Review: The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

Stats 15819028

Publisher: Harper Perennial
Published: 31 DecemberApril 2013
Word Count: 484 pages
Format: Paperback
Rating: qiBXoBz5TqiBXoBz5TqiBXoBz5TqiBXoBz5TqiBXoBz5T

Synopsis:

Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life by a strange man who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic. 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 1899 New York, the Golem and the Jinni try to fit in with their immigrant neighbors while masking their true selves. Meeting by chance, they become unlikely friends whose tenuous attachment challenges their opposing natures, until the night a terrifying incident drives them back into their separate worlds…

Marvelous and compulsively readable, The Golem and the Jinni weaves strands of folk mythology, historical fiction, and magical fable into a wondrously inventive and unforgettable tale.

(via Goodreads)

&&&

I have to begin by stating how very much I adored this novel. It’s everything I love in my stories: it’s atmospheric; it’s compelling, while remaining slowly paced, in order to create complex characters and situations; it’s beautifully written; it’s got engaging characters; it reads like a fairytale or folk legend; it’s simply wonderful. I fell so in love with both Chava and Ahmed. They’re brilliant characters, who so beautifully highlight the flaws in humanity, but also the drive to connect with others and love and do better. (And, purely aesthetically, the cover is beautiful.)

Wecker handled the multiple narrations in the novel well. Nothing ever felt stilted or out of place, and I thought the moments she chose to highlight points of view that were not Chava or Ahmed helped add to the complexity of the story. I did enjoy Chava’s and Ahmed’s points of view the best, though. I liked them both rather equally; both of their voices are strong and interesting. Weaver did a great job building the lore and legend of the jinn in Ahmed’s sections; while she did not add as much depth about the legend of the golem, it’s understandable that she wouldn’t be able to in Chava’s points of view

As reflected in my introductory gush paragraph, I thought Wecker built the atmosphere of New York City at the turn of the twentieth century so well. It sounds like NYC, smells like NYC, looks like NYC…everything about this novel screams NYC. I loved getting the descriptions of the different neighborhoods and communities that no longer exist now, and the characters placed within those communities were equally as wonderful to get to know and see. I just loved how Wecker expressed the two different cultures.

I will say that The Golem and the Jinni would be a hard novel to get through for those of you who do not enjoy a slower paced, more character driven novel. It moves extremely slowly, because it works so hard at developing the characters and creating the atmosphere and tension between people. The plot is rather simple, and at the end of the novel it becomes apparent that this novel is a character study in how these two characters grow and learn how to be human even though they have inhuman qualities about them. It’s about their struggles and their relationships with both each other and the people around them.

I did find both the ending and the plot enjoyable, personally, and loved the way that it resolved. She ended it perfectly, and while I’m thrilled that we’ll be getting another novel with these two characters (though I am less thrilled that I have to wait until 2018), The Golem and the Jinni makes a fine stand-alone novel.

All in all, I simply loved it. These type of atmospheric, character driven reads that rely on folk lore or fairy tale always remind me why I’m a reader, because they’re such great examples of the craftsmanship it takes to present and tell a wonderful story.

Please, if you like historical fiction and light fantasy, I beg you to check this book out. I think you’ll love it. It’s just beautiful.

And if you know of any other books along the same vein as The Golem and the Jinni, please do let me know!

Until next time, happy reading.

–E. Adeline

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