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 forty 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 a familiar person from her past, 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…
P. Djeli Clark’s writing attacks your senses. From the colorful souk to the unforgettable fight scenes, Clark immerses the reader in his world. Transported to this place in time that has been permanently altered by the release of djinns and other magical being forty years prior… A Master of Djinn brings you magic, politics, and a very good mystery.
I’ve tried my best to narrow it down to three things I loved about this book:
- Setting: I had already experienced Clark’s world in his previous novella The Haunting of Tram Car 015 and his short story A Dead Djinn in Cairo. Conflicts abound within the bureaucracy of the government, the colonial rule, and a crime that will pit money, magic, and the truth at odds with each other. The conflicts will drive this story into dark alleys, the offices of Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities, and into the monied halls of secret societies.
- Mystery: This first scene in the book reveals the crime… At a meeting of a secret group dedicated to al-Jahiz, the man who was responsible for allowing the world to become entrenched in magic. The society believes that the key to understanding the man is through artifacts connected to al-Jahiz’s life. But when his powerful sword is revealed at the meeting, a summons is set in motion. One that results in the death of all participants and the city is upended.
- Character: There is so much to like about Agent Fatma el-Sha’arwi… She’s connected, intelligent, and strong, yet so human and vulnerable at times. Her on-again off-again girlfriend Siti has returned to Cairo with information that may help the case, but is she too close to the subject at hand to give Fatma a clear picture? The agent must wade through all the evidence while in danger herself. Add a new apprentice who she wants nothing to do with. Fatma is used to her independence and her eccentricities, but The Ministry has other plans. Will she be able to juggle all these pieces while keeping the killer in her sights?
A Master of Djinn is a book to get wrapped up in… I had so much on my plate this week, but a couple hours a night immersed in this world gave me the escape I needed. Enjoy this book, and at the same time get a deep dive into colonialism, women’s rights… oh, and there’s a good deal of humor.
4.5 out of 5 stars
Thank you to NetGalley, Tor Books, and the author for an advanced copy for review.