A Master of Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark A Master of Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark
Narrator: Suehyla El-Attar
Series: Dead Djinn Universe #1
Published by Macmillan Audio on May 11, 2021
Source: Library
Genres: Fantasy, Steampunk, Historical Mystery
Length: 15 hrs 46 mins
Pages: 392
Format: Audiobook
Purchase at Bookshop.org or Audible
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four-stars

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 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....

There are several short stories set in the same world as A Master of Djinn and I do wish I had read them first. A Master of Djinn does a fabulous showing us this Cairo and introducing the character, but the events from at least two of the stories are mentioned and I think reading them would have given me a better background. I may actually go back and read them now – I did love the world.

A Master of Djinn is more or less a murder mystery set in a steampunk alternate 1912 Cairo where djinn live and work among mortals. Our investigator is Fatma from the Egyptian Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments, and Supernatural Entities. The dead men and woman are members of an Al-Jahiz Secret Brotherhood, all found murdered, their bodies, but not their clothes, burned to a crisp. Turns out an imposter claimant to be Al-Jahiz returned is running around town causing all kinds of havoc.

Clark gives us a fascinating world. We’ve got djinn, clockwork angels, and automaton boilerplate eunuchs. There are temples dedicated to the Old Gods and a jazz club. Thanks to the djinn, Egypt has become a world power, but there are clear racial and class divides.

Fatma is a good main character, perhaps less observant than you’d want an investigator to be, but that helps the plot. She’s smart and tenacious and doesn’t necessarily like following the rules. I liked how her relationship with her maybe-girlfriend, Siti, difficulties and all. Actually, the book has several strong female characters who drive the plot. There are Fatma and Siti, and also Hadia, Fatma’s new partner.

I listened to the audiobook and I thought Suehyla El-Attar did a fabulous job. I have to assume her accents were good, but to me, they fit the book. Her voices helped reinforce the characters’ personalities. She may be my favorite narrator this year.

  • Police procedural with plenty of magic
  • Strong female characters
  • Amazing world-building

About P. Djèlí Clark

Phenderson Djéli Clark is the author of the novel A Master of Djinn, and the award-winning and Hugo, Nebula, and Sturgeon nominated author of the novellas Ring Shout, The Black God’s Drums and The Haunting of Tram Car 015. His short stories have appeared in online venues such as Tor.com, Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and in print anthologies including, Griots and Hidden Youth.

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