A Master of Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark
Publisher: Orbit Books
Publication date: 19 August 2021
Genre: Historical fantasy
Page count: 416 pages
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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 am a huge fan of Clark’s books. I discovered him during the pandemic while scrolling through Scribd and he quickly became one of my favourite authors — I totally fell in love with his lush worlds and amazing characters. My favourite of his works are his Cairo stories, so you can imagine how excited I was to hear that A Master of Djinn would be a full length novel!
First things first, you may be wondering if you need to read the other books in this series in order to understand and enjoy A Master of Djinn — I don’t think you do. If you’re on the fence, I’d recommend picking up the short story A Dead Djinn in Cairo, as it introduces Fatma and Siti, and there are some references to that story in A Master of Djinn (and it’s fabulous!). But you really can dive into this novel without reading the first two stories.
There’s a lot to love about Clark’s vision of an alternate Cairo — he creates a gorgeous world filled with djinn and everyday people with a touch of magic. What I loved about A Master of Djinn is the way he seamlessly blends familiar, real-world history with fantasy elements. In this world, conflicts and politics evolve with the introduction of the Djinn in Egypt in a way that felt realistic, and he wove these elements into the conflicts of the story, along with folklore and magic. I’ve been craving more of this world ever since finished The Haunting of Tram Car 015, and A Master of Djinn delivered.
Where Clark shines is his wonderful characters and dialogue. This novel is filled with wonderful primary and secondary characters from various walks of life, adding to the richness of the story. Fatma is a character I totally fell in love with from the moment she strutted onto the page in A Dead Djinn in Cairo, and she continues to be one of my absolute favourite characters ever. Not only is she a supremely snarky and sarcastic woman (which I will always love), she’s an incredibly savvy investigator. I loved watching her piece together this mystery! Two of my other favourites are Siti, Fatma’s lover, and Hadia, Fatma’s enthusiastic and unwanted new partner. Siti is someone we met in the initial short story and I adored seeing the two of them in an established relationship, as well as watching that relationship grow and evolve. Hadia was a fabulous addition to this series. She’s not just a device to reflect Fatma’s own prejudices, which I feel she could be in the hands of a less capable writer, she’s an incredibly brilliant investigator in her own right. I loved their banter and watching them settle into a partnership.
A Master of Djinn solidifies Clark’s (already incredibly stable) place as one of my absolute favourite authors. A fast-paced, action-packed mystery with lots of depth, A Master of Djinn is an absolute must-read for fantasy fans. I’d highly recommend this to any fans of historical fantasy, but especially those who enjoyed the Daevabad series.
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