Excerpt from A Fort of Nine Towers by Qais Akbar Omar, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

A Fort of Nine Towers

An Afghan Family Story

By Qais Akbar Omar

A Fort of Nine Towers
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • Hardcover: Apr 2013,
    416 pages.
    Paperback: Apr 2014,
    416 pages.

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

Wakeel was the kite master, the kite-flying teacher to us all. The kids on the street had given him the title of "Wakeel, the Cruel Cutter," because he had cut so many of their kites.

One afternoon, Wakeel looked at me as we were heading to the roof with our kites and said, "Let's have a fight!" As usual, his long, dark hair fell over his forehead, brushing his thick eyebrows. And below them were his deep-set, dark eyes that sparkled, always.

I said okay, though I knew he would cut me right away. But from the earliest age we are taught never to run away from a fight, even if we think we cannot win.

The roof of Grandfather's apartment block was ideal for kite flying. Rising high above the trees that grew along the street, it was like a stage. People below—adults as well as kids—would see the kites going into the air, and stop everything that they were doing to watch the outcome. A good fight would be talked about for days after.

After we had had our kites in the air for half an hour, taunting and feinting, Wakeel called from the far end of the roof in amazement, "You have learned a lot! It used to take me only five minutes to cut you. Now it has been more than half an hour, and you are still in the sky."

Suddenly, he used a trick that he had not yet shown me. He let his kite loop around mine as if he were trying to choke it. I felt the string in my hand go slack, and there was my kite, flat on its back, wafting back and forth like a leaf in autumn, drifting off across the sky away from me.

Wakeel laughed and made a big show of letting his kite fly higher so everybody in the street could see he had yet again been the victor. I ran downstairs to get another kite.

Berar, a Hazara teenager who worked with our gardener, loved kite fighting. All the time I had been battling Wakeel, he had been carefully following every dive, envious.

Berar was a few years older than Wakeel, tall, handsome, and hardworking. His family lived in Bamyan, where the big statues of Buddha were carved into the mountains. Berar was not his real name. Berar in Hazaragi dialect means "brother." We did not know what his real name was, and he did not mind us calling him Berar.

As the suspense had built between Wakeel and me, Berar could not stop watching us. The old gardener spoke to him impatiently several times: "The weeds are in the ground, not in the sky. Look down." The gardener was always harsh to Berar.

"Give the boy a break," Grandfather told the gardener. They were working together on Grandfather's beloved rosebushes. I had just sent a second kite into the air. Grandfather nodded at Berar. "Go on," he said.

Berar ran up to the rooftop, where I was struggling to gain altitude while avoiding Wakeel's torpedoing attacks. Berar took the string from me and told me to hold the reel.

I had never seen Berar fly a kite before. I kept shouting at him, "Kashko! Kashko! Pull it in!" But Berar did not need my instructions; he knew exactly what to do. Wakeel shouted at me that I could have a hundred helpers and he would still cut me. Though he was tall and skinny, he was very strong and he was furiously pulling in his kite to circle it around mine.

Berar was getting our kite very high very fast, until in no time at all it was higher than Wakeel's. Then he made it dive so quickly that it dropped like a stone through the air. Suddenly, there was Wakeel's kite, drifting back and forth from left to right, floating off to Kandahar, separated from the now limp string in Wakeel's hand.

I climbed on Berar's shoulders, screaming for joy. I had the string of my kite in my hands. My kite was so high in the sky, it looked like a tiny bird. The neighbor kids on the street were shouting, too. They had not seen Berar doing it, only me on Berar's strong shoulders, cheering and shouting: "Wakeel, the Cruel Cutter, has been cut!" I kissed Berar many times. He was my hero. He gave me the title of "Cutter of the Cruel Cutter," even though it was he who had made it happen.

Copyright © 2013 by Qais Akbar Omar

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  Afghanistan: Parsing the Players

Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Shotgun Lovesongs
    Shotgun Lovesongs
    by Nickolas Butler
    Nickolas Butler's debut novel, Shotgun Lovesongs, follows five life-long friends, now in their mid-...
  • Book Jacket: Gemini
    by Carol Cassella
    How good is Gemini, Carol Cassella's book about a Seattle intensive care physician who becomes ...
  • Book Jacket: The Goldfinch
    The Goldfinch
    by Donna Tartt
    Winner of the 2014 Pulitzer for Fiction.

    Her canvas is vast. To frame a story about art, love and ...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
by Gabrielle Zevin

Published Apr. 2014

Join the discussion!

Who Said...

They say that in the end truth will triumph, but it's a lie.

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

P Your O C

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.