A Master of Djinn - P. Djèlí Clark

Goodreads Book Blurb:

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….

Series / Genres:

My Review:

***Thanks to NetGalley and Tordotcom for an eARC of this book. The following review is my honest reflection on the text provided.

enjoyable/easy to read:
3/5
2.5 stars, rounded up

A Master of Djinn seemed destined to be my new favourite book; it had all the components of stories I have loved in the past with enough key differences to be new and exciting. Unfortunately, though the whole cyberpunk mythopoeia setting with badass female agents trying to keep everything under control may sound super appealing, the outcome was inherently lacklustre.

I have no problem reading a predictable book; it’s all about the experience and the narrative, even if we all know what will happen in the end. A Master of Djinn, though, was so predictable it made the protagonists look dumb because they took so long to figure it out.
It’s painfully obvious that Abigail is the mystery villain, not Alexander, from super early in the book. Fatma and Hadia never consider her as anything other than a weak, obnoxious woman.
With the emphasis placed on Fatma and Hadia being the Ministry’s only female agents, their attitude towards other women was disheartening at times;
their inability to discover the identity of the villain
is the most obvious example of the misogyny that they’re promoting, not fighting. With all that said, Hadia was a more interesting and less judgmental character, and I think I would have enjoyed the story more from her perspective.

I probably could’ve gotten past all of that and gotten lost in the story, though, if I had gone in knowing that this wasn’t actually the first book in the series, just the first novel-length instalment. There are so many references to the previous short stories/novellas involving these characters that I felt out of the loop and totally lost. Some of the relationships introduced are already fully formed from previous adventures, and I was left playing catch up.

I think A Master of Djinn had the potential to be a four-star book if I had read the previous instalments in the series, regardless of how short they may be. Too much of the plot assumed that I already knew the history of this world and these characters. Instead of feeling lost and confused, I could have enjoyed the police work, magical creatures, and great action scenes. Instead of being immersed in the world, though, I felt left out in the cold.

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