I’ve always heard that the short stories by Tor.com are awesome but never got around to reading any before. But as I’m waiting for the nebula nominated The Haunting of Tram Car 015 to arrive from the library, I decided to try this short in the meantime. And it was just wow.
Clocking at just about 40 pages, I was only expecting a fun murder mystery being solved by a female investigator but I didn’t expect the author to capture the atmosphere of a steampunk, paranormal nineteenth century Cairo so beautifully. In so few words, we get a brief history of the world and all it’s magical inhabitants, experience the slightly sexist culture, look at the various forms of innovative transportation available and also follow a badass woman solve some gruesome suicides/murders through her sharp intellect and observational skills. I was completely mesmerized while listening to the audiobook, and I would be remiss not to mention the stunning job done by the narrator and kept wishing that the story would go on.
Finally, all I want to say is that if you enjoy short stories, you cannot miss this one. It has everything you need in an urban fantasy packaged into just a few pages and I promise you, it’ll instantly impress you. Also, it’s free!!! So what are you waiting for – read it or listen to it (listening is a way better option here) and be ready to be captivated. And now I’m doubly excited because we have a full length novel coming up in 2021 featuring our badass investigator Fatma called A Master of Djinn and I can’t wait to read it as soon as possible.
Author P. Djeli Clark came onto my radar when I heard some great things about his new novella Ring Shout which releases in October of this year and then when I saw that this novella was nominated for the Nebula award, I knew I had to read this one. And I’m so happy I got to be back in this wonderful setting mystical Egypt again after encountering it first in the short story.
The haunting and the mystery of the supernatural being is still not what impressed me the most here. It’s the world which continues to mesmerize me and I was even more impressed this time to see how culturally diverse it is and the technological and magical marvels of this booming metropolis. And added to this beautiful setting is the backdrop of the suffragette movement in Egypt and even though it’s shown with more rose tinted glasses than what happened in our real world, I just loved watching a more hopeful and progressive world in this story.
While the previous short story was a murder mystery, this time its a haunting and we are following a different Agent from the Ministry, Hamed and new partner Onsi. Their characters are quite tropey, with one being the slightly experienced grumpy mentor and the other being an overexcited and talkative mentee, but it was a complete delight following them. We also meet other mysterious women who help them in their endeavor to find the supernatural being haunting the Tram car and I was quite enamored by them all and wanted to know more about them. And it made me so so happy to see mention of Fatma as the most famous investigator in the Ministry and now I hope she will be joined by both Hamed and Onsi in the full length novel releasing next year.
In the end, this is one author I’m so happy to have accidentally discovered and now I can’t wait to read any remaining backlist of his and all his future works because I’m thoroughly enjoying his world building as well as characters. If you enjoy beautifully written diverse urban fantasy settings and fun mysteries with supernatural entities, then I highly recommend this novella. Also read the short story that I reviewed above and I promise you will fall in love with this magical steampunk Egypt just like I did. Even the audiobooks are narrated excellently, so you could opt for them if it’s your preferred format. Now I’m just upset that the wait for the novel is too long but I’m left with no choice but to be patient.