04.29.2021

A Master of Djinn (Fatma el-Sha'arawi #3)
by P. Djèlí Clark
out May 11, 2021
ISBN: 9781541788510
★★★★★

[click here to read the first story in the series, A Dead Djinn in Cairo, free at Tor.com]

Fatma is an agent of the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities in an alternate-history steampunk Cairo where djinn live and work among humans. Having already saved the world once in A Dead Djinn in Cairo, Fatma has a reputation for handling weird, sensitive, and dangerous cases. Her current case, involving a mass spontaneous human combustion event of a secretive brotherhood of wealthy Englishmen, is all of the above.

Perhaps readers could enjoy this book, which is the third that takes place in this world, without having read the previous two -- but I wouldn't recommend it. So much of the plot here depends upon understanding the world that has been built as well as the conclusion of the events in book 1. Book one, A Dead Djinn in Cairo, and book 2, The Haunting of Tram Car 015, are quick reads and more than worth the time.

The plot here is elaborate without straying into confusion, with entertaining literary devices I haven't often encountered. One important theme in the book (without going into spoilers) includes attempting to recover a magical artifact that has been spelled to cause you to forget about its existence. Fatma and her partner, Hadia, must constantly hide notes through their pockets and things to remind them what they are looking for. This also helps the reader stay on top of a complicated case -- we are often reminded alongside Fatma and Hadia what is going on.

There is some romance, but not enough to characterize the work as a romance itself -- just enough to expand the plot, as Fatma's love interest, Siti, has secrets of her own that propel the events forward -- and readers who dislike romance in their plots should not be deterred.

Overall, a smart and creative mystery taking place in an innovative and fresh setting, and highly recommended for fans of detective stories with a healthy dose of fantasy or mythology.

I would happily read another novel or short story from this author that takes place in this world, whether it follows Fatma (books 1 and 3) or Hamed and Onsi (book 2) or delves deeper into any of the intriguing other characters we encounter.

arc received from the publisher for review