A Dead Djinn in Cairo

A 2016 story by P. Clark Djèlí, this is a fun, short romp through a fantastical alternate version of Cairo where steampunk is the norm and Lovecraftian elements get a look in. Another entry in the increasing library of tor.com “shorts” – which are ideal for reading as ebooks, offering the briefest glimpse into a world – running about the length of two chapters of a traditional fantasy novel.
From the publisher’s description:

Egypt, 1912. In an alternate Cairo infused with the otherworldly, the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities investigate disturbances between the mortal and the (possibly) divine. What starts off as an odd suicide case for Special Investigator Fatma el-Sha’arawi leads her through the city’s underbelly as she encounters rampaging ghouls, saucy assassins, clockwork angels, and plot that could unravel time itself.

from amazon.ca listing for “A Dead Djinn in Cairo”

The world-building in A Dead Djinn in Cairo is quite fine and I’m left more interested in the setting than in any of the characters presented, though that might change with subsequent readings. The plot is a rather by-the-numbers murder investigation, supernatural elements aside, and doesn’t offer any surprises.

There were a couple of choices of vocabulary that knocked me out of the story momentarily. Words that left me wondering why they were chosen, given that they didn’t seem to do quite what Djèlí hoped they might.

Overall, A Dead Djinn in Cairo is an enjoyable, short read and left me wanting to know more about Djèlí’s Cairo of 1912. A very good sign!

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