THE GUARDIANS OF ERUM AND THE CALAMITOUS CHILD OF SOCOTRA
A. Ali Hasan Ali
United Arab Emirates Ministry of Culture and Knowledge Development (2020)
Reviewed by Megan Weiss for Reader Views (07/2020)
“The Guardians of Erum and the Calamitous Child of Socotra” follows young date farmer Fada. Fada was overjoyed when his wife, Nada, gave birth to their first child: a son named Dileel. When Dileel is only eight days old, however, he is targeted by the most powerful jinn master in all of Arabia. The jinn master, Behas, claims that Fada’s son will be used as a sacrifice to bring about the end of the world, because he was born under the Serpent-Neck Star. As a result, Behas sets out to kill the child. Occultist Arkin knows all about Behas’ plans, however, and together with his young apprentice, Yam, he sets out to stop the jinn master. Both have their plans foiled, however, when the child is kidnapped by an unseen hand. Over the next several days Behas, Arkin, Yam, and Fada will be forced to journey across the land and face danger after danger if they want to save the child and stop an ancient evil from being unleashed across the land. If they succeed, the world will be saved. If they do not, however, it could mean the end for them all.
Ali’s “The Guardians of Erum and the Calamitous Child of Socotra” is an authentic, suspenseful tale that takes readers on a journey through ancient Arabian history and legend. The author’s use of relevant terminology gives the book credibility, while his ability to utilize this terminology without making the reading tedious or confusing for readers gives the book enjoyability. In the opening chapters, for example, the author makes an effort to include explanations for different kinds of jinni conjured by Behas. There are so many different types of these entities, and they each have their own purposes and meanings, so it is helpful and fun for readers to be able to really understand what Behas is doing and why.
This is a book that allows readers to learn while they join Fada and the rest of the characters on their journeys. There are countless legends and myths about Jinn and it is quite apparent that the author put in a lot of effort into researching the history of his subject, and in making sure that all uses of relevant cultural material were applied accurately. It can be easy for authors to lose themselves in these kinds of monumental stories and forget about little things such as the historical and cultural authenticity, but this is definitely not the case with “The Guardians of Erum and the Calamitous Child of Socotra!”
While some of the pacing felt a little choppy in some places toward the middle and end of the book, the imagery and language used by the author helped keep the reader grounded and in tune with the story. There is also just enough of an air of suspense that keeps you wanting to turn the pages. The rising action in the book, in particularly, is written well. The tension and urgency of the story build at a consistent, yet frenzied level that helps to convey the emotions the characters are feeling in the actual story, such as fear and uncertainty. Amidst all the chaos, however, the author also manages to include wonderful depictions of faith, friendship, and love between the characters. Considering the state of our current world and society, it is nice to read books where the characters have drastic differences and yet still manage to come together to defeat a greater evil. The most important aspect of this is in the way that the characters seem to try and consider things from others’ points of view, such as when El Kashef strives to understand why the tribe leader in Wadi Teyq told one of his elders to stand down when Prince Leith delivers a brutal punishment to several of the community members.
“The Guardians of Erum and the Calamitous Child of Socotra” is an enchanting novel that I would recommend to any readers who are interested in fantasy and the supernatural. I would also recommend it to those who have a passion for reading books that allow them to learn more about the world’s history and cultures. This novel is not a quick and easy read, but it is not meant to be. Instead, Ali’s book deserves extensive attention and concentration. This is a story that should be treated with care not only by the author, but by the reader, as well. This will allow readers to be truly immersed within the ancient Arabian world. Tighten your saddles and fill you water skins because this journey is only just beginning!