The Master was less fun than the Acolytes

A Master of Djinn (Dead Djinn Universe, #1)
by P. Djèlí Clark

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Fatma, Siti and Hamed are back. Promising start with likable characters, but a very slow plot. It took me two weeks to make it a third into the story, with several days of not wanting to pick it up. I thought it was me and was disappointed that this wasn‘t a fun rollercoaster ride, sweeping me along. I almost abandoned it, but instead skimmed through the denser passages in the middle to make some progress. Less filler would have been good. 

For example the convention in the middle with all those dignitaries served no real purpose. It added to the complexity of the world, but it did not really bring the plot forward or could have happened as a shorter scene. Maybe Clark had another short story/novelette in his hand and blew it up to novel length by expanding the word count, without actually adding significantly to the story?

I did like the development of Siti a lot. Fatma felt a little more one-dimensional than previously and Hamed and Onsi sadly where only small side characters. Nonetheless it was fun to encounter them again.

I liked the last part of the book, so if I disregard the middle, this was a good book. The Djinn are complex, multi-faceted and definitely not one-dimensional. It‘s nice that even the bad guys have personalities and are not just victims of circumstance. Still, this book was nowhere nearly as good and entertaining as the prequel stories.

You can definitely read this as a stand-alone novel, but for more enjoyment I recommend to first read the two novelettes and the short story that came before this:

Dead Djinn in Cairo: Goodreads review | WordPress review

The Angel of Khan el Khalili: Goodreads review | WordPress review

The Haunting of Tram Car 015: Goodreads review | WordPress review

+*+*+
This is part of my #ReadBIPOC2021 challenge (entry for June).

I received this free e-copy from the publisher/author via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review, thank you!

First Line Friday — Space, Egypt and New York…

First Line Friday is a meme created by Hoarding Books. Feel free to head over there, have a look around, grab your nearest book and post its first line in the comments there and in your blog.


I have three buddy reads planned for June.

The Left Hand of Darkness
by Ursula K. Le Guin

I’LL MAKE MY REPORT AS IF I TOLD A STORY, FOR I WAS taught as a child on my homeworld that Truth is a matter of the imagination.

First line

I started this four days ago and have managed the first three chapters, which brought me to page 53. It’s not doing much for me so far. I spent yesterday reading fanfiction rather than continuing this.

The writing is good, but the style is not engaging me. It‘s probably also not quite what I was expecting. I read the blurb and thought „genderless society, lots of commentary and exploration about their personal interactions and divergence compared to our society“, but so far I only met guys talking politics. And the main character, who I thought was an ambassador, comes across as someone mostly not really interested in what is going on. Odd.

Ok, maybe I should have expected something slow and not obvious, considering that this was first published in 1969. So far this reminds me of Foreigner, which was also a book of only middling success for me. I will read something else and then return to this later this month.

Next up, I guess, is this:

One Last Stop (Kindle Edition)
by Casey McQuiston

SEEKING YOUNG SINGLE ROOMMATE FOR 3BR APARTMENT UPSTAIRS, 6TH FLOOR. $700/MO. MUST BE QUEER & TRANS FRIENDLY. MUST NOT BE AFRAID OF FIRE OR DOGS. NO LIBRAS, WE ALREADY HAVE ONE. CALL NIKO.

Header above chapter 1

I just read the first two pages and this sounds like a much better read for my long weekend, sitting on my balcony with a cold glass of white wine… it also fits well into this LGBTQ+ and Pride Month.

Last but not least I will read:

A Master of Djinn (Dead Djinn, #1)
by P. Djèlí Clark

Fatma blinked at the tirade. Of all the djinn these two had to go and wake up, it had to be a bigot.

From the teaser posted at the beginning

Oh, this will be fun! I just had a peek at the first page and then had to forcibly remove myself from the book a page or two later, to finish this post. Promising! And not looking good for Ursula Le Guin…

Perilous public transport

The Haunting of Tram Car 015
by P. Djèlí Clark

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The third novelette set in Clark‘s alternate Cairo of 1912, full of Djinn, ghuls and mechanized angels. I was looking forward to meeting Fatma from A Dead Djinn in Cairo again. Instead we are introduced to Agent Hamed of the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities, his new sidekick, rookie Onsi and a haunted tram car…

My favourite scene was the moment when they arrive at the top of Ramses Station and get a view of airships, various dirigibles and those tram lines criss-crossing the sky above Cairo. Great visual. The scenery in general is a great mix of the old Cairo and Clark‘s imagined steampunk city anyway.

