I don’t think it’s too hard to guess why this one piqued my interest, it does after all, take place in Egypt, and I’m obsessed. I’ve always heard great things about this author, and (semi) recently I enjoyed P. Djeli Clark’s Ring Shout, so this was pretty much a no brainer.
Of course, the next question of “why now?” should also make a good bit of sense considering a novel set in this universe (known fittingly as the A Dead Djinn Universe), A Master of Djinn, is a finalist for the Hugo Award. I figured I should probably read up on the previous installments so I won’t miss any context when reading the novel.
Why I hadn’t jumped into this world before however, is a question I am completely baffled at, as it proved to be completely the thing I like and am always trying to search out and find new instances of. That it’s been out since 2016(!!) and I hadn’t read it and blogged about it is more than a little frustrating, but here we are. Doing it now.
I’m actually wondering if I did pick this up earlier, but bounced off of it because the setting wasn’t ‘ancient’ enough, meaning it wasn’t Assassin’s Creed Origins (although wikipedia tells me that game didn’t exist yet). When this came out, I probably wasn’t really into anything that felt like ‘steampunk’ either, though I hope I have since rid myself of such snobbery. Anyway, I probably read a few pages, saw no references to Ancient Egyptian Gods, and having no background in Islamic Mythology, did not care much about Djinn or Marid, and went on to something else.
Long story short, I should have read a few more pages. I should have read THE WHOLE THING!!
A Dead Djinn in Cairo DOES eventually reveal some cults to Ancient Egyptian gods, the goddess Hathor being of particular note, as I don’t feel like she’s often showcased in fiction (episodes of Disney’s Moon Knight aside). And thanks to my adventures in Daevabad, I do have a bit more context when it comes to Islamic Djinn, Ifrit, and Marid. Also, there are Angels.
All of the elements I’ve mentioned above are mixed together in a veritable soup of religions and alternate history which Clark never allows to become overwhelming. A lot of the Arabic words (like janbiya) and customs were new to me, but it was wonderful to read a story set so firmly within this point of view. The story never seems to fall prey to the type of exoticism we’ve seen in the past (the story even nods to this with the main character’s English suits which she wears because it’s exotic).
Finally, the main character, Fatma, is fun and provocative (within the context of the story). Clark weaves a tight, fast-paced, tale which never allows us to simply marinate in this crazy magical steampunk alternate Cairo, as much as we might like to. There’s murders to solve, and patriarchies to shoot holes in.
So . . . Read?
Yup! I really enjoyed this one, and am greatly looking forward to the next installments: The Angel of Khan el-Khalili, The Haunting of Tram 015, and then A master of Djinn when I get there. Probably the parts that resonated with me the most, were the complexity of world building and grounding of the reader in that POV. I also enjoy a good mystery as much as anyone, especially when it involves magic, the supernatural, and mechanical beings. What’s not to love?
Well that’s the end of the review. Has anyone read this story yet? What did y’all think? What are you most excited about for the next installment. More Djinn? Marid? These mysterious Angels?
Please let me know in the comments. See you next time!