Good morning and Happy Halloween! Welcome to part one of my annual Halloween Double Feature. My first post of the day is a review of a spooky sounding novella I’ve been saving for this occasion. Published in February 2019, it was also yet another read that I’d really been looking forward throughout the year.
The story is set in an alternate version of Cairo, Egypt in the year 1912. In this world, Djinn and other supernatural natural entities have come to live openly alongside humans, transforming the city into a modern, prosperous metropolis. Among their most prominent achievements is a system of magically endowed tram cars that offer a means of clean, efficient travel high above the busy streets. When one of these cars becomes the scene of some unusual happenings, however, it is up to Agent Hamed Nasr and his rookie partner Onsi Youssef of the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments, and Supernatural Entities to investigate and restore order.
I had a lot of fun reading this as pretty much everything about the novella hit the right notes for me. There was just a certain energy to the world that I found captivating, and I enjoyed the ways in which steampunk elements existed side by side with the magical to create something truly interesting. It also helps that I tend to like a good detective story and watching this one play out in this setting was simply amazing to behold. That the action also occurred against the backdrop of preparations for a massive Women’s Suffrage demonstration brought the story up to yet another level while at the same time making it feel more grounded and real. What brought it all home for me though was the rapport between the more cynical Hamed and the overly enthusiastic Onsi. Their relationship managed to feel fresh and authentic despite being sounding like a pretty common pairing and gave the reader excellent eyes through which to encounter these events. Add in the other characters, particularly Superintendent Bashir, an uninspiring Tram official with a sweet tooth, and Abla, a shockingly well-connected waitress, and you have all the makings of an impressive novel packed into 100 or so pages.
I really don’t want to give away any bit of this story, so I’ll close by saying again what a pleasure this was to read. This was easily one of my favorites of the year and I give it my highest recommendations. Being a novella, however, it went by entirely too fast so make sure you have more from the author in queue for when you finish!