Book Review: A Master of Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark

A Master of Djinn

Author: P. Djèlí Clark

Narrator: Suehyla El-Attar

Publication Date: 11 May 2021

Genre: Adult Fiction – Fantasy

Length: 15 hours 37 minutes

Publisher: Macmillan Audio

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….

I’m going to start off this review by saying that if you’re an audiobook listener, definitely opt for the audiobook because Suehyla El-Attar is a phenomenal narrator. Her narration in conjunction with P. Djèlí Clark’s characters brings this story to life.

Set in an alternative steampunk Cairo, A Master of Djinn is a fantastical adventure that follows Fatma el-Sha’arawi, a lesbian female agent of the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities who absolutely SLAYS in a suit. Fatma is must team up with her girlfriend Siti and a partner she didn’t asked for (Agent Hadia) to uncover the secrets behind the mysterious murder of the brotherhood devoted to Al-Jahiz (the man who brought magic into the mortal realm).

I knew that I was going to love this book after reading A Dead Djinn in Cairo and The Haunting of Tram Car 015, but I still wasn’t prepared. The worldbuiliding in incredible. I loved the 1900s setting in Egypt and the intersectionality of race, gender, queerness, and colonization. Clark unapologetically sheds light on the issues that marginalized people faced while also showing that BIPOC in fact existed and thrived during this time period. I am so tired of historical fiction that only seems to focus on WWI/WWII and acts like BIPOC did not exist much less play an integral role.

Fatma is an incredible character and really y’all should read this book because of her. She’s fierce, determined, and doesn’t put up with the racist and misogynistic BS that is thrown her way. Fatma has literally become the standard that rookies learn about at the Ministry. The fact that she rocks a suit and has amazing taste in women is also *chef’s kiss*.

This book also boasts magic, Non-western folklore, history, and mystery…all while keeping a propsulive plot that is thoroughly engaging and immersive. If you’re looking to get swept up in a story that will transport you to a different time and place then look no further. I can’t wait to see what P. Djèlí Clark has next.

Thank you to Macmillan Audio for providing an advanced listening copy. This did not influence my review. All opinions are my own.

Get your copy of A Master of Djinn here!

Le Image Photography | Brooklyn

Phenderson Djéli Clark is the award winning and Hugo, Nebula, Sturgeon, and World Fantasy nominated author of the novellas Ring ShoutThe 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.

Born in New York and raised mostly in Houston, Texas, he spent the early formative years of his life in the homeland of his parents, Trinidad and Tobago. When not writing speculative fiction, P. Djèlí Clark works as an academic historian whose research spans comparative slavery and emancipation in the Atlantic World. He melds this interest in history and the social world with speculative fiction, and has written articles on issues ranging from racism and H.P. Lovecraft to critiques of George Schuyler’s Black Empire, and has been a panelist and lecturer at conventions, workshops and other genre events.

At current time, he resides in a small Edwardian castle in New England with his wife, infant daughters, and pet dragon (who suspiciously resembles a Boston Terrier). When so inclined he rambles on issues of speculative fiction, politics, and diversity at his aptly named blog The Disgruntled Haradrim.

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