Ghosts, djinns, and other supernatural beings inhabit this charming and fun alternate history/steampunk fantasy set in a Cairo, where the British have been expelled and Egypt has become a world power in their own right.
Set in the early 1900s, Agent Hamed Nasr and his new partner, Agent Onsi Youssef of the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments, and Supernatural Entities, have their work cut out for them when they discover an aerial tram car has been possessed. Their job is to exorcise it, but not all is what it seems. Not only do they have to deal with gods, demi-gods, and other supernatural entities that were released into our world forty years prior, but the women’s suffragette movement is coming to a head. We even get a brief appearance of Agent Fatma el-Sha’arawi from A Dead Djinn in Cairo, which adds some fun linkage between the stories.
I’m definitely becoming a fan of Mr. Clark‘s work, as once again he has done an outstanding job on world building without being expository. Fast-paced and often humorous, the characters are well-developed and have rather entertaining idiosyncrasies. There are also some fascinating female characters that are introduced, and I hope to see more of them in future stories set in this universe. Though the story beats pretty much happen right on cue, it was refreshing to see these characters set about solving the mystery in an organic fashion.
Mr. Clark also does an excellent job of juxtaposing many of the issues we have today against the backdrop of a fictional Egypt. It makes you wonder how life would be like today if history had been a bit different. (And that includes adding djinns to the mix.)
This novella was a finalist in the 2020 Hugo, Lotus, and Nebula Awards.
Creative Team: P. Djèlí Clark (writer)