Book reviews / Fantasy

Book review: A Master of Djinn

This is the first full length novel set in the world of A Dead Djinn in Cairo and the Haunting of Tramcar 015. It stars my favourite detective, Fatma el-Sha’arawi, from the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities. For those of you not familiar with the world, it’s set in the early 20th century, in a world where the veil between the world of Djinn and other supernatural beings, and the world as we know it, as been breached. Egypt has become a world power and Djinn incorporate into Egyptian life.

Fatma is clever, fearless, wanders around in three piece suits and bowler hats. She is just fantastic.

In this novel, the main tension / villain is the apparent return of the man who broke through to the world of Djinn, Al-Jahiz. Fatma, and her new partner Hadia, need to solve the murder committed by this newly returned legend. But it’s not straight forward and new weird parts of the puzzle emerge as the story unfolds.

There’s lots to love about this novel, especially if you already love the world. I can see somethings that people might not be happy with, so your mileage will vary.

The things to love are obviously the world itself, Cairo and Egypt are vibrant, tinged with old world and magical charm. The characters are all lovingly portrayed, each distinct and interesting. The relationships are complex and multilayered, such as that between Fatma and Siti, as well as Fatma and her rookie partner. I liked the unfolding of the mystery and the misdirection. I loved all the weirdness and fickleness of Djinn. I loved how much more of this universe was revealed.

I think if I had complaints, it would be that some of the elements of the story had been reused in some of the smaller novellas (such as the Clock of Worlds) and that maybe it was just a bit too fantastical. But I didn’t have any problem with it, I loved the build up and how the magic and deceptions were revealed over time. I think it would be definitely better to read the first short stories first, as part of my love for the whole world has come from those first stories.

Anyway, it’s so delightful. I am just so delighted that there is this full length novel. It’s still not enough, I need more Fatma, Djinns and magical mysteries to untangle. Now excuse me as I check if anyone’s done any Fatma cosplay, because that will be epically cool.

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