Fatma el-Sha’arawi is an agent of the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments, and Supernatural Entities in an alternate history of Egypt in the 1910s. She is called in to investigate the brutal murders of a cult of people who worship al-Jahiz, the man who brought magic and the djinn into the world. Soon enough, a person claiming to be al-Jahiz himself, though dead for many years, comes forward to take credit for the murders and to return the world to the old ways. Fatma and her new partner Hadia investigate to bring the murderer to justice and to stop the plans to unravel society as they know it.
There’s a couple of things I really loved about this book. One is that there’s a general steampunk feel throughout without smacking you over the face with it. I am not a big fan of the steampunk aesthetic especially when every single thing is a gear or a top hat or a steam engine or a monocle. But there was just enough steampunk here to provide some flair without it being the focus of the novel.
The second thing I loved is the intersection of ancient Egyptian deity worship and Islam. The religious differences of the citizens of Egypt and the magical reality serve as the backdrop to rich conversations between the agents and their viewpoints on the world. I’m sucker for religion and mythology, and Clark handles both deftly.
I understand there are some novellas that tell the story of Fatma and Hadia prior to the events of A Master of Djinn. I have not read them, but they are certainly on my TBR list. Without having read them, I did not feel as though I was missing anything in A Master of Djinn.