 3.5 Stars
More Info: Goodreads, Amazon, Publisher


*I received a copy of this book from the publisher. This has not influenced my review.*

Djinns! So many djinns! YES!

A couple years ago I read some urban fantasy books about djinns and decided they just weren’t for me. But I became interested in them again lately, so I decided to give this book a try, and apparently the problem was the books themselves, not djinns, because this version was super interesting!

The author clearly put a lot of thought into the djinn aspect, and that was my favorite thing about the book. These were not the lamp-living, wish-granting kind, but they were powerful, they were able to do spells and to shapeshift over periods of time, and they were practically immortal. Even cooler was that they had their own society alongside the humans with its own factions, ways of life, values, currency, politics, and history. The author even included different types of djinns (Ifrit, Marid, Ghul).

The plot was complex and intricate as well since it included a lot of djinn politics and other surprising things I can’t tell you about because spoilers. Here’s a hint: it involves a dragon, but probably not in the way you’re thinking. Also, the story was slow-paced and spanned roughly ten years, but I didn’t mind those things. What I did mind was when I got to the end and found there were still a bunch of open threads for the story to continue. I assume this will have a sequel that wraps them up, but I didn’t know that when I started. Also, the plot dragged a bit at some parts where there was a lot of explanation, but that wasn’t a huge deal.

The characters were believable and interesting. I would say the book had two protagonists—Indelbed and Rais. Poor Indelbed, his life was awful, and I couldn’t help but feel for him. Rais, Indelbed’s cousin, was harder to like, but he eventually showed some mettle, and it made him more likeable. Perhaps the best was Juny, Rais’s mother, who was organized, smart, and in control and who could make pretty much anything happen if she wanted it to. There were also the djinn characters, who were all a bit off their rockers. One of them was literally a school of fish. Not a fish. A whole school of them.

But this book wasn’t so much focused on any one person’s journey. It was more about the overall issue of one djinn planning to wipe out an entire country and those who were trying to stop him. I felt it was a good balance of character-driven and plot-driven, and the omniscient POV was used well.

I do want to mention, however, that there were numerous casual uses of the (offensive) words ‘retard(ed)’ and ‘cripple’. I spoke to the publisher about my concerns, and they explained this was done on purpose to fit with the setting and characters in the book. I respect that decision, I appreciate realism in books, and I do think the author succeeded in portraying the problematic natures of the characters (which, it’s my understanding, is what he was going for), but I’m still not sure how I feel about it. It just didn’t seem necessary to me for so many characters and the narration to use these words.

As for the overall feel, the writing had a comical style with a bit of absurd humor (which I love), but the mood did darken at times, especially as the story went on. It made the book unpredictable, which I liked. So this book was fun at times, but not light. In fact, there were a few things that were pretty disturbing, like experimentation/intense pain inflicted upon characters and the djinn practice of killing djinn-human hybrid children they considered “defective.”

Last but not least, I loved that this was an #ownvoices book set in Bangladesh, written by a Bangladeshi author. I had never read anything set there before.

So overall, despite a few issues, this was a creative and complex story with an interesting portrayal of djinns that I enjoyed!


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  1. Stephanie Jane

    I’ve been waiting for this review to come around because the djinn idea is intriguing and I need more Bangladeshi authors for my WorldReads!
    I’m not sure how I would feel about lots of story threads being left open, but as long as Djinn City doesn’t end on a cliff hanger, I probably won’t be too irritated. Thanks for your thoughtful review 🙂

    1. Kristen Burns

      I’m glad I could help you find a Bandladeshi author then!

      I mean, it kind of is a cliffhanger, in one sense. The main issues of this book were taken care of, but new issues were opened up. So maybe wait for the next book to come out if you don’t like waiting? Thanks, glad you like the review!

  2. Greg

    I need to read more about djinn! I was really excited to see ifrit and merid show up in a recent read (Menagerie) but I don’t usually see sub- varieties like that? And now here’s this review! 🙂 Hopefully we’ll see more…

    Set in Bangladesh and by a Bangladeshi author too? Nice. I’ll have to keep this one in mind for the next time I need a djinn fix!

    1. Kristen Burns

      Yes, it’s great seeing authors use the actual lore more and include different types of djinns and everything. We need more books with djinn sub-varieties! Lol.

      Yep, I always enjoy getting to read about other countries. Hope you like it if you give it a try!

  3. Aimee (Aimee, Always)

    It’s been SO LONG since I last read a djinn book–my last one was a YA one, and I absolutely hated it. This one seems like a breath of fresh air, and I’m interested to see how they handle the djinn. Plus I’m all for humorous writing. 🙂 Awesome review, Kristen! I’m a bit iffy about the degrading word usage, though.

