Hardcover, 400 pages

English language

Published May 10, 2021 by Tor.

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4 stars (4 reviews)

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 …

4 editions

Perfect to read on a boat in Egypt

4 stars

I read two shorter works set in the same universe first, so I knew what to expect, more or less. As a mystery novel, the book is good, but maybe a bit less surprising than the author intended. I did really enjoy the setting, perhaps because I was somewhere where I could hear Arabic spoken all around me. And of course anything that makes fun of the (fallen) British Empire has my sympathies.

In 1912, Egypt is the foremost power of the world …

3 stars

… and if you want know more, you will need to read this breathless paranormal investigation set in a Cairo where Djinns, magic, humans and technology cohabit, mostly, if not always, peacefully. The pace is breakneck, the tone and characters engrossing, the setting perfect not only in its freshness but in its wariness of pure escapist fantasy. If there is one thing P Djèli Clark has not quite mastered yet, then it is the Pratchettian segue from the serious undercurrent to the more ludicrous aspects of the plot – but then, Pratchett himself was a far cry from a perfect Pratchettian in his first novels. Djinnpunk (hat tip to @joachim@lire.boitam.eu for the term) is the infusion of elemental forces the Steampunk genre needed, and I, for one, am eager to see more of it.

A solid first novel based in a steampunk—or djinnpunk—city of Cairo

4 stars

Following the return of Djinn and other mythic and magical creatures in the world, Cairo is the center of the world as the 20th centurty is beginning. Fatma el-Sha’arawi is a dapper dresser first and foremost, and works as an agent of the ministry in charge of overviewing alchemy, enchantments and supernatural entities.

I liked this novel. The rythm holds us to the seat of our pants, the characters are well rounded, the main critic I’d have to make is that this books depends too much on the previous novelettes/short stories in the same universe. I liked that the main story revolves around story elements also present in S. A. Chakraborty's Daevabad trilogy. The fact that Chakraborty's quote is on A Master of Djinn's cover reinforces the closeness of these two litterary worlds. Old middle-eastern legends come back to life, and it's a perspective that's sorely lacking in western SF/F.

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5 stars