First Impression Friday: “A Master of Djinn” by P. Djèlí Clark

I have a terrible habit of checking books out from the library and then forgetting about them until I get a Libby notification that they’re due back in three days. So here’s the next book I’m reading before it’s due back (and I can’t extend it, because other people have it on hold).

From GoodReads:

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…. 

The first chapter deals with the murder of the Brotherhood of Al-Jahiz, a group of Englishmen who enjoy dressing up and pretending to be mysterious. This chapter reminds me very much of the first chapter in Android’s Dream, where the ambassador causes an international incident by killing an alien (and also himself), but it’s a lot more…violent.

I’m three chapters in (so the introductory chapter and two chapters of Fatma’s story), and so far we’ve witnessed a released djinn curse two idiot boys and Fatma discover she’s been assigned a female partner. This book says it’s the first in a series, but I am interested in seeing what Fatma did that “prevented the destruction of the universe” last summer, as the book’s synopsis says.

I read The Golem and the Jinni (Helene Wecker) a few years ago, and I really enjoyed the setting. While this book also deals with djinn, it takes place in Egypt (instead of New York like The Golem and the Jinni, which I also have checked out and will need to speed-read in a few days, I’m sure). I’m sure we’ll be getting all the “I’m not interesting because I’m a woman, I’m interesting because I’m the ministry’s best secret agent” talk that I can handle, but hopefully it won’t be too on-the-nose. Nothing ruins a book faster than the main character talking about how they’re not like other people doing the same thing they’re doing.

Do you like stories about djinn? Do you think we should be reading stories about djinn? (Listen to The Hidden Djinn by Aaron Mahnke if you want a neat podcast about stuff like this and why djinn aren’t to be crossed.) Let me know in the comments!

And as always, keep reading.

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