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


Having put it down in late August about halfway through, I have been reading A Master of Djinn for a shamefully long time. One of those weird cases where I enjoyed it too much to DNF, but not enough to keep from being distracted by every other book out there. Still, I did, eventually finish it, and despite some plot structure issues, the worldbuilding makes it good enough to recommend.

After the discovery of the murder of a secret brotherhood/cult dedicated to Al-Jahiz, agent Fatma is on the case again. Especially since Al-Jahiz, the person who brought magic back into the word decades ago, seems to have returned, causing quite a bit of chaos. Is he the real deal or an impostor? What’s up with the murders? And in addition to that, Fatma is forced to work with a partner for the first time.

The worldbuilding is exquisite. I loved it in A Dead Djinn in Cairo (read it here!), I loved it in The Haunting of Tram Car 015, I love it still. At more than novella-length, the anti-colonialist themes are much more pronounced, with the West and especially England being the butt of many jokes, and it was fantastic.

The characters were good enough (besides, who doesn’t like a suit-wearing lesbian?) and I loved how Hadia forced Fatma to confront some of her own biases. Watching them grow from their rough beginning into a proper team was very fun.

However, I’m not so sure about the plot. The ending was great, but the first two thirds got very repetitive with “fight antagonist, lose, repeat,” which made the plot stall frustratingly despite the abundance of action and was a big part of why I put it aside for months. In addition, I also saw a major twist coming from a mile off, and I’m not a perceptive reader.

Still, I’ll gladly read more set in this world.

Enjoyment: 3/5
Execution: 3.5/5

Recommended to: those looking for a fast-paced standalone and unique worldbuilding with an anti-colonialist spin, fans of the novellas
Not recommended to: those easily bothered by plot structure issues, those who don’t like obvious twists

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