Fantasy Book Review: The Golem and the Jinni

The Golem and the Jinni

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

An immigrant tale that combines elements of Jewish and Arab folk mythology, The Golem and the Jinni tells the story of two supernatural creatures who arrive separately in New York in 1899. One is a golem, created out of clay to be her master’s wife—but he dies at sea, leaving her disoriented and overwhelmed as their ship arrives in New York Harbor. The other is a jinni, a being of fire, trapped for a thousand years in a copper flask before a tinsmith in Manhattan’s Little Syria releases him.

Each unknown to the other, the Golem and the Jinni explore the strange and altogether human city. Chava, as a kind old rabbi names her, is beset by the desires and wishes of others, which she can feel tugging at her. Ahmad, christened by the tinsmith who makes him his apprentice, is aggravated by human dullness. Both must work to create places for themselves in this new world, and develop tentative relationships with the people who surround them.

And then, one cold and windy night, their paths happen to meet.

Chava is a complex character, despite her seemingly simplistic nature. She exists to serve her master, though once he’s dead, she has little purpose. Now she can sense everyone else’s desires which is extremely confusing for her. The jinni Ahmad is less likeable at first, as he’s driven by completely selfish motivations and cares little for others. But when he meets Chava, something seems to change in him.

The Golem and the Jinni is a beautifully-written gothic fantasy. The combination of mythologies makes for a fascinating and captivating tale. The characters are rich and engaging. The story is full of mystery, heartache, and suspense. This timeless tale felt like an instant classic that will capture a variety of readers. I highly recommend this one.

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