‘A Master of Djinn‘ is the debut novel from P Djeli Clark and set in an alternative Cairo in the early 20th century combining magic and police procedural. If you’d like to know more about this new fantasy novel then please keep scrolling…
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….
Firstly, I loved the setting – an alternative Cairo, Steampunk style, with a Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities investigation driving the plot structure. Clark can certainly world build and this was the shining success of the novel. I wasn’t aware of P. Djeli Clark as an author before reading ‘A Master of Djinn’, however he has a back catalogue of short stories before this debut full-length novel, starting with ‘A Dead Djinn in Cairo’ in his ‘Dead Djinn Universe’ series.
What’s impressive about this novel is the world that Clark creates; it’s created with authorial craft and a huge dash of panache. The Djinn have supported Egypt in the removal of the British and the country is now a magical world of Ministries, underground nightclubs, mythical creatures and a dash of added political strife. It’s a truly fleshed out and ‘alive’ world, and our protagonist at the centre is Fatma. Fatma is generally an interesting construct, despite her inability to control and effectively lead an investigation into the murders of a secret brotherhood. This was a little frustrating, as she missed several leads and misconstrued clear information – although this did give the character more layers, flaws and some complexities. Most characters are not overly three-dimensional, they seem more constructs of the world and the plot. The plot is perhaps, the weakest part of the novel – for me. With a sharper protagonist and an edited, reviewed plot this novel would have shined more brightly. Please don’t take that as a reason not to read this book; there’s so much I loved and the final quarter of the book picked up dramatically and totally hurtled me to the final pages. Clark takes his time to describe and set the scene – this is the brilliance of the author’s creativity and I loved the steampunk throughout.
‘A Master of Djinn’ is a witty, supernatural murder mystery where a mismatched detective duo are pitched against a dastardly villainy; it’s set in a brilliant steampunk world enhanced with Ifrit, Djinns and gods ending with a dash of cinematic styling.
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 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.
Please buy from independents if you can XX