The investigative story is a good one, too. Although it slacks off somewhat in the middle. Still good, but the beginning and build-up were stronger storytelling than the climax of it all.

Good characterizations, also for the supporting characters. There is some gender ambiguity there as well and a sentient automata, so plenty of material to expand upon in the upcoming book. I wonder if we will meet some of them again in A Master of Djinn?

Clockwork Cairo

The Angel of Khan el-Khalili (Dead Djinn, #0.6)
by P. Djèlí Clark

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Taking place in Khan el-Khalili, the big bazaar in the heart of Cairo. Our main character is looking for an angel and a miracle… Forgiveness and retribution are the theme in this one. 

The story is narrated in second-person, which I find really hard to like as a reader. 

Straight forward story, not much in terms of plot, more of a small character study. It was ok.

If you want to find the Angel of Khan el-Khalili, you have to make your way to the market at night. 

https://www.tor.com/2021/04/28/the-angel-of-khan-el-khalili-p-djeli-clark/

Magical Egypt

A Dead Djinn in Cairo (Dead Djinn, #0.5)
by P. Djèlí Clark

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Egypt, Cairo, Djinn, ghuls, sorcerers, magic, airships, gas light, aerial trams… steampunk plus electricity. An investigator looks into the suspicious death of a djinn and follows traces through a magical Cairo.

“Fatma was born into the world al-Jahiz left behind: a world transformed by magic and the supernatural. […] Egypt now sat as one of the great powers, and Cairo was its beating heart.“

https://www.tor.com/2016/05/18/a-dead-djinn-in-cairo/

The setting of this story made me home-sick for Cairo! Or whatever you call it for a city I lived in for six years… 

This was fun! Plot driven, not much character development — not an easy task anyway for such a short novelette — although I did like Fatma. Good action scenes and sleuthing, interesting setting. Potential for a lot more. Onwards to the next two stories/novelettes, in preparation for reading Clark’s first full-length novel next month.

Top Ten Tuesday, the lovebirds edition

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

http://www.thatartsyreadergirl.com/top-ten-tuesday/

This Week’s Topic: Valentine’s Day/Love Freebie

Valentine’s Day, a worldwide conspiracy by flower sellers everywhere… so not my holiday. Romance books in my backlist, let‘s see…

Maybe something historical, set in Egypt?

Reflections in the Nile (Time Travel, #1), read in 2004
by Suzanne Frank

Chloe visits her sister, an archeologist, in Luxor. She does the usual sight seeing and also goes to the Sound and Light show at Karnak temple. She decides that she wants to see the sunrise from inside the temple to take some photos and hides in a small side chamber. Then, suddenly, when she kneels down to pick something up from the ground, everything shifts and wavers and she finds herself in the body of someone else in the times of Pharao Hatchepsut.

A romantic novel with an archeological twist. Quite entertaining and nice reading for low brainpower. This is the first of four books. In the sequels Chloe will travel to Atlantis, Canaan and finally (I think) to Babylon.

Some contemporary romance…

Catch of the Day (Misty Harbor, #1), read in 2004
by Marcia Evanick

Nice brain candy. Likeable characters, decent storyline, well written. Everybody gets hitched in the end, so it makes for happy reading.

Maybe some time travel?

The Time Traveler’s Wife, read in 2006
by Audrey Niffenegger

I was very dubious about it, when I finally picked up this book. Very often, when I start reading a highly praised and bestselling book, I find it utterly indigestible and throw it in a corner after 70-odd pages. Plus my mum didn’t like it and thought the language was childish. So a book that I tackled with very low expectations. 

And lo and behold – What a great book, I loved it! My only complaint – I thought the ending was given away much too early in the book and that ruined my enjoyment a little. I knew what was coming and that is rarely good. But still, fantastic story. I thought the time travelling would be too weird and too interruptive of a smooth story flow. But not a all. It was well done, felt very natural and opened up the door to some great opportunities for the plot.

How about some werewolves?

Bitten (Otherworld, #1), read in 2007
by Kelley Armstrong

Very good and strong first book in a series. Believable characters and believable wolves (as far as humanised animals can go). And I did not mind the very conventional romance, it was a nice change to the supercharged shapeshifter version.

