Review: Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn by Danielle Ackley-McPhail and Day Al-Mohamed

November 20, 2014 Review 0

Review: Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn by Danielle Ackley-McPhail and Day Al-MohamedBaba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn by Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Day Al-Mohamed
Published by Palomino Press on September 1st, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Historical, Steampunk
Format: Paperback
Pages: 240
Source: Author
Sexual Content: N/A
Reviewed by: Megan
3 Stars

Come, Best Beloved, and sit you by my feet. I shall tell you a tale such as sister Scheherazade could have scarce imagined. A tale of wonders, of deeds both great and grievous, of courage that defies description, and above all, Child of Adam, I shall tell you a tale of love.

The night is for the telling of tales to which the morning may bear Truth. In the oldest of days and ages and times, there was, and there was not, a great evil that reached across the desert and beyond…

In the Nejd there is nothing at all…except secrets. A band of thieves wish such secrets to remain hidden.

In England, far from his desert home, Ali bin-Massoud serves as apprentice to the famed Charles Babbage. One night a mysterious box is delivered by a clockwork falcon and Ali’s world is never the same again. Heartache, danger, and thieves mark his journey as Ali is summoned home at the death of his father.

It will take faith, knowledge, and yes, love to realize his destiny, and more than a little skill with steam-driven technology. Can he unravel the mystery of the puzzle box and the clockwork djinn before it is too late? An ancient legacy and Ali's very life depend on his success.

Hear you the tale of Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn.

In this retelling of 'Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves,' Danielle Ackley-McPhail and Day Al-Mohamed have mixed a little machinery with magic while delving into the Arabian culture, and bringing us a protagonist whose heroism is in his dedication - dedication to his craft, his family, and his desire to to what's right. BABA ALI AND THE CLOCKWORK DJINN is a breath of fresh desert wind, and if the book suffers from some plotting and pacing missteps, it's still a charming oasis for fantasy lovers looking to enjoy something a little less Western.

Ali bin-Massoud is in England working as an apprentice to famed mechanical engineer Charles Babbage, when he receives a mysterious puzzle box, delivered by a clockwork falcon, which is supposed to help him reclaim his family's honor. Shortly thereafter, word reaches Ali that his father has died, and his elder, jealous brother Kassim has summoned him home. While the addition of Babbage as a character adds color and amusement to the beginning of the book, his existence becomes a distraction when he's no longer relevant to the plot. Babbage trails after Ali in order to warn him about dangers on his travels, but doesn't actually catch up to him until near the end of the book, by which point Ali's been attacked so many times, he's used to it. Instead of being a useful ally, or co-protagonist, Babbage disappears for chapters at a time, and his absence doesn't make much of a difference, except to be noted. Once Ali leaves England, Babbage and his scientific friends cease to impact the story.

This is Ali's book, and he proves himself more than capable of handling things on his own, like his One Thousand and One Nights namesake. Ali works hard, dedicates himself to doing what's right, doing Allah's will, and manages to out think or out maneuver most of his opponents. The greatest strengths of this novel are in the details - the day to day life and customs of a Muslim family from this time, the well-managed use of time itself when travel was much slower than today, and the clever parallels to the original tale. In some ways BABA ALI AND THE CLOCKWORK DJINN reads like a simple fairy tale, magical, but close to the surface. There are glimmers of jewels to be mined, however, that makes me wish the book were unpacked a little more. The romance, for instance, comes on very quickly, especially in contrast to Ali's family drama. That's hardly unusual for a fairy tale, but it seems like an easy way to a happily ever after.

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