Sarah Prindle

The Djinn's Apple
by Djamila Morani, translated by Sawad Hussain
Neem Tree Press, May 2024

In 803 A.D., Baghdad, it is at the height of the Abbasid Empire, a golden age of literature and medical knowledge. Yet, unrest stirs within the highest ranks of the government. The Baramikas, once among the most influential families, have fallen out of favor with Al-Rashid, the ruler of Baghdad. When a group of men attacks her family’s home, 12-year-old Nardeen Baramika is the sole survivor. At first, she assumes the massacre is related to family's loss of status, but she soon discovers the attackers were looking for a mysterious manuscript that belonged to her father, a renowned doctor.

Nardeen is saved from being sold into slavery by doctor Muallim Ishaq, a colleague of her father’s who take her under his wing. She becomes Ishaq’s student, learning more about medicine as she trains in the hospital than even most male physicians. As the years pass, Nardeen continues to struggle with grief of losing her family—and prepares for the day when she will take revenge on her family’s killers.

But the truth is more complicated than Nardeen can imagine, and connecting the dots between her family’s murder, the missing manuscript, and Baghdad's political unrest will take every bit of courage and perseverance she has. During her ordeal, Nardeen will discover how thin the line between justice and vengeance really is.

The Djinn’s Apple, a YA novel originally published in Arabic in 2017, has been translated into English by Sawad Hussain, making this magical and enthralling book available to a English readers for the first time. Author Djamila Morani skillfully blends mystery and historical fiction to tell a gripping tale about a girl seeking justice for her family, while also bringing readers into a time and place that many of us may not know much about.

Readers will also surely like Nardeen, a feminist before her time, who perseveres to learn medicine despite opposition from several men who believe that females are incapable of being physicians. There is even a touch of romance (Nardeen and a fellow trainee doctor start falling for each other), which will have readers rooting for the couple as the novel progresses. Ultimately, The Djinn’s Apple is an artful rendering of an ancient time and way of life, with a perfect dose of intrigue to please the modern mystery lover.