I picked this up because of the title, it just sounded neat to me since I don’t get to read about Djinn all that often. I was pleasantly surprised to see this is sort of a steampunk Egyptian turn of the century storyline which in combination is something I’ve never read before. There are mechanical men, automated cars, clockwork gadgetry all juxtaposed with Egypt in the early 1900s. Aside from the magical elements, this is very much so based in our world on our Earth, and colonization/racism/feminism gets brought up a lot as a theme.
Our main character, Fatma el-Sha’arawi, works for the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities. Basically, she gets called in when there’s something potentially supernatural going on. In a world where Djinn live alongside humans and other supernatural entities, she’s kept fairly busy.
There were a bunch of people killed in a horrific manner, they were burned alive but it wasn’t through typical fire. There was a fire ifrit, and its fire only burned flesh, the clothes were left in tact as well as the building itself. She was sent to investigate, and the plot basically revolves around a whodunnit and an ancient artifact capable of waking up sleeping giants that legend said could control all djinn.
I really loved the world building in this one. The djinn live alongside humans and follow their laws, intermarry, and work amongst ‘regular people’ – and djinn make for particularly good lawyers as they have a knack for technical writing and misleading language. One must be very careful when striking a deal with a djinn. There are different types of djinn and they tend to name themselves after locations where they’re from or some epic self given title of honor. Some really hate people and would prefer to live in a bottle until humanity has somehow gone extinct. There are also entities calling themselves “angels”, but the religious leaders of the world are still dubious about those claims. There’s lots of clockwork stuff going on in the background making 1915 feel more modern than you’d think. I thought the automatons and living buildings were a neat touch, and the automated giant djinn thing was particularly neat.
I felt the pace was even for the first two thirds and then had a pretty exciting/fast paced ending. The writing was well done, the dialogue didn’t always work for me, but it wasn’t ever enough to set me off or make me consider DNFing, it just wasn’t totally my style. The descriptions and settings felt well imagined and detailed without being overwhelming. There was a pre-established romance that was throughout the book, I thought it was alright, there wasn’t much I liked or disliked about it. I don’t know why, but I just didn’t engage with that aspect of the storyline — there was nothing wrong with it, however.
I would definitely recommend this to anyone interested in fantasy based around Arabic myths and legends, female leads, lgbt romance, and features commentary regarding race and feminism.
- Plot: 11/15
- Characters: 11.5/15
- World Building: 13.5/15
- Writing: 12/15
- Pacing: 12/15
- Originality: 12/15
- Enjoyment: 7/10
Final Score: 79/100