Today for “Readers Write,” I’m welcoming guest reviewer Allison from the fun Geek Banter blog, who’s sharing a review of The Golem and the Jinni, by Helene Wecker, which was released by Harper Collins in April. This is Helene’s first novel.
There’s a giveaway at the end, so read on!
ABOUT THE GOLEM AND THE JINNI: Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life by a strange old man who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic. When her master dies at sea on the voyage from Pland, she is unmoored and adrift as the ship arrives in New York Harbor. Ahmad is a Jinni, a being of fire, born in the ancient Syrian desert. Trapped in an old copper flask by a Bedouin wizard centuries ago, he is released accidentally by a tinsmith in a Lower Manhattan shop. Struggling to make their way in this strange new place, the Golem and the Jinni try to fit in with their Jewish and Syrian neighbors while masking their true natures. Surrounding them is a community of immigrants: the coffee-house owner Maryam Faddoul, a pillar of wisdom and support for her Syrian neighbors; the solitary ice-cream maker Saleh, a damaged man cursed by tragedy; the kind and caring Rabbi Meyer and his beleaguered nephew MIchael, whose Sheltering House receives newly arrives Jewish men; the adventurous young socialite Sophia Winston; and the mysterious Joseph Schall, a dangerous man driven by ferocious ambition and esoteric wisdom.
A SCENE I’D READ TWICE:
When Chava and Ahmad finally cross paths, I couldn’t imagine how such a hot-tempered jinni could possibly get along with the quiet, timid golem. Their loneliness and feeling of separation from the rest of the world is what ends up keeping them coming back to each other. Their conversations with each other are fascinating and, at times, hilarious because of how often Ahmad makes Chava mad. Their first meeting and talking with each other is an intriguing scene.
I DIDN’T QUITE BUY:
The author spins secondary characters’ stories around the main tale of the golem and the jinni, and some of them, like the ice cream maker’s, I just tended to skim over because I wanted to get back to what was going on with Chava and Ahmad.
The author combines historical 19th century New York with fairy tale in this magical story. The golem and the jinni are portrayed as fugitives, not superheroes, and how they deal with the grit of day-to-day life and the fear of being discovered and destroyed. The world building was so well done; I felt like I was experiencing New York from long ago.
The characters are fleshed out and believable. Chava, the golem, is passive, afraid of her own strength and of the people around her. She is also gentle and aware of others’ feelings. The jinni is outgoing and selfish with a temper to boot, yet somehow the two end up becoming friends. Some of the best dialogue in the story is after they meet and commence to arguing with each other.
There are also many other characters’ stories that the author trails into, and I was confused at first about how they were relevant, but eventually all the stories intertwine in a neat way.
At over 500 pages, I thought this book might be a tedious read, but I ended up not being able to put it down. The writing is phenomenal; this first time author knows what she is doing and has spun an enthralling tale of magic, history, and myth.
Allison is a sci-fi and fantasy writer, reader, gamer, and all around geek. You can find her writing, reviews, and thoughts on geek culture at her blog Geek Banter (http://alsgeekbanter.blogspot.ca/).
Giveaway: Have you read a book featuring a djinn or genie? I think the first one I ever read was Rachel Caine’s Weather Warden series, which was quite a few years ago but it was fun, and this one sounds interesting. And thanks to Allison for the review!
Commenters can receive their choice of The Golem and the Jinni, or a mystery book from my TBR Andes in their choice of spec fiction genre.
Interested in doing a guest review for Preternatura and telling us about a book you love? Email meand let me know. Reviews should be in a speculative fiction genre, and will include a link back to your website or blog.