Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Review: The Golem and the Jinni

The Golem and the Jinni is Helene Wecker's debut novel. Set in turn of the century New York City, it blends together Arabic and Yiddish myths (from whence the Jinni and Golem comes from) into a story that ties together the two disparate myths in a surprisingly satisfying fashion. This mix of myths, of course, is old hat to anyone who's played D&D, but is actually fairly rare in literature.

The story moves fairly slowly, with flashbacks to the past frequent, or even a diversion to tell the story of a secondary character. These transitions are occasionally jarring, reminding you that this is Wecker's debut novel, but as far as complaints go, it's not a bad one.

The two major characters are interesting, and pretty well developed, and surprisingly enough do change as the story progresses, which actually goes against the mythos of these creatures. Wecker does, however, provide reasonable-sounding rationale (as if you really would need rationality in terms of mythic creatures) as to why these two are special.

The human characters are more much stereotyped, with one secondary character's recovery from a Jinni-inspired illness happening without explanation. I would argue that more than any single human character, New York City is itself a major character in this novel. The setting is detailed and you do get a good sense of a living city, but since I'm not a big fan of cities, I'd just leave it at that and not speculate as to whether it's an accurate depiction of New York for those who are.

In any case, the story is interesting enough that I didn't complain about how slowly it moved, but went along for a ride. That's a great accomplishment in itself, which means that I will be looking for future novels by Wecker. Recommended.

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