  4. Let's Get Beyond Tolerance

    I’m glad to hear that you mostly enjoyed this one! Sorry about the words that were used, but that’s awesome you asked the publisher about it. I don’t think I’d like it either, but it does sound like the author had a good reason for it and handled it fairly well…I guess that’s all you can ask for sometimes, but still!

    Thanks for sharing.


    1. Kristen Burns

      Thanks! Yeah, I think I’m mostly conflicted because it’s one of those cases where, if I hadn’t asked the pub, I wouldn’t have been able to tell if it was a problematic book or just realistically problematic characters, you know? But yes, I did mostly enjoy the book!

    1. Kristen Burns

      Thanks! And yes, conflicted is the perfect word. I understand the reason, but I can’t help but worry about it normalizing use of hurtful language. Overall it was a good book though, I hope you like it if you give it a try!

  5. Lilyn G

    I think the use of those words repeatedly would bother me to. There’s including the word here and there to fit in, yeah, but maybe you don’t have to use it super frequently.

    Sounds like an interesting story, though.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Yeah, I could definitely see some characters using them, but if the older MC had at least not used them or something, I don’t think it would’ve bothered me. But it’s up to each reader to decide how bothered they are by it. It was definitely an interesting story though!

  6. Olivia Roach

    The Amulet Series by Jonathan Stroud features djinn and I LOVE them so much!! I should read more books with djinn in them. It’s a shame about the offensive words because with sensitivity readers that would have been one less issue with the book, but oh well :/ It’ll just be something to be aware of before reading it. I like the sound of the characters being believable and it being balanced when it comes to the different terms of plot, characters and development. Great review x

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    1. Kristen Burns

      Ooh cool, I’ll check it out! Sensitivity readers wouldn’t have changed the words though. The publisher explained they were used on purpose to portray the characters and setting in a certain way. It’s just, without asking them, it was hard for me to tell if that was the case or not. So I guess how bothersome it is is something each reader has to decide. There were so many other great things about the book though! Thanks!

  7. Daniela Ark

    I absolutely loved how you handle the offensive words issue with the publisher. I totally agree with you! I didn’t know it was this book! 🙂 I was curious about it since you posted about it the first time already because I haven’t read any djinn books now even more curious 🙂

  8. Dani

    Djinns are hit and miss for me. Glad you spoke to the publisher to gain some clarification of the language usage. It’s hard sometimes to judge if the justification enhanced the story or not. Thanks for a honest review.

    1. Kristen Burns

      I suppose they’re kind of hit or miss with me too, but I liked these! Exactly, I think that was my issue, that I don’t feel like the story would’ve lost anything had it used different language, but at least I know they had a reason.

  9. Becky @ A Fool's Ingenuity

    Yes, become interested in djinns again, they have the potential to be such interesting characters. I mean, I think I’m excited about them because of City of Brass but you know, they’re also really interesting. It sucks you discovered there’s probably gonna be a sequel only after starting to read, though, I like to be prepared and know I’m headed into a series really not be stuck with open-ended plot points that I have to wait to be resolved. Good to know there may be some language use which people might be uncomfortable with if it’s an intentional thing done to fit with characters I can accept it but since I haven’t read I can’t tell. Great review and glad you gave djinns another chance.

    1. Kristen Burns

      I am! I am totally interested in djinns again! All because of my supernatural sims that got me researching things, haha. I’m definitely going to read City of Brass, just haven’t got to it yet. I also bought The Djinn Falls in Love even though I never read anthologies. It sounds amazing though! But anyway, yeah, I love series, but I like to know what I’m getting into and get in the right mindset for it. And yes, I think it’s good to mention things like the language, even if it’s used for a certain reason, in case others might want to avoid it. Thanks!

  10. Cee Arr

    Interesting concept! Pity about the slurs – espec. the ‘r’ word, which, I don’t know about America, but in the UK that’s pretty damned high on the list of ‘naughty words we do not say in polite company!’

    1. Kristen Burns

      Tbh, some of my own family still uses that word, despite my efforts to stop them, so it’s not uncommon. But I just felt like the story could’ve been just as good if a couple less characters used them. I loved the djinn though!

  11. Danya @ Fine Print

    I’ve read very few books about djinn — the only ones that come to mind are Rebel of the Sands and The City of Brass. But TCB is a favourite of mine…so maybe I should try out more djinn-centric books! This doesn’t sound like my usual cup of tea (not a fan of authors using offensive language to showcase a character’s problematic viewpoint) , but I confess that a djinni who’s made up of a school of fish is intriguing.

    1. Kristen Burns

      I have both of those books and plan to read them soon! The school of fish djinn was definitely unique. There was also one who was a walrus, and one who had a dog head, and I cracked up sometimes at other characters’ references to these things.