A Master of Djinn
If you've been following P. Djèlí Clark's Dead Djinn Universe, then you've been on the tram car towards the highly anticipated full-length novel, A Master of Djinn. In real Clark fashion, he has ...
- Blackness Present5.0
If you’ve been following P. Djèlí Clark’s Dead Djinn Universe, then you’ve been on the tram car towards the highly anticipated full-length novel, A Master of Djinn. In real Clark fashion, he has crafted a mystery/police procedural within the steampunk-alternate world of 1912 Cairo. Although it is preceded by other shorter works, this book reads well as a standalone.
The world of this series is in alternate 1912, where countries such as Egypt are not in servitude to colonial European countries. Instead, they are world powers themselves as a result of a genius scientist/scholar, Al-Jahiz, opening the fabric of the world to the world of magical Djinns 50 years prior. Our immediate story follows Fatma el-Sha’arawi, a Special Investigator for the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities. Her job is to investigate and solve magical problems. When a secret brotherhood of influential (mostly) foreigners gets murdered, by a person calling themself “Al-Jahiz”, she has to solve this mystery fast before the World Peace Summit in Cairo can occur. What ensues is a well-crafted mystery that keeps you entertained with both red herrings and world-specific reveals that hold your intrigue throughout. With a slew of speculative mysteries being released this year, A Master of Djinn is easily a great start for readers who want books that traverse genres without the heavy tropes of each overpowering the narrative.
The first thing I have to praise about this book (as someone who’s always completely in awe of the depth and cohesion in Clark’s books) is worldbuilding. He has somehow managed to build a steampunk, futuristic world in the early twentieth century – making it vivid, believable and immersive whilst not overwhelming the narrative. From the vibrant alleyways, technology and architecture, to the descriptions of food, subcultures and traditions, there’s never a moment when it doesn’t feel real.
In the same vein of excellence, is his characters. Clark can write women! This novel is no exception, especially with the return of Fatma from the short story, A Dead Djinn in Cairo. Not only are they strong, charismatic, and self-reliant, but their strength does not rely on or emulate their male counterparts. And speaking of their male counterparts, fans of The Haunting of Tram Car 015 will be happy to know that Hamed and Onsi make more than just an appearance with their mismatched chemistry present as ever. I’m excited for readers to meet Siti and Hadia and fall in love with these foils to Fatma who – as their own characters – stand amazingly well on their own. Our heroes, however, are not infallible (the execution of their tactics sometimes go awry). Even better is the personalities injected into the magical beings – Djinns and Angels (and many more introduced in the novel) – that convinces us of how much they’ve intermingled into the human world.
Throughout the book, Clark weaves and explores themes of differentness, acceptance, selflessness, dominance and servitude in such a seamless, sensitive and subtle way. P. Djeli Clark’s writing is also something to get excited for because it is still (iykyk) amazing. With topics like sexism, colonialism, religion, and homosexuality he expertly addresses them without being on the nose. He weaves them as they exist even in today’s world. They aren’t part of a checkbox but rather essential to the story’s progression. And if you’ve been reading Clark up to this point, I guarantee you will not be disappointed. With great pacing, this won’t be a mystery that drags you along.
It is undeniable that readers will want another book as soon as possible because I’m already patiently waiting for more.