A Master of Djinn, by P. Djèlí Clark
Synopsis: A paranormal murder mystery set in steampunk Egypt, 1912, after Djinn and other magical creatures have been reintroduced into the world a few decades back.
Book Review: This is a great romp, and really fun! The plot keeps moving at a good clip, there’s a lot of interconnectivity between the players and set pieces, and it’s very well written. The two biggest strengths of Master of Djinn are worldbuilding and colorful characters.
The worldbuilding is absolutely top-notch. Every bit of this feels like it has a rich history, and deep connections, crafted with love and enthusiasm. It feels lived in. It calls for you to come back and inhabit it.
The characters are distinctive, and they pop. Each has a unique and interesting voice. And everyone one of them is really damn cool, in their own way. You want to spend time with these people.
In addition to all that, it stars a strong female protagonist. I kinda feel embarrassed saying this, because it’s such a cliché, but dammit, I really love strong female characters. I always have, and I’m not gonna stop just cuz it’s a meme now.
In addition, the action is fun, frequent, and very cinematic. All things considered, as I was reading this I felt like I was watching a good Marvel movie. Something in the top quintile of Marvel.
That being said… reading this was a lot like watching a Marvel movie. It was a lot of awesome style without much substance. No deeper themes, no exploration of the human condition, no revelatory character arc.
It’s also somewhat simplistic. A couple times characters are a little too slow on the uptake. The mystery is too obvious for the reader’s side (although that’s not the protagonists fault, she doesn’t know she’s in a novel, so she doesn’t know to steer clear of the basic tropes). It’s designed so that a distracted teen or a dad two beers in can follow along and have a great time.
This is fine, because fun is good. :) But in a few months I probably won’t remember anything about this novel. If you’re just looking for a great, fun adventure, then I would recommend this! But if (like me) you never have enough time to read everything and try to focus on the exceptional stuff, Not Recommended.
Book Club Review: For book clubs, this is a better than average book. Because of how fun it is, there’s a lot of fun things to talk about, and some fun things to gripe about, and no one was upset they wasted their time on it or anything. It makes for good light conversation on a nice summer day. It doesn’t lend itself to deeper discussions, due to the reasons mentioned above. On the other hand, this was a significantly better book than several we’ve read recently, and it’s always fun watching a Marvel movie with friends. Take all this into consideration for your particular book club, of course, but overall for book clubs – Recommended.
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