The Lady Detective
I can make this review brief: If you’re already reading Emma Holly’s Tales of the Djinn series, you may (may!) like this latest instalment, The Lady Detective. If you’re not, for heaven’s sake don’t start here – and I include this review in that statement. I cannot review this book without spoiling the entire series so far.
Yasmin used to be one of the djinniya (female djinn) in the harem of sultan Iskander, but when he fell in love with both a male and female consort, he released the harem. I assume that was in book one. Yasmin has been close to the eunuch Joseph the Magician for years. When an evil empress plotted to destroy the kingdom, a plan involving body doubles left Joseph restored in his… well, his manhood. Maybe that happened in book two. Now that she’s on her own, Yasmin has opened a detective agency, and her old harem-mate Safiye hires her to investigate a powerful djinn named Steven who is about to propose to her. (Yes, I find it amusing that the women in this series are named Yasmin and Safiye, and the men are Joseph and Steven). As she accompanies Safiye to Steven’s house party, she discovers that Joseph is there with an agenda of his own.
Here’s what doesn’t work, and I think you can infer it from the previous paragraph: too much has happened in this series so far. Although I liked the setting and thought interesting things could happen here, it’s hard to be motivated to go backwards and read the previous books when I already know what happens.
If you’re already reading the series, does this book work? In many ways, probably. For instance, if you’ve been following Joseph and Yasmin, it’s probably nice to see them finally get together. The setting is interesting, and while I don’t fully understand the powers and limits of the djinn, a scene set in a magical wilderness called the In-Betweens is interesting and original. On the other hand, the djinn seem to worship a Creator and Creatoress, so why is there a Temple of Demeter, and why does Joseph say both “Jesus” and “Christ” to indicate enjoying sex?
They aren’t the only examples of self-pub-itis. Two long sections jump narrators and are told in a really awkward recap form. Dialogue tags are excessive (“Good Lord,” Joseph said, shocked by this.) Yasmin has a mythical internal hymen, which I guess could be a djinn thing, but after trying to convince myself that Joseph had picked up human swears while visiting our world, I was tired of trying to do the author’s work for her. In addition, the villain’s villainy was magically underexplained (‘magic cakes’ are involved) and Yasmin’s detecting was also not a huge character component.
If you have started this series, this entry might rate a B. I’m not telling you not to start the series, because there’s some stuff here that might be good. But if you like the sound of The Lady Detective, I’d definitely suggest going back to the beginning.