Monday, May 16, 2022

A Master of Djinn

P. Djeli Clark
Completed 5/12/2022, Reviewed 5/13/2022
4 stars

This is the first full novel in Clark’s Djinn in Cairo series.  I really liked the first two, A Dead Djinn in Cairo and The Haunting of Tram Car 015, and I really liked this one too.  It was a fun mystery with a secret society, murders, a Lesbian investigator, and of course djinn.  While I once again didn’t read this quickly because I was preoccupied with my move, I loved the time I got to spend with the book.  The star of the book is, of course, the world-building, but I thought the character development was pretty great as well. 

In this alternate-history Egypt, a secret society devoted to al-Jahiz, the man who opened the portal to the worlds of magic, is wiped out during one of their ceremonies.  The members were mostly English high-born, still living there though Egypt gained its independence from Great Britain.  Agent Fatma from the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments, and Supernatural Entities is called in to investigate the mysterious deaths.  At the same time, she gets assigned a new female agent, Hadia, to be her partner.  The murderer claims to be al-Jahiz, returned to aid the downtrodden left behind by technology and the new Egyptian government.  Fatma and Hadia, with the help of Siti, Fatma’s secret lover, try to find and subdue this supposed incarnation of al-Jahiz.

I really liked the three main women in this story.  Fatma was terrific again as she navigated the temples and alleyways looking for clues to the truth behind al-Jahiz.  She’s very good at her job, but at the same time, her youth and inexperience show.  She’s not infallible and occasionally misses important clues.  Hadia was cool as the by-the-book apprentice.  She was a surprisingly deep and insightful character, not just an annoying newbie.  I really liked Siti, who appeared previously under the name of Abla in the last story.  She’s magically powerfully and very mysterious.  She scales the wall to get to Fatma’s bedroom to avoid suspicion of their relationship.  She also has interesting insight into ways of the magic and the djinn who are now a part of the Egyptian cultural scene.  It’s also worth mentioning the character (whose name I forgot) who is slowly turning into the crocodile god of the Nile.  He keeps popping up throughout the story, his transformation a little further each time.  He provides relevant info as the case evolves.  He’s not particularly funny or tragic, just very interesting.

The characters I wish were more prevalent were the two investigators from Haunting, Hamed and Onsi.  They do show up, but I think Clark has more Cairo mysteries up his sleeve and I’m sure we’ll see them again.

I give this book four stars out of five.  I generally have a hard time giving a mystery five stars because I don’t get as emotionally involved as my five-star rating requires.  The same holds true for this book.  It’s excellent, but didn’t tie me in emotional knots.  The prose, world-building, and characterization are all terrific.  And by the way, the plot isn’t a simple murder mystery.  It evolves into a battle for the future of the world.  It’s hard to imagine what Clark will come up with next if he continues this series, but if there’s another book in this series, I’ll definitely read it.

No comments:

Post a Comment