Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.
When Al-Jahiz opened up the veil between the magical and mundane realms, he changed the world forever. Fifty years later, the members of a brotherhood dedicated to him are slaughtered, burned by a magical fire. Agent Fatma el-Sha’arawi of the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities is called in to investigate, oh and they’ve assigned her a partner. Not what she was wanting.
If you’re both done playing my wet nurse, we have a possible world-ending occurrence to stop.
Since I first read A Dead Djinn in Cairo I have just wanted more of this universe, and The Haunting of Tram Car 015 delivered another taster, so I was so ready for this full length novel and it was everything I’d wanted from the shorter stories.
If you are new to the series, A Master of Djinn is set in an alternate Egypt in 1912. The djinn and their magic helped Egypt claim independence from the British Empire and have forged ahead in technology and social progress. It’s a little bit steam punky, with magical trams and boilerplate eunuchs, a kind of automaton with a degree of sentience.
The high priests and priestesses meet every month for coffee. We hold inter-temple potlucks. Why, Sobek and Set are roommates.
Agent Fatma investigates cases associated with the djinn or other supernatural entities. She wears men’s suits and has a kick-ass girlfriend called Siti, who might just be more than she seems. I liked how this story weaves in different beliefs, adding in some of the ancient Egyptian gods and goddesses as well as the modern Islam. Those who believe in the old gods are often treated without respect, but if djinn are real, why not some of the other stories too?
The murderer is not hard to track down but he claims to be Al-Jahiz, returned from the grave, ready to rile up the masses to strike out against injustice. There are certainly parallels with some of the behaviour we’ve seen over the last couple of years, with people hearing what they want to hear and getting swept along with the fever.
But a loud and determined minority was all you needed to sow chaos.
It’s a bit of a trope, an experienced agent getting assigned a rookie partner that they don’t want, but I loved the addition of Agent Hadia and how Fatma soon comes to realise she’s treating her exactly how she wouldn’t wanted to be treated herself. Hadia wears hijab and is much better than Fatma about remembering to make time to pray. She shows that her faith can fit in with Fatma’s less traditional lifestyle.
I loved the world building, the characters and the mystery. It’s thoughtful and fun. More please!
You’re certain he isn’t a djinn? Half the cats in Cairo are probably djinn, you know…
A Master of Djinn is published by Orbit in the UK and will be available in paperback on 19th August, with the ebook available now. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.
20 Books of Summer #9
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