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A Master of Djinn de P. Djèlí…
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13610155,322 (4.08)9
Título:A Master of Djinn
Autores:P. Djèlí Clark (Autor)
Informação:Tordotcom (2021), 400 pages
Coleções:Lista de desejos

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A Master of Djinn de P. Djèlí Clark


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3.5 stars

When a wealthy Englishman and the members of his secret society are found burnt alive with their clothing left miraculously intact, Special Agent Fatma is called to the scene. She discovers they were a Brotherhood dedicated to uncovering the secrets of Al-Jahiz and learns that the murderer claims to be the mystic himself, returning after 40 years. Fatma sets out to uncover the true identity of the imposter, and bring him to justice before he can bring Cairo to its knees.

Clark’s alternate history Egypt is without a doubt one of the most alluring and vibrant settings in modern fantasy. It’s a steampunk playground of magic, technology and social revolution that jumps off of the page and demands to be explored. His Dead Djinn universe is the only fantasy I’ve come across that celebrates Arab culture and features Muslim protagonists, which in itself is exciting.

In this instalment, Clark delves a little further into how Cairo’s status has shaped international politics. This is done more playfully than seriously, with his depiction of European leaders and English aristocracy almost approaching caricature. I read somewhere that, despite the serious source material, Clark wrote Ring Shout to be more fun than commentary, and a little of that tone is present in A Master of Djinn.

Beyond this and further developing Djinn lore, much of the story is similar to the previous novellas, and Clark sticks with police procedural (though the stakes are arguably higher). This whodunnit formula meant that I saw a couple of plot developments coming from a mile away which diminished the tension somewhat, and Fatma has some pretty questionable interviewing and sleuthing skills for the sake of maintaining mystery.

Regardless, the book is a lot of fun and it was great to be back in Clark’s incredible world. I really enjoyed the concept of homegrown magic beating imperialism, which reminded me a little of The Unbroken.

I also got strong Legend of Korra vibes from A Master of Djinn: a modern city struggling to catch up with its own exponential rate of change, and a masked stranger sowing seeds of unrest among the population.

I found a new favourite character in Hadia, a good Muslim woman who doesn’t let long skirts get in the way of completely dominating in hand-to-hand combat. The creepy race of clockwork giants who call themselves angels also make a return, and I suspect they will be central to the story in the next book.

A Master of Djinn is another example of Clark’s talent in creating immersive stories that play with magic and modern history. It can be picked up without having read the previous instalments, but for the sake of in-world chronology (and because I loved the novellas so much), I recommend reading them in order of publication. ( )
  jakeisreading | Jun 11, 2021 |
I've never read a steampunk novel before. I've read very few books with djinn in them. Fantasy is not my usual genre. Nor is alternate history. But P. Djeli Clark is an award winning master and I'm trying to be more open to books I normally wouldn't read. I have to say, what a book to start with! A Master of Djinn has a complex and fascinating world, a strong female main character, and a mystery that has to be solved in order to save humanity. I never knew what I was missing.

It's 1912 and Alistair Worthington, a rich English businessman living in Cairo is the head of the Hermetic Brotherhood of Al-Jahiz, a secret society of his own creation. When the entire society is murdered in spectacular fashion in Lord Worthington's home, each member's flesh burned but their clothing untouched by the flames, it is clear that something supernatural is involved. Fatma el-Sha'arawi, the youngest agent and one of the few women in the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments, and Supernatural Entities, is called in to investigate the sinister happening. It isn't hard for Fatma and her new partner Hadia, a young woman assigned to her by the Ministry who Fatma accepts reluctantly, to discover who committed the murders but stopping the man in the gold mask, a man who claims he is the revered al-Jahiz returned, a man who can command the most terrifying of djinn, a man who is holding rallies in the poorest sections of town to profess his intention to address the enormous social inequalities of this world, a man who is capable, at every turn, of besting Fatma and her girlfriend Siti who seems to possess a certain magic of her own, a man who is bent on the destruction of the Ministry, Cairo, and this world, will be much harder.

The world that Clark has built here is indeed magical and fantastical and even those who have not read the previous novellas set in this same world (me!) will appreciate the detail about the world and the way it works here. Fatma is a quirky character, with her sharp sartorial sense--each of her suits lovingly described--and her curmudgeonly response to being assigned eager, new agent Hadia as a partner. She says that the reappearance of Siti in her bed has muddled her a bit but without her somewhat mysterious girlfriend and Siti's contacts, Fatma herself, as sharp and as smart as she is supposed to be, would make zero progress on the case. And it does seem as if there is a lot of running from pillar to pole to add more plot elements. Perhaps this is because Clark normally writes in shorter form but occasionally this feels quite forced. For instance, the man in the gold mask has no need of the rallies to win over the Cairenes given his ultimate goal but without the rallies, Fatma would never track him down. The political bickering at a peace conference felt inserted simply to remind the reader that Europe is in the run up to WWI rather than serving this particular story. And the unmasking in the end is completely, and perhaps intentionally, predictable. Despite this, Clark's novel was ultimately an engrossing story, filled with piquant commentary on anti-colonialism, racism, misogyny, mentorship, and relationship. It has convinced me to keep a more open mind toward the genre for sure. ( )
  whitreidtan | Jun 9, 2021 |
It's fun spending time with Fatma in 1912 alt-Cairo, but the novel lacked the smart pacing of Clark's novellas, and was mechanical in execution. ( )
  quondame | Jun 5, 2021 |

'A Master Of Djinn' is the full length novel that I've been waiting for from P. Djèli Clark and it exceeded my expectations.

