Maha Hussain – YA Fantasy – BLOOD LIKE FIRE
When Muslim-American Ariana Baten is haunted by an ominous jinn overlord, she and her murderous imaginary friend must team up to stop the overlord from using his fire magic to destroy the universe.
When Ariana first begins to hear the jinn’s voice inside her head, she finds she can no longer control herself. As the creature grows inside of her, she realizes that its appearance may be related to her parents’ mysterious death. Searching for the truth and understanding, Ariana pairs up with Kered, her longtime imaginary friend. Using Kered’s Forgotten magic, the two travel to Forget Me Not, the dimension where every human thought goes once it’s been discarded. Along with the rest of the Forgotten, they plan to infiltrate the jinn dimension, Al-Jiyyin.
In Al-Jiyyin, Ariana infiltrates the jinn royal family to unravel their plan from within. As she learns how to control the fire magic that always seems to be around her, Ariana is confronted with her true identity. She learns that not only is she the last descendant of a long line of jinn who sought refuge in the human world many millennia ago, but she is also the last line of defense the human dimension has. Alone in a world and fighting in a war she barely understands, Ariana must make a choice: succumb to the fire that runs through her veins, or fight it to restore peace to the universe.
BLOOD LIKE FIRE is a YA fantasy novel, complete at 70,000 words, inspired by Islamic lore. It explores concepts of alternate realities and circles the struggles of a young Pakistani-Muslim girl trying to determine if she’s falling in love with herself or an abstract concept that will never exist, all while navigating the normal trials and tribulations of young adulthood, including love, balancing cultures, and of course, saving the universe.
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He appeared before I had the chance to ask him to, as silent as the sun rising in the sky.
He stood by the window, the moon casting a silvery glow along the sides of his face. I rose my chin towards him in acknowledgement, but he remained still.
“Kered, is that you?”
His green eyes lit up for a moment, the way they always did whenever I said his name.
But he didn’t answer me, his eyebrows knit together in confusion as he stared at the sheets of white paper strewn over my bedroom walls and cans of paint lined against my bed.
“Do you feel okay?” he asked. His question echoed throughout the quiet of the house.
Apart from our voices, the only other sound was my brother, Dani, snoring.
I stared at Kered for a moment. His dark, curly hair was more disheveled than usual. It stuck up in every direction atop his head. He looked so real, so human. I often forgot that only I could see him.
I nodded, but he saw through my lie. I knew he was going to. He was my oldest friend.
“It’s okay if you don’t,” he said.
“Mama and Papa died barely a month ago. Why would I be okay?”
The edges of my vision went black. A quiet hiss sounded in my ears. My fingers went numb.
I heard the whisper inside my head and squeezed my eyes shut. The aawaz, the voice inside my head, was back.
I walked towards my door to shut it, guilt colouring my movements. Our newest house rule was that no one was allowed to sleep with their door closed, but one quick peek and I went ahead and shut it. Technically, I wasn’t sleeping.
Kered placed a hand on my arm. “Ariana?”
I blinked up at him. “Hm?”
“Do you want to talk about it?”
“There’s nothing to talk about, Kered. My parents are gone, I ruined my brother’s life, and nothing will ever be okay again.”
Kered bit his lip. “You know that’s not true.”
I scoffed quietly, my gaze landing on the heavily marked calendar above my desk.
It had been thirty-six days since the wreck. Thirty-three days since the funeral. Twenty-nine days since Amnna Khala and her family had moved in. Two days since they left.
The house seemed even more haunted now that it was just Dani and I.
Brush, the awaaz whispered.
I tried to push it away, focusing on Kered instead. “It feels pretty true.”
“You didn’t ask for any of those things to happen. It’s hardly been a month. I don’t think you need to worry just yet.”
My face stayed impassive. Kered only thought those things because he didn’t know the truth. He didn’t know about the voice inside my head, about the darkness that spotted my eyes, about the loss of feeling throughout my body.
I opened my mouth to tell him, but the aawaz stopped me.
Now, it said.