Alif the Unseen - G. Willow Wilson

My relationship with this book is problematic. On one hand, I love it for what it is. Finally, we have something that draws on Eastern and Islamic tradition. It’s great and wonderful. We need books like this.

On the other hand, it is so predictable and some parts of the book just don’t work for me.
So three stars.

I loved the idea- the combination of the Arab Spring, fantasy, and Islamic faith is beautiful. Several sections of the book are so engrossing that the reader is easily lost in the world. The use of computers and coding is great as are the different levels and type of religious belief. While the central character is a man, the women are for the most part strong.

Yet, the weakest part of the story is the love story or to be more exact the love subplot. Part of Alif’s situation is caused by his relationship to a higher class girl who breaks up with him. The leads to the ever overused good girl/boy/bad girl love triangle. We all know how this plays out. To be honest, while Dina is a wonderful character, her romantic relationship with Alif felt forced. In fact, the relationship between the convert and another character felt far more real. While the Alif love triangle does make some interesting strides in terms of the black versus light, it also harkens to the good girl is religious, bad girl not so much trope that always puts my teeth on edge. Quite frankly, in some ways I thought Insitar’s story might a bit more interesting.

Another area of concern is the convert. While I can understand wanting to keep American characters either non-existent or at a minimum, the fact that she is the only character to not be given a name is annoying. It basic makes her a caricature and that weakens the novel.

However, despite the flaws (ones that many books have), this book is important because it does widen the realm of fantasy, in particular urban fantasy. I think I might actually try Ms. Marvel now