Thursday, May 5, 2022

A Master of Djinn (Dead Djinn Universe #1) by P. Djèlí Clark

The book's setting is the same world as that of the earlier Hugo Award nominee The Haunting of Tram Car 015 from 2019 by the same author.

A mystic monk called al-Jahiz opened the border between dimensions a few decades earlier. He disappeared a little later. Egypt has become a superpower that cooperates with Djinns and other creatures of fairy tales, and magical technology is made possible by them with great benefits.

A secret society has been worshipping al-Jahiz. One day a stranger appears at their meeting and claims he is al-Jahiz reborn and burns all (mostly European) worshippers to a crisp - while not harming their clothes or the room in any way. A young female agent of the police department who specializes in events that involve supernatural creatures, Fatma, is called to investigate the murders. She has always worked alone, but now she has a partner: another female, Hadia. Fatma isn’t happy at all – she likes to work by herself, and she feels that teaching the ropes to a new agent in the midst of such a demanding case would be far too much to take on. But for publicity reasons, being the first female police pair is something Fatma can’t refuse, and her superiors give a direct order to her to take Hadia as a partner.

A bit later the man who claims to be al-Jahiz starts to appear in different places, and he is pushing for rebellion. He is clearly an imposter. (However, I was wondering why all the main characters were apparently 100% sure he was an imposter – when the supernatural is totally natural, how can you be completely sure that someone who has mystically disappeared could not return decades later?) What is the agenda of the impostor? Why did he kill people who were worshipping his memory? Will there be a rebellion – and will there be a worldwide war? There are some signs hinting that this might be possible and even likely. (The year is 1912, so the first World War was soon to happen in our own world.)

An excellent novel with interesting characters – but as almost anything can happen, almost anything DOES happen, and the resolution is almost deus ex machina. Perhaps it's not as good as the two nominated novels I have already read, but it's still a very good book. In some other year it might be a contender for first place on my list.   

401 pp. 

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