Sunday, October 6, 2013

Review: The Golem and the Jinni

The Golem and the Jinni
The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a wonderful debut novel! It's nice to find a fantasy in such an original setting, and with such a cool mix of fantastic creatures. If you are as tired of werewolves, vampires, and zombies as I am, this is a good book to try.

For those who aren't familiar with golems, they are creatures of Jewish mythology, created from clay and endowed with a semblance of life by arcane spells known only to learned rabbis. In a way, a golem is the thinking man's Frankenstein's Monster.

Jinnis (aka genies) are familiar from the genie in a bottle tale, and indeed this jinni is not only trapped in a bottle, he is trapped in human form. In spite of that, he has some superhuman abilities. His fingers can generate fire, because his true form is actually fire-based.

The huge influx of immigrants from both Europe and Asia bring the two supernatural creatures to New York city in the early part of the 20th century. The golem ends up in a Jewish neighborhood and the jinni in Little Syria. Eventually, their paths cross (neither of them sleeps, so they are both awake all night) and they know each other at once.

In addition to the eponymous main characters, this novel employs many secondary characters to narrate the story. I had no feeling of “head hopping” because each of them has a distinctive voice and clear motivations. Most of the story is set in the East Side of Manhattan but there are scenes in Poland, the Middle East, and on an ocean liner. Everyone's part in the story is like a piece of yarn that the author knits into the story to create a cohesive whole. The nonhuman characters are just that: not human. They have their own natures and they stay true to them.

There is some resolution at the end, but clearly, a sequel could easily happen, so don't say I didn't warn you. I also want to commend the publisher for an extremely clean Kindle copy of this book. Kudos for no formatting errors!

All in all, an excellent read! The only thing I didn't like was the cover, which I thought found neither appealing nor helpful in determining what the story was about.

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