A Master of Djinn

, #1

Hardcover, 400 pages

English language

Published May 10, 2021 by Tor.

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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

reviewed A Master of Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark (Dead Djinn Universe, #1)

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 …

reviewed A Master of Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark (Dead Djinn Universe, #1)

Gumshoes in steampunk Egypt

4 stars

Agent Fatma is called to investigate the deaths of all members of a secret society, and assigned a new young partner, the latest woman in an organization that is overwhelmingly male. So a bit of old-cop, new-cop, plays out throughout the story, where Fatma learns to trust her partner.

There’s plenty of sluething and subterfuge at play in this book, with a fantasy, sci-fi, and whodunit mashup. Clark keeps the pages turning, with occasional head-scratchers. For instance, why does Fatma routinely make mistakes in how she conducts her work with Djinn, when that’s her job?

However, the general grist of the story is strong, the characters are engaging, and the surprises are truly surprising. I recommend it.

reviewed A Master of Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark (Dead Djinn Universe, #1)

Inspired world-building, excellent murder mystery set in an alternate djinn-punk Cairo

5 stars

As others have noted, this is an alternate steampunk universe set in the 1910's. A world changed by a single man piercing the veil, and bringing Djinn and magic back into our world. Since that happened about 40 years ago, the djinn have transformed Cairo with their amazing mechanical creations, including robots, flying gliders and trams, and mechanical brains in buildings.

The main character, Fatma, is a respected, if youngest female, investigator in the Ministry of Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities. She is definitely a maverick, dressing in suits, hats, and carrying a sword cane.

The descriptions of clothing and locations feed the imagination, breathing life into the world and putting it all in your mind's eye. The gradually revealing of the consequences of the mass murder in a secret brotherhood in honor of al-Jahiz, the man who brought back magic to the world, is gripping. The impostor …

reviewed A Master of Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark (Dead Djinn Universe, #1)

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

reviewed A Master of Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark (Dead Djinn Universe, #1)

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.