Books: The Golem and the Jinni

I am generally pretty disciplined about putting a book down when it is bedtime (far more than I was when I was young). Occasionally, the suspense is such that I just have to stay up late reading even though I regret missing out on needed sleep.

Last night I stayed up far past my bedtime, not because there was such suspense that I had to find out what happened to the Golem and the Jinni, but because there was just so much satisfaction in seeing how Helene Wecker brought together all the disparate strands of her story. The ending was not exactly surprising, but the path to the conclusion through the last quarter of the book contained a number of surprising twists and turns.

The Golem and the Jinni is a very satisfying read from start to finish. I enjoy both historical fiction and fantasy novels, but I rarely find both in one book. I have read lots of books which feature jinn (genies), but I remember only one other story that featured a golem. Having both in one story not only introduces interesting background in terms of the lore surrounding them, but also provides the basis for a fascinating exploration into the meaning of free will.

The Golem and the Jinni are both well-developed characters, each very different from the other in terms of abilities and personality, yet very similar in their differences from human beings. They try to hide their true natures in order to fit into the human society in which they find themselves, but they have no one they can talk really openly with – until they find each other.

A lot of books set out interesting premises but fail to flesh out these ideas adequately. Others do well in the development but disappoint in the ending, solving problems too facilely or not even attempting a resolution. The Golem and the Jinni starts out well, develops well, and finishes well. I went to bed with no regrets, either about the book or having stayed up late to finish it.

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