Black Author, Books, Fantasy, Queer, Sci-Fi

A Master of Djinn is all of my favorite things about speculative fiction rolled up into one book

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A Master of Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark
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My rating: 4 of 5 stars

We’re back in 1912 in an alternate Cairo that has been dealing with supernatural disturbances. This Cairo has a king and a constitution, and “Everyone has rights, no matter their work.” It also boasts automated wheeled carriages, airships, two-seater gliders, and aerial trams powered by electricity. The world has to deal with the supernatural because about forty years ago, a famed Soudanese mystic and inventor named al-Jahiz used their mysticism and machines to create a hole to the Kaf, the realm where the djinn hail from, before disappearing and taking his machines with him.

This world also has angels, “or at least the beings that claimed to be so,” who “appeared after the djinn, suddenly and without warning.” Angels have nearly ephemeral bodies which require frames made from iron, steel, and gears mimicking muscles and bone to house them. They are quite tall, and can be up to twelve feet tall. Both djinn and angels do not share their true names with humans, preferring to use pseudonyms based on places or purpose, respectively.

Our main character here is Special Investigator Fatma el-Sha’arawi, an agent for the Egyptian Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments, and Supernatural Entities. She wears masculine English clothing that she has tailored to her smaller frame. She kicks ass and takes names. But in this novel, she needs to learn how to accept and work with her new partner, Hadia (only the second women to join the Ministry in a people-facing capacity).

I do agree with some other reviews that mentioned the pacing was slow and it felt a little bit too long. I inhaled the last ~150 pages but there was a middle chunk that I kind of had to make myself get through. I guessed who the villain of the story really was fairly early and while I love Fatma as a character it felt like it took her too long to sort everything out.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book! The story is great, and there’s a sapphic romance in there that’s written really well.

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