This is my first entry for May, the month of Wyrd&Wonder.
Synopsis: In the alternate early twentieth-century Cairo setting, the unnamed narrator wants to find the eponymous angel.
Her sister Aisha is heavily injured in a fire of their employer’s sewing workshop while rescuing her coworkers. The narrator bids the angel for a miracle to save Aisha.
Miracles come for a price:
“I search for truth,” she explains. “I seek it out. This is my purpose. The reason of my creation.” You have little time to digest that before she continues. “You will be given three chances to give me what I seek. Do so to my satisfaction, and I will grant your miracle. This is the price I set.”
Slowly, the narrator uncovers the truth.
Review: Last year, Clark’s novella “The Haunting of Tram Car 015” (review) blew me away. What a beautiful surprise to find back into this world with this short story at Tor.com!
Unlike the other stories, Angel doesn’t try to tell a grand story. It’s there to explore the world a little bit.
The story stayed true to the setting, but was rather light on Steampunk. No djinns, no magic, no Fatma to be found here. But it features a wonderful Cairo attraction, the medieval-style souk “Kahn el-Khalili” pictured above (photo copied from Wikipedia). The new thing (for me) in this world was the clockwork angel. It is strange that it took up the Catholic Christian cycle of denomination-repentance-absolution in a Muslimic area (though there are lots of Coptic Christians in Egypt).
It is a retelling of the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in New York, which led to the founding of a workers’ union. I liked this touch of industrialization, sweathshops, and worker rights transposed to Cairo.
What I didn’t like was the second-person storytelling and the wrongly placed weaving looms which won’t be found in a garment factory. They buy the fabrics and process them with sewing machines.
This story can be read as a standalone, or simply as a teaser for the upcoming novel “A Master of Djinn”.