The highlight of this short story is definitely the world-building. I was immediately intrigued by the way Clark wrote about his alternate-history Cairo in 1912, populated with djinn and angels and steampunk machinery, and refreshingly devoid of colonialism.
This takes place in a Cairo about fifty years after a curious man opened up a gateway through which djinn and other supernatural creatures, along with magic, entered the world. Egypt has become a world superpower, as the djinn helped them to kick the British out of their country and shared their knowledge of magic, technology, and other necessities. Our main character is Fatma el-Sha’arawi, the only woman investigator with the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities. The time period Clark chose for this was interesting, because it’s far enough off from the inciting event of the open gateway for things to have changed in a major way, but also not far enough that some things are very much the same, and some people are resisting the change. Fatma is accepted as an investigator, but she still gets push-back from people on the more, ahem, traditional end of the spectrum.
The plot here kicks off with the death of a Marid djinn who appears to have committed suicide, something djinn are not known to do. This is a short story so there isn’t much room for a complicated plot, but Clark does an excellent job maximizing the space he has. This little story had so much atmosphere, and I got a really good feel for Fatma as a character.
I did the audio version, and it was excellent. I am obsessed with the timbre of Suehyla El-Attar’s voice. It’s so smoky and pleasing. She also does really fun accents. I hope she does the audio for the next two as well, because I will getting to both of them by the end of the summer.