Inspirations for El Jisal

The Chronicles of El Jisal is a unique fantasy series with its roots in the myths and magic of Asian and Middle Eastern cultures, and its setting in a modern but parallel world, where ancient magic and modern technology exist side by side.

The four books in the series can be read independently--this is not a chronological series but one which forms more of a tapestry. But they all have interlocking elements. And common to all of them are the magical immortal spirit creatures called the Jinn, who have all kinds of powers and can take all kinds of shapes.

Each of the books in The Chronicles of El Jisal is set in a parallel-world version of a real place.



Book 1, Snow, Fire, Sword is set in Jayangan, a parallel-world version of Java, the main island of Indonesia. Kotabunga, the city described in the book, is based on Yogyakarta, a beautiful city in Central Java, which has temples and palaces and all sorts of magical places.

 I was born in Java and though I left when I was still very young, all my childhood I heard stories about Indonesia, its culture, history, myths and people. I was fascinated by this rich and ancient culture, which contains elements of many different cultures and religions: animist, Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim and Christian. The magnificent stories of Indonesia were a huge inspiration for Snow, Fire, Sword, was was my knowledge of the modern aspects of the country, as I have visited it again a few years ago, and keep in touch with all that's going on there. Real events have formed the basis of some of the events and images in the book.


Book 2, The Curse of Zohreh, is set in Ameerat, a  wealthy desert country by the sea which is a parallel-world version of the United Arab Emirates. It is an amazing place of gold and skyscrapers; desert and oases; the ancient and the modern existing side by side.


Being in the Emirates is a bit like being in the world of the Arabian Nights--you feel that at any moment, a genie, or jinn in Arabic, will appear and grant you wishes! My brother and his family lived there for many years and we made frequent visits there. It was a very inspirational place, with its amazing buildings, desert landscapes and huge and diverse mix of people from all over the world.

Book 3, The Tyrant's Nephew, is set in Mesomia, which is a parallel-world version of Iraq. The dictator in the book, Haroun al-Alakah, known as the Vampire, is based on the cruel Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, but also other tyrants such as Hitler, Stalin etc.

The settings in The Tyrant's Nephew range as widely as they do in the real Iraq, from the city of Madinatu es-Salam(based on Baghdad):

to the Marshes with their villages on stilts and their boats and water-spirits:

to the mountainous northern region of Kirtis, home of the werewolf clans:

Though I have not visited Iraq, I have spoken with many Iraqis about the history and mythology of their country, and much of my inspiration came from their stories.


Book 4, The Maharajah's Ghost, is set in Alhind, a parallel-world version of Northern India. It was inspired by the richly exciting and colourful culture of modern India, with its spicy blend of old and new, from Bollywood:

to traditional exorcisms at a 'Ghost Fair':

from memories of Maharajahs in palaces with elephants:

 to massive traffic jams!

Though I have not been to India, I have read a lot about it from a very early age, and have spoken about it to lots of people. India's myths, history and culture were very big inspirations here!




Snow, Fire, Sword

The Curse of Zohreh

The Tyrant's Nephew'

The Maharajah's Ghost

The Jinns