Tempting Danger (World of the Lupi, #1), read in 2012
by Eileen Wilks

Tough female homicide detective meets tall, dark and handsome stranger. He’s a werewolf and a murder suspect. And she has secrets of her own. Romance interferes with a murder investigation. The usual. 

The first half was not bad. The suspense part was fairly mild and not too exciting. The romance and sex were so-so. The book didn’t grab my attention much and it took me forever to get past the half-way point. The action picked up after that and it actually got interesting. Enough for me to want to pick up the next book in the series.

And I eventually read the whole series and it became one of my favourites! Sadly, the series was never finished.

Or rather historical fiction?

Passion, read in 2007
by Jude Morgan

An account of the women sharing their lives with Lord Byron, Shelley and Keats. A very good description of the middle/upper class of that time with emphasis on the women, their social surroundings, morals and ethics of that time, politics and major events of the period. You get a look at the literary and social scene, the Prince Regent, Beau Brummel, Napoleon, Waterloo and so on and so forth.

Although its central theme is romantic relationships, I would not class this as a romantic novel, but rather a historic one. There is not a strong narrative thread. Which is probably the reason, why I started loosing interest about half way through. So, I enjoyed the first 300 pages very much, but thought that the book got a bit scattered after that. I did not like the chapters that were told by Caro Lamb much – mostly because I did not like her talking directly at me. I did not think that worked very well.

The storyline of Keats and Fanny Brawne felt like an afterthought and the book could have done without it. I liked Augusta and Mary Shelley best. They were the most vivid and interesting characters in the book. And Byron – I wouldn’t mind having dinner with him, to see what all the fuss is about and if he was really this fascinating!

I expected their stay at lake Geneva – where Frankenstein was “born” – to be the pivotal point of the book and was a bit disappointed how briefly it appeared. It is a good story though and was worth reading.

Vampires with a shoe fetish!

Undead and Unwed (Undead, #1), read in 2011
by MaryJanice Davidson

Betsy wakes up in the morgue, undead and clearly unhappy. Shenanigans ensue, good-looking vampires appear, bad guys make trouble and expensive shoes make several appaerances as well. Low on content, but high on snark. I laughed a lot. Very entertaining for those low-brain-power days.

More werewolves!

Kitty and the Midnight Hour (Kitty Norville #1), read in 2008
by Carrie Vaughn

Very good start to a the series! Kitty gets herself into trouble, when she starts counselling fellow shapeshifters and assorted vampires on her midnight radio show. Shows you – stay out of things or you get into lots of trouble! Light mystery with werewolves, good fun!

A spot of literary fiction?

Cold Mountain, read in 1998
by Charles Frazier

A book that I remember fondly, without recalling many details of the writing. It was slow, I think. And the movie was a decent adaptation.

And rounding it off with more historical romance…

The Raven Prince (Princes Trilogy, #1), read in 2007
by Elizabeth Hoyt

Very enjoyable historical romance. The usual set-up. Nasty male hero. Cute and humble heroine does not like him, but eventually falls in love and….. The twist with the brothel is unusual. But it was fun, I had a good time reading it and really liked the characters.

Wild mix, I know. I just grabbed them as they popped up on my shelf.

Mildly passionate…

The Passion of Cleopatra (Ramses the Damned #2)The Passion of Cleopatra by Anne Rice
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I did not like the beginning at all, the writing had a very old-fashioned, stilted feel at first and I thought I had make a huge mistake to pick up Rice again after such a long time. But once Ramses popped up, the story moved more smoothly for me.

The alternating POVs of the various main characters made it lively and added a nice tension to the story. The brief recaps of the previous book’s plot were nicely done and fitted in well.

It took me a bit to like the story, but especially the unfolding tale of Sibyl made me want to continue. Some nice little twists in an overall predictable plot. Enough suspense and mystery to make me fear for some of the characters briefly.

Unfortunately, once the main plot hade been resolved, the last third of the book became a rambling discourse of the meaning of life, souls, heaven and hell that I could have done without. I was also not entirely satisfied with the way the various storylines were resolved. The happy-for-now ending of the main couple was to be expected, but Sibyl’s story petered out pretty listlessly. Lots of potential for at least three more books. That I am unlikely to pick up.

I received this free e-copy from the publisher/author via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review, thank you!

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