Master of Djinn by P Djeli Clark

Master of Djinn (Fatma el-Sha’arawi, #1)

by P. Djèlí Clark

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 fifty 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 a mysterious person from her past, 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…

A Master of Djinn is poised to launch P. Djèlí Clark’s SFF career to new heights as the highly-anticipated debut readers are clamoring for.

Reviewed by annieb123 on

5 of 5 stars

Originally posted on my blog: Nonstop Reader.

A Master of Djinn is a beautifully written alternate history fantasy set in WWI Egypt by Dr. P. Djèlí Clark. Released 11th May 2021 from Macmillan on their Tor/Forge imprint, it's 392 pages and is available in hardcover, audio, and ebook formats.

This is such a transportive novel. I was reading it at a difficult time in my life; a time when I often simply didn't have the endurance to sit and read (and this is a shocking condition for me - I read constantly - voraciously). The narrative is so beautifully and evocatively written that it enraptured me and gave me a little respite from the real world.

The protagonist (introduced in a currently free prequel available in Tor's website) is a smart, funny, badass sharp dressing investigator with impressive skills. The plotting is tightly written and despite being fantasy, it feels *real* and believable. Fatma's not perfect. She's not supergirl, just breezing through every hurdle. She's good at her job and part of that is knocking up against her limitations and knowing when to accept help from her team.

I really loved the writing. It's good and the dialogue is sublimely readable. The subgenre (fantasy cop procedural set in an alternate world) is one of my absolute favorites and I finished the book impatient for the next. I promptly went back and re-read the earlier stories in the series (two of them are currently free from Tor). This author (already richly rewarded by his peers and fans with multiple nominations and wins for Hugo, Nebula, BFAs, Locus, etc) is also genuinely talented and readable.

This is one of the best books I've read this year (and it's almost November and I'm bumping 700 books reviewed for 2021, so that's a fairly big field of competition). For readers who enjoy fantasy, alternate history, and mystery, this is a very very good book. The protagonist is in a lesbian relationship, but it's not a huge focus of the book; nor is the romance element overplayed in my estimation.

Can't wait to see what comes next.

Five stars.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

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Reading updates

  • Started reading
  • 23 October, 2021: Finished reading
  • 23 October, 2021: Reviewed