Reviews

A Dead Djinn in Cairo, by P. Djèlí Clark

cpatten89's review

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4.0

A fun romp of a short story, with some very interesting world-building that I really enjoyed. But there were so many moving pieces that it felt more like an outline and less fleshed out than it could be.

emmalita's review

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5.0

A Dead Djinn in Cairo is like a bonbon. It’s perfect exactly as it is, but it leaves you wanting more, more, more. Special Investigator Fatma el-Sha’arawi is the interesting woman in the sharp suit, and we are dropped into her world with little fanfare.

In Clark’s Cairo of 1912, the British and the French tried to colonize Egypt, but the sudden arrival of magical creatures drove them out. Some 40 years earlier, a man named al-Jahiz opened a portal allowing all kinds of djinn, magic and angels into this world. The infusion of magic and magical beings brings it’s own set of issues, but even so, knowing actual history, I feel like the magic is kinder than colonialism.

The Special Investigator has been paired with an older policeman, Aasim, to investigate, as the title says, a dead djinn. Fatma makes Aasim uncomfortable because she is young, Sa’idi (Upper Egypt), and a woman.

She is observant in the way of an outsider, not blinded by what should be there. Fatma finds an angel feather near the Djinn, which leads them, with some important stops, to a dead angel. Fatma does save the world and it feels like it’s just the start of her story.

It would be so easy to get lost in recounting the events of the story, because they are interesting. What really makes A Dead Djinn in Cairo stand out, though, is the world Clark has created. I particularly appreciated the way Clark plays with the idea of the exotic. Every reader brings there own lens to the story, and the lens I bring to early 20th century Cairo is shaped by reading a lot of British and American mysteries and romances that use Cairo as an exotic backdrop. For me there’s a built in sense of the foreign, on to which Clark has added magic. He introduces his reader to this world through the eyes of someone the locals see as exotic. Fatma’s European suits are layered and intentional, but you ought to read it for yourself.

kaulhilo's review

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4.0

“Fatma was born into the world al-Jahiz left behind: a world transformed by magic and the supernatural.”

After reading and loving Ring Shout I had to read more from this author, and am I glad I picked this up! Just like Ring Shout this short story is so impressive! P. Djèlí Clark manages to create such a vibrant and intriguing world in only 43 pages. I enjoyed the mystery and the female main character is so interesting. Can’t wait to read the rest of the series!

voiddragon117's review

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5.0

A great short story. I cannot wait to read the other story and the novel coming out

ssejig's review

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lighthearted mysterious fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes

3.0

Special Investigator Fatma el-Sha’arawi finds a dead body that is assumed to be a suicide though she is skeptical. When another body is found with the same strange markings, she really starts to wonder. Then she gets contacted by the member of a secret society and a huge, universe-changing plot is uncovered. 
I heard about this series from the <a href="https://bookriot.com/listen/memoirs-by-survivors-of-abuse/">Book Riot podcast</a> and, while this novelette piqued my interest, it was way too short. 

ashcomb's review

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5.0

Excellent story, beautiful written, non-western setting... All the right ingredients for my taste, plus including ghouls, gods, clocks, death and dying, and mysteries.

delmaamoun's review

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4.0

3.5 stars..
I absolutely adore the strange magical world overlayed on top of early 20th century cairo.. it’s beautiful and masterfully crafted.
The story itself was predictable and the writing style a bit boring, trying to seem like a wordsmith and failing.
I’ll keep reading this series though and I hope the writer’s style improves with practice, and there are more than a few references a cairene can read about and smile.
I recommend it and even if not liked, it’s only a couple of hours of reading

morj's review

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adventurous mysterious fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Plot
  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No

4.5

I felt that this story was a little too fast for its scope, but it was still such a fascinating introduction to the world and the characters.  The setting is a fantastic counterpart to our world - a sort of alternate history if Cairo had access to magical beings and powers.  I also loved the main character in this one, Fatma clever, spunky, and overall lovely.

Somehow I ended up reading the second novella in this universe before, but I'm so glad to have gone back and read from the start.  I will definitely be continuing this series.

bestnarryever's review

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adventurous emotional mysterious fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Plot
  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No

4.0

heniaakbar's review

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adventurous mysterious fast-paced

4.0

I like this!

It's fun and fresh (I haven't read a lot of story about Djinns, and this feels different than the one I've read, so it's fresh). Although maybe it's leaning heavily on the setting than the plot, I still think it's enjoyable. Great read!

Thanks to Gods, Clark decides to write a full length novel in this universe.