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

Write on: Thu, 08 Jul 2021 by  in Assaph's Reviews Read 740

Finally a full-length novel in Djèlí Clark's steampunk Cairo series!

What to Expect

After three short stories / novelettes, Djèlí Clark delivers us a full length novel in the wonderful world of Fatma el-Sha’arawi! The shorts won many accolades and awards (deservedly), and this novel keeps the quality.

The novel is set on a backdrop of pre-World War Cairo, where Egypt became one of the Great Powers after a mystic released magic back into the world. The return of Djinn and magic allowed for steam-punk advancements, leading to anything from kicking the European colonialist nations out to social advancements like earlier feminism. What starts as a weird murder case for agent Fatma, develops into a national and global danger.

The story focuses on Fatma, but involves many women and their navigation of the patriarchal society through early feminism. It's a curious blend, that feels both true to history and modern perceptions at the same time - a no mean feat.

What I liked

I loved the world-building, absolutely original and top-notch. Djèlí Clark's Cairo feels like a real place, drawing from real-world culture and geography and coming alive as a special setting. It's an excellent mix of alternate-history, mad-science, and magic, coupled with clear prose and engaging storytelling.

What to be aware of

Though not essential, I would recommend reading the short stories first. At least Agent Fatma's first story, Dead Djinn in Cairo, which is freely available on (the other shorts are too, I believe). It's a quick read and fun, and will help you orient yourself in the world.

Felix's Review

Felix was interested in the mix of magic and technology, and would have loved to see more of that - the workings of steam-and-magic powered automatons especially fascinated him. His latest adventure (in the works) has taught him to better appreciate the finer points of female roles in a patriarchal society, and as for meddling in the affairs of otherworldly entities - well, you're always lucky to escape with just collateral damage there.


Highly recommended to anyone who likes a mix of history, fantasy, steampunk, and strong female characters.

Enjoying the reviews, but wondering who the heck is that Felix fellow? Glad you asked! He's the protagonist of the Togas, Daggers, and Magic series, an historical-fantasy blend of a paranormal detective on the background of ancient Rome.

Last modified on Thursday, 08 July 2021 08:17

Assaph has been a bibliophile since he learnt to read at the age of five, and a Romanophile ever since he first got his hands on Asterix, way back in elementary school. This exacerbated when his parents took him on a trip to Rome and Italy - he whinged horribly when they dragged him to "yet another church with baby angels on the ceiling", yet was happy to skip all day around ancient ruins and museums for Etruscan art. 

He has since been feeding his addiction for books with stories of mystery and fantasy of all kinds. A few years ago he randomly picked a copy of a Lindsay Davis' Marcus Didius Falco novel in a used book fair, and fell in love with Rome all over again, this time from the view-point of a cynical adult. His main influences in writing are Steven Saylor, Lindsey Davis, Barry Hughart and Boris Akunin. 

Assaph now lives in Sydney, Australia with his wife, kids, cats, and - this being Australia - assorted spiders. By day he is a software product manager, bridging the gap between developers and users, and by night he's writing - he seems to do his best writing after midnight.



Twitter: @assaphmehr