A Review of ‘The Book of Rumi’ by Rumi, Edited by Maryam Mafi

Spoilers Below! You’ve been warned. Also, all reviews are subjective. My opinions are my own. I’m writing this review as an author critiquing another author’s book, in an attempt to improve my own writing.

I heard about this book in my studies into religious history from around the world. Rumi lived in medieval Turkey, contemporarily with the Mongolian conquest of the world. My interest was piqued when I heard how Rumi’s stories have maintained in popularity even to this day, even among non-Muslim audiences.

This was truly excellent. Rumi is a medieval Sufi mystic, who sought to impart his wisdom through the medium of writing. This book is an anthology of short stories, a compilation of fables and fairy tales. Consequently I cannot review this book as I would a larger, single story. I’ll review it as an anthology of 105 stories instead.


BIASES STATED

To put this review/study in proper context, you must know my starting point.

I am a fan of reading mythology and fables. Going back decades I’ve read about Greek Mythology, Norse Mythology, Chivalric Mythology, Christian Folk tales… you get the idea. This book is within my wheelhouse of interest.


READER’S EMOTIONAL RESPONSE

The majority of the stories in this book I felt joy reading them, trying to puzzle out the meaning/theme the author was trying to impart. Some of them, however, didn’t quite click with me. The cultural context between me and the author at times was too great for me to understand all the stories.

I liked this so much that I changed up my ‘Daily Short Story Writing Challenge’ so I’m writing stories in the style of this anthology instead.

Overall, I give the story’s Emotional Resonance: (A-)


CONCEPT AND EXECUTION

You know ‘The Brother’s Grimm’ collection of fairy tales? You know ‘A Thousand and One Nights?’ They’re both anthologies of stories. Maybe the stories were invented by a single author, or maybe the stories were collected by a single author from folkloric sources into a single source. Either way, The Book of Rumi is very much in the style of that.

Execution wise, It was VERY well done. The author successfully had me invested from story to story. The author combined the anthological folklore format with a medieval Islamic setting to create a compelling and holistic whole.

My one (minor) quibble was that the author re-treaded similar themes and stories in multiple of his short stories… but when you’re writing 105 stories you’re bound to have some overlap.

Overall, I give the story’s Concept and Execution a rating of: (A)


CHARACTERS AND CHARACTERIZATION:

This is where this book is weakest. If you are a modern fiction reader, you might enjoy reading long books featuring just one or two protagonists. This isn’t that. Most of the stories features different protagonists, or no protagonists at all.

Note: There were some repeat protagonists. They were important Abrahamic figures, like Soloman, Jesus, Abraham, Mohammed. They were protagonists in multiple stories apiece. If you are an atheist, I think you might not enjoy these stories as much.

Now that said, The Characters aren’t the point of this. These are parables, and the characters are tropey in order to provide quick and dirty characterization in order to rapidly convey a story. The characters existed in service to the plot, and in that context they served their purpose wonderfully.

Overall, I give the story’s Characterization a rating of: (A-)


PACING AND STRUCTURE

Here’s where I had some problems. Individually, all the stories are good and exciting (or if not exciting, they are cozy) to read. However some of them failed to ‘close the circle.’ By ‘closing the circle,’ I mean the stories failed to fulfill foreshadowing, or made promises which they never delivered, or seemed to stop halfway through a plotline. This difference in structure might be accountable to differences in how we tell stories today vs telling stories 700 years ago.

Overall, I give the story’s Pacing and Structure: (B+)


AUTHORIAL VOICE (TONE, PROSE AND THEME)

The author’s voice had a cozy quality to it, reminding me of ‘just-so’ stories and other tales a parent tells their child when they are young. They author successfully conveyed a sense of hope and love in all of his stories, which gave them an addictive quality because I just loved listening to them. Reading them made me feel happy.

This book was originally written in ancient Persian, so I am passing judgement on the English translation of it.

I give the Authorial Voice: (B+)


LESSONS LEARNED

  • Short, simple stories can be very compelling.
  • Don’t be afraid to write towards a theme or ‘moral of the story.’ Especially in short formats, it can work very well.

WHAT IS THE TARGET AUDIENCE?

  • People who are in the mood for folk tales
  • People who want to read emotionally resonant short stories.
  • Safe for all ages
  • It was written with an Islamic target audience in mind, but anyone of any creed can find value in this.

SUMMARY

This was excellent. Now to be sure, I am in this book’s target audience given that I’m a fan of short folk tales, but honestly I found a lot of value in this. The author successfully did a good job of balancing the needs of telling ‘morals of the story’ without preaching about it. I loved this, and I suggest you read it.


STARS: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS (5 Stars=Perfect, 4 Stars=Great, 3 Stars=Good, 2 Stars=Fun but Flawed, 1 Star=Not Recommended)

Overall Rating: Highly Recommended (How I Rate Books)


Goodreads

Genres/Tagwords: Folk tales, Fairy Tales, Rumi, Sufism, Mysticism

Previous books by the author/in the series I’ve reviewed:


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A Literary Discussion of ‘Ashes of the Sun’ by Django Wexler, first book in the ‘Burningblade & Silvereye’ series

A Literary Analysis of ‘The Sheepfarmer’s Daughter’ by Elizabeth Moon, Book 1 of The Deed of Paksenarion

A Literary Discussion of ‘The Rage of Dragons’ by Evan Winter

A Literary Critique of ‘Battle Ground’ by Jim Butcher, Book 17 of ‘The Dresden Files’ series

A Review of ‘Blue Moon Rising’ by Simon Green

A Review of ‘Light of The Jedi’ by Charles Soule

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