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Thursday, June 3, 2021

Master of Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark review

Official Author Website
Order Master of Djinn over HERE (US) and HERE (UK)


ABOUT AUTHOR: Phenderson Djéli Clark is the award winning and Hugo, Nebula, Sturgeon, and World Fantasy nominated author of the novellas Ring Shout, The Black God's Drums and The Haunting of Tram Car 015. His stories have appeared in online venues such as Tor.com, Daily Science Fiction, Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, Apex, Lightspeed, Fireside Fiction, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and in print anthologies including, Griots, Hidden Youth and Clockwork Cairo. He is a founding member of FIYAH Literary Magazine and an infrequent reviewer at Strange Horizons. You can visit his author site at www.pdjeliclark.com to find out more. You can also read his ramblings on SFF, history, & diversity at his aptly named blog, The Disgruntled Haradrim. His debut full length novel a Master of Djinn will be published by Tor.com in May 2021.

FORMAT/INFO: Published May 11th, 2021 with Tordotcom. Page count: 400 p (HC). Cover art by Stephan Martiniere.

OVERVIEW: Agent Fatma el-Sha'arawi works with the Egyptian Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments, and Supernatural Entities. She deals with haughty djinns, devious angels, and inept men running the world. And with a possible world-destroying event, but you know, crazy comes with this job.

P. Djèlí Clark's vision of an alternate Cairo is fascinating. In 1872, a man named Al-Jahiz opened a portal to another dimension, allowing magic and magical creatures into our reality. In the years that followed, Egypt became a new power, famous for its wonders of mechanics (like automatic carriages) and magic. England, on the other hand, failed to embrace the new age and is barely an empire anymore. This leads to international friction. Maintaining the delicate balance between world powers becomes tricky when someone claiming to be Al-Jahiz goes on a murderous rampage through Cairo.

I liked the way the author integrated all the components of his story. He lets us learn all about the various historical and current events that distinguish this world from our continuum through casual, off-the-cuff conversations and through Fatma's musings. He gives clear portraits of his characters, including the villains and supernatural beings. 

I loved Fatma, one of the Ministry's few female operatives. She is highly competent, smart and independent. She has the drive and determination to succeed, but not at the expense of others. Her interactions with Hadja, a partner she neither wanted nor asked for, and Sati, a mysterious "independent contractor" (and overall badass) felt genuine and natural. Their collaboration and relationships aren't always easy, but they all address issues and resolve them in a friendly way. I found this refreshing - these days, most fantasy books wallow in gray morality and violence; Master of Djinn keeps the stakes high, but also makes the reader smile and feel warm and fuzzy inside.

In addition to the wholesome characters, engaging plot, and arcane mysteries, the book deals with issues such as colonialism, sexism, racism, and more, but never gets preachy. Instead, it allows the reader to make up their own mind about the morality of the issues. 

CONCLUSION: A Master of Djinn is the first novel set in a world outlined in a novelette A Dead Djinn in Cairo and the novella The Haunting of Tram Car 015. Djèlí Clark delves deep into this world and ups the stakes considerably. With great success! The ending left me with a satisfied smile and appetite for more.

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