Published: May 11, 2021
Series: Dead Djinn Universe #1
Pages: 400 (Hardcover)
My Rating: 4.5/5.0
A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Nebula, Locus, and Alex Award-winner P. Djèlí Clark returns to his popular alternate Cairo universe for his fantasy novel debut, A Master of Djinn
Cairo, 1912: Though Fatma el-Sha’arawi is the youngest woman working for the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities, she’s certainly not a rookie, especially after preventing the destruction of the universe last summer.
So when someone murders a secret brotherhood dedicated to one of the most famous men in history, al-Jahiz, Agent Fatma is called onto the case. Al-Jahiz transformed the world 50 years ago when he opened up the veil between the magical and mundane realms, before vanishing into the unknown. This murderer claims to be al-Jahiz, returned to condemn the modern age for its social oppressions. His dangerous magical abilities instigate unrest in the streets of Cairo that threaten to spill over onto the global stage.
Alongside her Ministry colleagues and her clever girlfriend Siti, Agent Fatma must unravel the mystery behind this imposter to restore peace to the city – or face the possibility he could be exactly who he seems…
I see a book with Egypt + Agents + Supernatural Entities + Secret Brotherhoods, I simply cannot resist such allure. My heart, filled with yearning for such a book! And here it is! A Master of Djinn is my first P. Djèlí Clark book and as I understand it, this is his first full length fantasy novel after writing a number of well acclaimed short stories and novellas.
Agent Fatma el-Sha’arawi is one of the few female agents in the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities and though fairly young, she is well known for having stopped a rogue angel who tried to puncture reality with a magical clock. When a wealthy and influential English lord is murdered along with over 20 other people at a meeting of their secret brotherhood, Fatma is called in to act as the Ministry liaison. At nearly the same time, Fatma is also saddled with a partner she doesn’t particularly want though fortunately she does come around. Hadia proves herself to be quite useful and the few women in the Ministry must stick together after all. Oh, and Fatma’s sort of girlfriend also turns up and gets involved because two worshippers of the ancient gods were killed at the massacre as well.
This sounds like one heck of a story already, right? You would be correct, but WAIT THERE’S MORE! The masked fellow that murdered everyone with fire that only burned their flesh is proclaiming himself to be al-Jahiz returned! So, in addition to Fatma’s struggle to solve a case during a time of political tension, the citizenry is now unstable thanks to the so-called al-Jahiz riling them. It’s one thing after another and it’s pretty much non-stop the entire duration of the book. I was exhausted on Fatma and Hadia’s behalf.
*GASP* I prepared to post this and realized I barely talked about how great the characters were! Fatma and Hadia were obviously these wonderfully badass ladies, but Siti! She is this glorious cat-like, stealthy woman who could steal a thousand hearts! Hadia seems kind and a little more on the traditional side, but it doesn’t stop her from basically being a ninja with handheld weaponry. Fatma has an incredible sense of style – I love all the descriptions of her posh suits and velvet hats! The djinn were fascinating, the minor characters were interesting and even though some only appeared in a few scenes I was left wanting to know even more about them!
Here we have an incredible story that I didn’t want to put down which is awesome, but the setting was truly glorious. This whole world, with its magical Cairo and hosts of djinn and mechanical angels (and even distant faeries and goblins!) was so utterly compelling that I’m now very certain that I need more books from this world! The possibilities are numerous and I’m definitely planning to pick up the two novellas (A Dead Djinn in Cairo and The Haunting of Tram Car 015) in the near future. This wondrous Egyptian setting combined with all the other little details in the synopsis totally sold me on picking this up in the first place and I encourage you to do the same! Also, just look at that cover!