Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn: A Steampunk Faerie Tale

Author: Danielle Ackley-McPhail and Day Al-Mohamed
Publisher: Palomino Press
Star Rating: 3.75/5
Date Read: May 19th to 22nd, 2014
Thank you to the authors for providing me with a copy of this e-book in exchange for an honest review.

Let the record show – I read an e-book! I know, it is sacrilege. I read it on my tablet, which was a bit awkward, and I will be honest, this did impact on my reading experience. But sometimes there are some opportunities that we don’t want to miss out on. This was one of those.

Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn is based on the tale of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves from the Thousand and One Arabian Nights – with a twist. Among the magic of Arabia and its djinn and other beings, the tale has been reimagined to include a steampunk element. This was new for me as I had only read one other steampunk book and didn’t like it, however I am willing to admit this may have been the book as opposed to the genre. So I resolved to read this book while ignoring my previous misgivings.

This book had all the magic of the original tale and the addition of the mechanical aspect may seem to contradict the wonder inspired by the faerie tale element but instead I found it to contribute to the originality of the retelling. We begin in England, a fairly traditional location for steampunk, where we meet Ali bin-Massoud, an apprentice in the craftsmanship of machinery and artifice. As the second son in his family, he wasn’t to inherit into the family business of trading, which was left to his elder brother. When an unforeseen circumstance delivers a gift and also tragic news, Ali must return home to his native Arabia (via an airship – literally a ship in the air!). It is here in Arabia that magic fills the air and the story really comes alive. Reading this truly feels like a magical faerie tale.

I have some qualms, though. I find it hard to sympathise with, at times, a rather pitiful main character. Ali did not show a great deal of purpose or direction except when he was making things and he did not have a strong sense of character. There were a few things that happened a bit too quickly and were glossed over, causing me to go back a paragraph or even a page to try and work out when that happened. I also find it hard to sympathise with a character when they appeal to any sort of god, blame them for their fates, etc. rather than shouldering than blame or assigning it the person it belongs to – or even acknowledging that sometimes, bad things happen. It’s just life. However, I understand how the belief in Allah is important to the culture for those who reside in those lands. The only other thing was some of the phrasing seemed clumsy, however I did not mark any examples to use in this review (it never occurs to me to do that).

This book has taken the polar opposites of magic and machinery, thrown them together in a mix of wonder and intrigue, danger and thrills, adventure and of course, love – where would any faerie tale be without love!

Watch this space for an exciting GIVEAWAY and interview with the authors!
(In the next month)

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