He first snared my imagination with his novella, 'The Black God's Drums' which displayed his original, colourful, anti-colonial imagination and his flare for writing tense action with strong female leads who aren't cookie-cutter copies for other fantasy novels but which was over quickly and left me hungry for more.

Then I read his novellas based in an alternative Cairo in 1912 where the return of Djinn to the world has enabled Egypt to kick out the foreign powers and create a modern magic-enabled city with humans and Djinn as citizens.

In 'A Dead Djinn In Cario', I first met the flamboyant, talented and fearless Special Investigator Fatma el-Sha’arawi of the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities as she puzzled over the death of Djinn in a Cairo hotel room and ended up saving the world from a mad 'angel'. It was fast, fresh and intoxicating but I knew I was just skimming a world that had a lot more to offer.

His next Cairo novella 'The Haunting of Tram Car 015' was twice as long and showed me that he'd startled to settle into this alternative reality. I could see it and taste and I relished its difference and its energy. This time he followed to make investigators of the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities as they dealt with something haunting one of the autonomous tram cars, powered by Djinn magic, that whizzes through the sky above Cairo on a network of cables starts attacking passengers. I knew I was hooked then and I pre-ordered 'A Master Of Djinn'.

A novel is quite a different proposition from a novella. The idea needs to be bigger, the plot more complex, the characters and their relationships need to develop, the world needs to become even more real and the pacing has to work - not just a sprint to the finish but a series of crescendos sweeping the reader along to a big finish. P. Djèli Clark managed all that and more.

Although the plot, twisted around a mystery of who is doing the killing and what they want, is complicated and delivers tension, exciting action and a satisfying solution to a mystery (which the author coached me to arrive at just a little ahead of the Big Reveal so that I could enjoy my own cleverness) what I liked most was that it is the perfect vehicle for displaying this colourful world and develop some strong, believable relationships while mocking imperialism, racism and misogyny.

The most powerful characters in the book are all women and they are magnificent in their diversity and individuality. The magic systems and magical races draw heavily on Persian and Arab myths that I know little about but which are made to seem real. I loved the way Cairo society is shown as normal (if normal means vibrant, chaotic and rapidly changing) while the Europeans, especially the British, are shown as out-of-touch and arrogant, convinced of their own superiority even as their power wanes.

One of the things that this book does that the earlier books didn't was to let me learn more about the Djinn themselves. Typically, what I was shown was surprising, diverse and convincing.

I was delighted with t
his book. I hope that it's the first in a series. I'll be reading whatever P. Djèli Clark publishes.
( )
1 vote MikeFinnFiction | Jun 2, 2021 |
In 1912 Cairo, Fatma el-Sha'arawi is the youngest woman agent at the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments, and Supernatural Entities, and last summer, she saved the universe from destruction. Now, she's been called in on a most unusual murder. The entire membership of a small secret brotherhood dedicated to al-Jahiz, one of the most famous men in history, who among other things opened the wall between our world and the world where djinn had retreated to, has been killed.

What makes this case clearly a Ministry matter is the fact that with one exception, all the dead were burnt to death--but only their flesh, no damage to their clothes. The last victim was not burnt; his head has been turned completely backwards on his body, a feat requiring superhuman strength.

All the members but two were English, not Egyptian. The head of the brotherhood was Lord Worthington, "the English basha," much admired in Egypt for having helped negotiate the peace after Egypt successfully threw out its European invaders. The meeting, and the murders, took place in his home. The only surviving witness, Lord Worthington's daughter, Abigail, says that as she returned home, a masked man clad all in black rushed past her.

It's not long before a masked man clad all in black is holding rallies in the poorer neighborhoods of the city, accompanied by ifrit, and seemingly magical warriors, claiming to be al-Jahiz returned, determined to right the social wrongs of modern Egypt.

Soon Fatma is hunting the identity of the imposter--along with her surprise new partner, Hadia, the newest woman agent of the Ministry, young and enthusiastic and with some unexpected competences. Chasing the imposter soon means chasing an artifact that's very had even to think about, the Seal of Solomon, which enables its wielder to control djinn--the djinn negotiated with the angels to cloud the minds of humans so they can't remember it even if they encounter information about it, and djinn can't speak about it.

Along the way Fatma learns some startling new information about her clever and sometimes evasive girlfriend, Siti, and ramifications of the ways magic and technology have changed Egyptian life--but not for everyone. We also get to see more of Siti's family, learn from Hadia the advantage of paying attention in Egyptian literature class, and something of the extent of the revival of the worship of the old Egyptian gods in this now solidly Muslim country.

Oh, and there's the international peace conference disrupted by the imposter, and the awakening of the "Nine Sleeping Lords," the most powerful of the ifrit, who are not at all friendly to mixed society largely governed by human rules that now exists.

It's a good mystery, and a good story with solid, interesting characters, and we get to know the characters and the society better in this novel, after the two previous novellas.

Highly recommended.

I bought this audiobook. ( )
  LisCarey | Jun 2, 2021 |
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