Alif The Unseen G. Willow Wilson Book Review

It’s always refreshing to leave your genre comfort zone. When it comes to fantasy, I tend to mostly stick with high fantasy of the young adult western variety. I think Alif The Unseen by G. Willow Wilson caught my eye because first, the cover is bright and gorgeous, but also because it is very outside my realm of expectations and experiences — instead of wizards and knights, it’s jinn and hackers. Y’all, I want MORE from Alif’s world, it is SO entrancing.

Alif The Unseen G. Willow Wilson Book Cover

Alif The Unseen

So the plot of Alif The Unseen is basically this: There’s this guy who goes by the handle of Alif. He is a hacker and lives in an unnamed Middle Eastern country with a very strong internet censor in place. Alif works to actively get websites past censors and has clients whose identity he cloaks so they can have free speech. Anyways, Alif is jilted by this girl, Intisar, and writes a firewall program to block her based on personality regardless of internet alias and IP. From there, things spiral OUT OF CONTROL and Alif and his next door neighbor, Dina are on the run from the State but have the help of a few friends.

Y’all, what I pretty much learned from Alif The Unseen by G. Willow Wilson is that technology and jinn or genies are freakin’ cool. I mean, what a creative pairing. Perhaps I am not all that well read, but I have never ever read anything quite like this. I thought G. Willow Wilson did an imaginative job tying together the past with this book written by the jinn called The Thousand And One Days that is sort of a hint for all of Alif The Unseen, the present with Alif’s situation and Arab spring, and the future which is the technology, together.

I was very interested and riveted by the character of Alif. He is the quintessential underdog which I ALWAYS root for. He is half Arab, half Indian. His mom is the second wife. Alif lives in the poor section of town. In this story, he’s not one of the privileged and I liked reading about that. Alif and his friends are such a rag tag group. We get this complete sense of David vs. Goliath when it comes to the hackers vs. the State, and yeah I LOVED IT.

The best parts though, are the parts that come from the jinn book The Thousand And One Days. Bits of Alif The Unseen are interspersed with excerpts from The Thousand And One Days which are these short stories that are very well written and intriguing. My favorite is the one about Vikram the Vampire for various reasons that you will see when you read the book.

Frankly, I am kind of sad Alif The Unseen is not getting the attention or the traction it deserves. It is a wonderful book, perfect if you are looking for something out of the ordinary and just want to read an adult fantasy that does not follow the usual formula. Straight up, I am a fan of this book and whole heartedly would recommend it to you if you have similar taste to me.

Disclosure: Received for review via Netgalley.

Other reviews of Alif The Unseen by G. Willow Wilson:

The Readaventurer – “Just when I think that young adult fantasy has nothing new to show me, this one comes along to change my mind.

Bibliophilic Monologues – “a novel that needs to be read widely

About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.


  1. Well said, lady, well said. I’m on a personal mission to get more people to read this. Even if I have to be annoying and push books on them.

  2. Excellent review, April 🙂 Your wonderful words made up my mind and I jjust purchased the book based on your review alone. This is actually the first time I’ve heared of Alif the Unseen. Can’t wait to read it on my Kindle!

  3. This is the first time I’ve heard of this book, and I think I’m gonna have to check it out. Thanks for introducing me to it!

  4. This book sounds awesome! Thanks for reviewing it because, you’re right, it’s not getting much attention. You’re the first person I’ve seen talk about it.

  5. Your description of the book made me smile. It’s definitely something that I’d want to read, and yes, I had never heard of it before.

  6. That doesn’t sound like anything I’ve read b4 either. I’ll check it out! Thanx for the review! 😉

  7. APRIL. This sounds really supercool and awesome and something that I would totally enjoy. I looked and the ratings on Goodreads are pretty great! The only concern that I have is that I wouldn’t understand the tech-speak. Because I am not tech-savvy. I wonder about this. Otherwise, it sounds pretty fantastic and I would have NEVER heard of it had I not seen it HERE.


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