A Master of Djinn

(Dead Djinn Universe #1)

Hardcover, 400 pages

English language

Published May 10, 2021 by Tor.


View on OpenLibrary

4 stars (10 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 …

5 editions

An Arabian steampunk fantasy mystery

4 stars

This was quite an enjoyable book and a fascinating world to explore. It has been a long time since I read any steampunk and this falls very much in that category. The Egyptian setting was excellent and makes me want to read even more in this universe. There are allusions to other adventures between Fatma and Siti so there is more out there to explore.

For a full review, check out my blog: strakul.blogspot.com/2022/06/book-review-master-of-djinn-by-djeli.html

It's fine

2 stars

As much as I wanted to, I didn't find this book very compelling. I certainly like the notion of a fantasy-ish story that takes place somewhere other than London or NYC, but that wasn't really enough for me. The plot gets bogged down in endless explanations -- basically with every introduction of a new tool, location, creature, character, etc, instead of showing us the thing, the author just tells about the thing. The dialogue drags and is repetitive. The concept of the plot has a lot of potential, but in execution it is extremely predictable, especially for a book that purports to be a mystery. The book is vaguely anti-colonial, and the gender politics are certainly interesting, but at the same time it's really falls into traditional genre tropes and in a lot of ways it buys into the accepted structure of western/colonial politics. I almost put it down several …

Wonderful steampunk novel, where Egypt (with the help of Djinn) are a world power

5 stars

An excellent read that immerses the reader in a steampunk and magical alternative world set in the early 20th century, where djinns and other magical creatures exist in Egypt and the rest of the world. This was made possible when a mysterious mystic named al-Jahiz broke the barrier between our world and the magical one. This allowed Egypt to resist European colonization (with the help of djinn) and to become a world power.

Into this world steps Fatma el-Sha’arawi, who works at the Egyptian Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities. She helped save Egypt (and the world) from being taken over by ancient beings from another world in a previous tale ("A Dead Djinn in Cairo"). In this story, she starts with an investigation into the mysterious deaths of a secret brotherhood group that would lead her to confront a person with immense magical powers who claim to be …

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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