The Golem and the Jinni #1
by Helene Wecker
Published on April 23, 2013 by Harper
Genres: Adult, Fantasy, Historical
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Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life by a disgraced rabbi who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic. When her master, the husband who commissioned her, dies at sea on the voyage from Poland, she is unmoored and adrift as the ship arrives in New York in 1899.
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. Though he is no longer imprisoned, Ahmad is not entirely free – an unbreakable band of iron binds him to the physical world.
The Golem and the Jinni is their magical, unforgettable story; unlikely friends whose tenuous attachment challenges their opposing natures – until the night a terrifying incident drives them back into their separate worlds. But a powerful threat will soon bring Chava and Ahmad together again, challenging their existence and forcing them to make a fateful choice.
This book…oh, this book. Just to preface this review: I started this book in August. August. The last book to take more than a few weeks to finish was Brisingr by Christopher Paolini (the first half of that book was a struggle to get through). But this one, I didn’t finish until January. A little over 5 months. Clearly something just didn’t click.
Yet it wasn’t any fault of the author.
There was a lot of good in this book. Truly. The writing held such detail that imagining anything came with little effort. Wecker provided everything you could possibly need. And I wanted to like this book, I truly did. The concept alone caught my attention, beautiful cover aside. I nabbed a copy as soon as I found it in the store.
But that’s where the good times stop rolling. The Golem and the Jinni is character driven. While that doesn’t equate to bad, there needs to be movement of the characters in the story. The book moved slow. Excruciatingly slow. I set it down several times because I wasn’t getting into it. Nothing picked up for almost 75% of the story and by then I was seconds away from dropping it as did-not-finish. Not only did the characters go about mundane lives despite the two leads being on the supernatural side, but their world was written in enough detail that I was swimming in a ball pit of it. The strength of this book is also its downfall. Too often those details spread the action so far apart that I forgot what was happening. I reread sections. I reread full chapters. There was too little action and dialogue, and a heavy-handed dose of setting.
In all that detail, I never connected with the characters. They were referred to as “the golem” and “the jinni” even after receiving names. They were so lost in the new world that I was lost in the story alongside them. They had extravagant backstories but no personality. No connection to characters in a character-driven story? No interest in reading said story.
I struggled to finish this book but I finally got through it. Unpopular opinion as it may be, I just wasn’t a fan of this book.