This is one of my most anticipated reads for 2021, and now that I’ve read it, I can definitely say that all my tears over getting rejected for an ARC on Netgalley are definitely worth it.
Thank you so much to Tracy Fenton of Compulsive Readers for not only including me in this blog tour, but also sending me a PHYSICAL copy! For an international reader like me, this just incredibly warms my heart.
About the Book
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 50 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 her clever girlfriend Siti, 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….
On-page representation: Author of color, BIPOC characters (Egyptian: both Mamluk and Nubian), Muslim representation (dominant religion and culture, many Muslim characters), LGBTQ+ representation (F/F main characters), North African history and setting (mostly in Egypt, but also covers Soudan and other neighboring countries)
Content/trigger warnings: violence, gore, death, cultural appropriation, racial discrimination (slurs; depictions of othering, challenged), misogyny, police brutality, colonization, religious bigotry (Muslims against “idolaters” or worshipers of old gods)
Disclaimer: I received a physical copy from Orbit Books and Compulsive Readers as part of my participation in this blog tour. This does not affect my review.
I’ve taken to reading this book as a reward for myself whenever I finish a task at work, and this book just keeps my brain and heart going! There’s so much to unpack in this awesome book, and though I know my rambles won’t do it justice, I hope that my excitement gets you to read it and experience its awesomeness firsthand.
It is impossible to even talk about A Master of Djinn without discussing its setting and context. This is Egypt as I have never seen it portrayed before–without a white, Western, and Orientalist lens that flattens and perverts it until it is unrecognizable. It does not hinge its identity on a few random artifacts; rather, it is a place ripe for an urban fantasy.
And honestly? I love living in this world–at least in my daydreams because I surely won’t survive in it–because it feels like home. Because I’ve spent most of my childhood in Bahrain and Qatar, there are some elements here that are so familiar they immediately transport me back home. I never thought I would cheer every time I saw an angry “Khallas!” on the page, nor imagined I would laugh at the very vivid image that a frustrated “Wallahi!” conjured. [Hint: both expressions are always accompanied by very extravagant gestures]. However, nothing I’ve experienced comes close to the rich and layered heritage of Egypt: its power and secrets bubble to the surface and beautifully scorch society with its boiling rage in this masterful text.
The city of Cairo–a place of magic, machines, and misappropriations–is undoubtedly the best character in this book, and its complexity molds the rest of the cast and its relationships. Everyone in this book is grounded by their place in the city: their socioeconomic class, religion, skin color, gender, and so much more. All of these set the stage for the plot premise, and without giving Cairo the attention and respect it is due, it is impossible to fully appreciate the story.
We have the protagonist Fatma, who is a hardened legend and modern woman and has fought to make a name for herself in the ministry. Her outlook on supernatural beings, femininity, and power is definitely a product of her society, and much of her cool exterior hides the perpetual loneliness that often surrounds someone in her station. She is very smart, yet reading her thought process is not intimidating at all. I love putting the clues together as she uncovers each lead, and being on the same pace as her is such a rare feat–I am usually either too dumb to keep up or too impatient to move on to the next act once I’ve figured out everything.
But as much as I admire Fatma, I find that I actually love Hadia best. Usually, women in SFF media have to take on expressions or habits often associated with men in order to be seen as badass figures. Hadia, on the other hand, is someone who loves her hijab, wears her skirted uniform, never misses salah, and smiles cheerily over office work. She is soft, yet she also has a spine of steel. She knows her own mind and is not afraid to fight for her worth, especially when her own partner disregards her. She marches with fellow feminists and quotes the Quran angrily at people who discriminate based on skin color. I wish more women like her will be protagonists in SFF media. I wish soft people will not be shoehorned into the weak/useless category just because they have a sunshine personality.
Overall, I just love this book and I can’t wait to keep talking about it with you!
About the Author
Phenderson Djéli Clark is the author of the novel A Master of Djinn, and the award-winning and Hugo, Nebula, and Sturgeon nominated author of the novellas Ring Shout, The Black God’s Drums and The Haunting of Tram Car 015. His short stories have appeared in online venues such as Tor.com, Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and in print anthologies including, Griots and Hidden Youth. You can find him on Twitter at @pdjeliclark and his blog The Disgruntled Haradrim.
Hope you enjoyed my post! Please don’t forget to check out the rest of the tour by following this schedule 💖
- Have you read A Master of Djinn yet? Any thoughts?
- I really love the genre fusion in this book! Do you have any recommendations for a similar vibe?