© P.B. Kerr, cover illustration not credited.

This is the first book in a series, one of many hopping onto the Harry Potter bandwagon I suspect, but not really very much like Harry Potter, and a good read. Kerr tells a story of djinn (or as they were once named, genies), the kind with impressive magical powers, that turn into smoke and can reside in places like oil lamps. There have been many such stories, inspired by the original tale of Aladdin and his Magic Lamp from The 1,001 Nights. What Kerr does that’s original, and it’s a fine idea, is flip the usual story on its head. Rather than a human finding and using the djinn’s power for his own gain, we follow John and Philippa Gaunt as they gradually discover that they themselves are djinn, their powers dormant as they grew. then suddenly emerging, to the alarm of their parents (their mother was a djinn herself but gave up the use of her powers), and to the delight of their uncle Nimrod, a full-fledged djinn, who invites them to stay with him in London so he can begin to train them in their new abilities.

Of course things don’t always go smoothly, especially once the children, Nimrod, and his aides travel to Egypt. There the author unveils a whole djinn history and cosmology that is quite well developed and interesting, with four djinn clans in an eternal contest to control the luck of humanity, two on the side of Good, two on the side of Evil. It seems the Evil side has a new goal: finding 70 lost djinn, once under the control of an Egyptian Pharaoh named Akhenaten, whose lost tomb may have been recently uncovered in an earthquake. Nimrod and the children are soon also on the hunt for the lost djinn, for who ever finds and releases them will have gained a great advantage in the djinn struggles.

Kerr writes well, keeping things moving, using a good mix of humor and suspense, his characters well-developed and his plot ingenious. One thing that surprised me a bit was that Kerr takes lots of pot-shots at groups of various kinds: the French, the Egyptians, even the English, in a way that might annoy some in those groups. Not very politically correct, but it does make for entertaining reading. I’ll be looking for more of this series, this one is recommended.

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