Heya Book Nerds!
You know the times when you come across a very fascinating book and you have had a spellbinding experience reading it, in such times, you cannot wait to share it with your fellow bookworms. Today is one such day!
I am so happy to bring this book across to you.
Today, I am going to review Hell! No Saints in Paradise written by A. K. Asif.
Let’s get down to the review.
Book Title: Hell! No Saints in Paradise
Author: A. K. Asif
Total Number of Pages: 356
Publisher: Harper Collins India
Publication Date: 11 Aug 2017
Genre: Fiction/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy
2050, New York. In the aftermath of a gruelling spiritual cleansing quest, Ismael, a Pakistani-American student, enters into an alliance with spiritual beings who send him on a perilous journey of self-discovery. A non-believer, Ismael must return to Pakistan, now in the grip of a brutal fundamentalist government, and gain the trust of his estranged father, a prominent extremist in the Caliphate. To accomplish this, he must pose as a true believer. Will he survive long enough to infiltrate his father’s inner sanctum and complete his mission? Hell! No Saints in Paradise is both biting satire and allegory that takes urban fantasy to dizzying heights.
REVIEW BY SOHINEE DEY
Hell! No Saints in Paradise is one of those books where you have an idea of the plot before you dive head first into the storyline. I like books where the blurb gives a clear description about what the story is going to be all about yet has the power to withhold the main components of the story so that it doesn’t give away the entire plotline. Very rarely do I get amazed by a book blurb and this one came as a surprise to me (a good one). I really really really am happy that I chose to read this book.
The backdrop for the plot is set in 2050 and you can categorise this book as an urban fantasy. Nah, I am not a fan of the fantasy genre but boy, does this book not seem like a fantasy! Maybe that’s why fantasy and urban fantasy stand at a difference!
Ismael, the protagonist, is shown to be an agnostic person who shies away from the topic of religion and is sceptic of the “Godly” world. He says, “Perhaps the department of religion is where my demons reside.” Originally from Pakistan, Ismael ran away from his family and is currently settled in New York where he is working on his dissertation paper ‘Paradise and Hell’. He isn’t demure while admitting that he is a “handsome bastard” and has featured in many women’s sighs (ahem…if you know what I mean). One night, he meets Petra and is immediately put to a psychoanalysis session by this psychotherapist charmer. Ismael, the one who usually strikes up conversations and charms pretty girls gets charmed by this bohemian beauty but unfortunately, receives a hint that she is a lesbian.
As Petra listened him self-portraying his life, she came to know that he had had a rough childhood where Ismael had grown up listening to his father talk about Jannah and Jahannum (Paradise and Hell) and his bedtime stories always included vivid descriptions of how people who strayed away from siraat e mustaaqeem ( the so-called straight path) were punished and tortured in the hands of Munkar and Nakir. Ismael also went on to explain that his father saw him as a sinner and as an obstacle who was blocking his path to Paradise.
On Petra’s advice, Ismael chooses to visit the Yage Yoga Centre and try out the Ayahuasca, the psychedelic medicinal brew, famous for its effective elucidating power. After fiddling with the whole idea, he decides to experience the spirit world for once before he writes his thesis paper. As soon as the Ayahuasca mingles with his blood, he is transported into a strange world where he has no sense of his surroundings and his vision is filled with inhumanly figures. In his state of dwam, he is arrested by a vision of Al-Khidr. While he is still contemplating whether he had seen him for real or not, Ismael is informed that he had been chosen for a specific mission and will be traveling to Pakistan soon.
Just as predicted by the creatures of the spirit world, a manila envelope rests beside a styrofoam cooler which had mysteriously made its way on the kitchen counter. Inside, Ismael finds a plane ticket to Lahore along with a handwritten letter from a person named Pir Pul Siraat who informs him that all his debts will be taken care of and the only mission now in his life would be to walk on the ‘Path of High Knowledge’ and he had to make amends with his estranged father.
As he lands in Pakistan, he is faced with the fundamentalist government. His first step in his mission is to gain back his father’s trust. He faces various gut-churning circumstances, some that almost throws him into the hands of death and others that almost makes him question humanity. While he follows the directions of the spirit world, he must find the true meaning behind Paradise and Hell and see for himself if they hold any validity and must pose as a true believer in front of his extremist father.
Self-discovery can be a bitch.
As it had been rightly put by Petra, Ismael faces many consequences due to his belief of himself and some which rattles his perception of who he truly is as an human. As he travels on this path of self-realization, he gets acquainted with his soul and learns to accept his true identity.
It’s all within. The whole cosmos.
Will he be able to break down his father’s defences and acquire himself a spot in his heart? Will he last long enough to see the end of the mission and gain the much needed High Knowledge he had been seeking for or would failure befall upon on him? All your questions will be answered once you reach the end of the book and for that you’ll have to read it! 😛
Wow, after a long time, I got my hands on an interesting book! The part which I loved the most would be the narration. Right from the first page, I was so impressed with the narration that I couldn’t stop myself from turning the pages. With each chapter, the plot kept increasing on the interest meter. A new chapter revealed a new part and one thing which I would like to mention here is, unlike other books which I have read, where the plot progresses very slowly, this one advances with each chapter. Even then, it didn’t feel as if too much was happening in a short duration. Everything was well-balanced. The cover, the blurb, the entire plotline, wow!
I noticed a few grammatical errors here and there. When it comes to grammar, I couldn’t help but mention the glitches. But other than that, I didn’t spot any other mistakes. Well, I felt some scenes were a bit dramatic but since, it’s an urban fantasy set in the year 2050, anything can happen!
MY FINAL VERDICT –
The most striking thing which I noticed about this book is how the plotline carries realism and fantastical elements and how they complement each other so well, running parallelly at the same time without trying to overpower one another. I also witnessed some humorous and sarcastic moments which were enhanced and highlighted in some parts of the storyline.
You should definitely read this if you are looking for an interesting, page-turner and if you’re a fan of fantasy, I would definitely recommend this book.
Book Cover: 4.5/5
Language and Vocabulary: 4/5
Grammar and Punctuation: 4/5
POESY IN CHRYSALIS RATING: ⭐⭐⭐⭐/⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
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Note: I received a copy of this book from Writersmelon in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.