A Master of Djinn – P. Djèlí Clark

This seems to be an author who can do no wrong. P. Djèlí Clark manages to switch genres effortlessly, but keep his smart, insightful voice throughout. His novella Ring Shout was one of my favourites of 2020 – I reviewed this over at Grimdark Magazine, and even got to do an interview with him for it (review here and interview here). A Master of Djinn is his first full-length novel, but it goes back to the world that he created in the short story A Dead Djinn in Cairo (which you can read for free here) – and returns to the wonderful leading character Fatma el-Sha’awawi.

Massive thanks to Orbit for sending me an ARC. All opinions are entirely my own.

RELEASE DATE: 19/08/2021


SUMMARY: 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 fifty 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. (from Orbit)

OPINIONS: This is brilliant. I think chances are good that this will become one of my all-time favourites. There isn’t anything that I would change about this story. A Master of Djinn is smart, sapphic and compelling. And it ruthlessly trolls the foreigners in the story, especially the English – who come to Cairo, believing they are above Egyptians and just.. fail. Apart from being a great story, it deals with colonialism, its repercussions and the arrogance resulting from it, and it does so incredibly well.

Historical fantasy is one of my favourite genres at the moment, and this seamlessly weaves together a historical fantasy tale with a procedural murder mystery and added djinn. Never boring, A Master of Djinn is both well-written and compelling throughout. I loved the use of djinn-lore, the many kinds that are present in stories. It’s getting to the point where I really need to read up on them after such great adaptations of them in fantasy.

This also features fantastic characters. Fatma is such an amazing badass and I want to be more like her. She is not the only great one, but she is the one that stands out to me. She has impressive respect for the social structures she is part of, while being truly her own person, acting in ways that seem contradictory to her surroundings. Fatma is a role model to us all, and her relationship with Siti is so cute. I stan.

I highly suggest you keep an eye out for this one, especially if you like smart fantasy that draws on important issues. You can add A Master of Djinn to your Goodreads here, and pre-order a copy from Bookshop here (affiliate link).

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