Title: A Master of Djinn
Author: P. Djèlí Clark
Genre: Alternate History Fantasy
Rating: 3.5 of 5
(Thank you to the author and publisher for a free eARC via NetGalley. This in no way affects the content of my review.)
For me, good worldbuilding covers a multitude of sins, and this book has excellent worldbuilding. This first novel in P. Djèlí Clark’s djinn universe continues and expands on his fascinating alternate history from the first two novellas (A Dead Djinn in Cairo and The Haunting of Tram Car 015). While you could enjoy this book without reading the novellas, I would strongly suggest reading at least A Dead Djinn in Cairo which introduces most of the major characters, their world, and some important plot points.
This world was irrevocably changed in the mid-1800’s when a Soudanese mystic, Al Jahiz, bored a hole into the kaf, allowing djinn and assorted other supernatural entities to freely enter our world, bringing with them their magic and technology and transforming Egypt into one of the “Great Powers.” Now (in 1912) as Europe is teetering on the edge of conflict someone claiming to be Al Jahiz has reappeared sowing discord and mayhem. It’s once again up to Agent Fatma el-Shar’arawi (one of the few women working for the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments, and Supernatural Entities) to figure out what is going on and save the day.
Like all of P. Djèlí Clark’s work, the storytelling deals with moral/social issues (feminism, post-colonialism, LGBTQ+, etc.), in a pretty heavy-handed fashion. Depending on how much preachiness you are willing to put up with in your fiction, this may affect your enjoyment of the book to some degree.
I was a little disappointed in the mystery aspect of the plot as I thought that certain parts of it were painfully obvious and Fatma was much too slow to figure them out (given how brilliant she is supposed to be). That said, the overall plot was engrossing, entertaining, and revealed fascinating new details of this alternate world. I am looking forward to further installments in the series!