Cairo, 1912: Though Fatma el-Sha’arawi is the youngest woman working for the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities, she’s certainly not a rookie, especially after preventing the destruction of the universe last summer.
So, when someone murders a secret brotherhood dedicated to one of the most famous men in history, al-Jahiz, Agent Fatma is called onto the case. Al-Jahiz transformed the world forty years ago when he opened up the veil between the magical and mundane realms, before vanishing into the unknown. This murderer claims to be al-Jahiz, returned to condemn the modern age for its social oppressions. His dangerous magical abilities instigate unrest in the streets of Cairo that threaten to spill over onto the global stage.
Alongside her Ministry colleagues and a familiar person from her past, Agent Fatma must unravel the mystery behind this imposter to restore peace to the city—or face the possibility he could be exactly who he seems…
I have to thank Nalini Singh and her newsletter, which is where I first learned about this author’s work. I read the two novellas that are prequels to this novel (A Dead Djinn in Cairo and The Haunting of Tram Car 015). I think you could read this novel and enjoy it without reading the novellas before, but the novellas are really good and they also give you context for Fatma’s relationships–like the person from her past and her colleagues. This book was also one of my anticipated books for 2021, and I am here to tell you that I was not disappointed, except that the book ended and I had to put it down then. This book has a romantic subplot, but the main focus of the book is the case Fatma is solving. Clark uses ideas of decolonialization, class, racism, and power in the book, weaving them into your typical procedural science fiction/urban fantasy story (think Ilona Andrews and Meljean Brook). The evil is stopped, but Fatma has to acknowledge some things about herself before she can stop it. The book ends on a bit of a cliff hanger, but it isn’t too painful. Continue reading