Author: A. Ali Hasan Ali
Publisher: Self published
Genre: Fantasy fiction, Mythology & Folk tales
First Publication: 2020
Major Characters: Fada, Dileel, Behas, Yam, El Kashef, Hadaus
Theme: Myths and Legends, Father-Son relationship, ancient Arabian folktales,
Setting: Ancient Arabia (Modern day Oman, and Yemen)
Narrator: Third person Omniscient
Book Summary: The Guardians of Erum by Ali Hasan Ali
Pursued by a powerful jinn master and a mysterious sect of occultists, Fada sets out across the lush and unforgiving ancient Arabian Peninsula on a quest to rescue his son.
Legend has it that the sacrifice of a calamitous child, a child born under the Serpent-Neck star, can bring about the end of the world. Born under the Serpent-Neck star himself, jinn master Behas has sought out and killed many calamitous children to avert the destruction they portend. His next target is a boy named Dileel, the newborn son of a date farmer outside the great city of Erum.
However, his plans are foisted when an occultist apprentice interferes to save the boy, and in the resulting confusion, Dileel is abducted by an unknown force. Determined to rescue his son, the humble date farmer Fada must leave behind everything he knows, enlisting powerful allies and risking his life on an unforgettable journey.
Book Review: The Guardians of Erum by Ali Hasan Ali
Just when I think that young adult fantasy has nothing new to show me, The Guardians of Erum by Ali Hasan Ali comes along to change my mind. The main character, Fada, is a date farmer outside the great city of Erum. According to a legend, his son Dileel, is a calamitous child (a child born under the Serpent-Neck star) who would bring disaster in the world.
Behas, a powerful Jinn master, who was also born under the Serpent-Neck star himself, has sought out and killed many calamitous children to avert the destruction they portend. His next target is Dileel. A young occultist apprentice also seeks the boy on behalf of his master, who believes Dileel must be saved. However, both, Behas and the apprentice, failed in their missions and Dileel is snatched away by an unknown abductor.
Fada, determined to rescue his son, must leave behind everything he knows, enlisting powerful allies and risking his life on an unforgettable journey. Drawn into the cutthroat world of intercity political machinations and a rivalry between jinn masters and occultists, Fada journeys across ancient Arabia, enlisting allies along the way and risking everything to save his son.
I’ve honestly never read anything like this before. The Guardians of Erum is a Middle East inspired fantasy novel about djinns, occultists, metaphor, faith, and political uprising. And for a fantasy novel, it is more firmly rooted in reality than most. However, one of the many reasons that I love to read is to experience new places and new cultures. On that score, this book is utterly fascinating. And much to his credit, author Ali Hasan Ali really succeeds in rendering this world – a great city of Erum in the Middle East – with the perfect description of places.
“…The names our parents choose for us define our fates, and we are destined to live our lives as best befits what our names mean.”
And on top of all of that, this is a beautifully written fantasy story. It is a fun, fast-paced adventure that moves in-between ancient Arabia, including the world of fairy tales, and an unseen realm populated by djinn and occultist.
There is plenty of action, and big magic, but the strengths of this book are in the characters. The character development is ludicrously good. The world-building is solid, believable and original – there’re enough new elements to keep your interest, but not so many that you get confused and overwhelmed: a perfect balance. The story is told in third person omniscient, but usually from certain characters’ points of view. You get a mix of other people’s impressions of characters, and a gentle showing that tells us even more.
The writing style is smooth, the pacing just right (though the first few chapters take a while to get you into the story, you still need to read them closely because there’re a lot of details in them), and the prose isn’t cluttered with boring, irrelevant descriptions or pointless details. It’s a long story, but it flies by.
Likewise, the way author doles out the various plots, revealing and hinting at the right moments, building up tension and anticipation, giving clues that start to coalesce into a stunning picture, is, frankly, impressive. The supporting casts are in their own ways vividly portrayed and gradually explored. There’s no chunky exposition or a description of a character shoved at you all at once.
I would easily recommend The Guardians of Erum to anyone who enjoys fantasy, but also to people who enjoy great stories told wonderfully well.