Book Review – The Golem and the Jinni – Helene Wecker
- Book: The Golem and the Jinni
- Author: Helene Wecker
- Genre: Fantasy
- Year of Release: 2013
- Read 486-page hardcover edition in December 2015.
In her debut novel, author Helene Wecker weaves together Arab and Jewish mythology, bringing together a young Golem and an ancient Jinni in 1899 New York City. The Golem Chava is trying to make sense of herself in the world, satisfying curiosity while at the same time being careful and cautious. The Jinni Ahmad is living on the edge, trying to find excitement and outlets for his great energy. When the two meet by chance, they begin a series of dynamic encounters, learning more about each other and about the world they inhabit. However, a dangerous man from afar, who is not what he appears, means they both have more in common then they realize.
As 2015 comes to a close, I can say this novel was truly one of the best books I read this year! Helene Wecker has written an amazing debut novel, one which is entertaining, emotional, raw, and thoughtful.
The novel has a perfect balance of plot/action and character development. Particularly in the first half of the novel, Wecker provides in-depth character analysis and development, helping us to understand the feelings and thoughts of the main and secondary characters we encounter. This ensures we as the reader actually care about the intense plot twists and dangerous sequences that follow later on in the novel. Wecker makes us invest in these characters so we care about what is happening, and the result is effective.
The main characters of Chava and Ahmad start off with their own introductions and their own stories of how they come to New York, their own character traits, but eventually Wecker weaves the two together into their own chapters as they meet each other and spend time together. It is amazing how this is done, and how seamless the transition is. Chava and Ahmad are very different in many ways, yet they are similar in other ways as well, and it is enjoyable for the reader to learn more about the two main characters.
At the same time, we learn a lot about the main antagonist in the novel as we read on, and we also see how Chava and Ahmad relate to the variety of secondary characters in the novel, from Little Syria and Jewish neighbourhoods in New York City circa 1899. Wecker does a masterful job of filling in the details of these characters so we understand their motivations and feelings as well, and then Wecker does a great job bringing the various characters together and bringing the entire story together into one powerful and intense narrative towards the conclusion.
The conclusion of the novel is intense, filled with suspense, action, sacrifice, surprise, and more than one twist. Wecker has done a lot in the novel to set things up, and there is a great pay off in the conclusion of the novel, which is well structured and well written.
Finally, Wecker has well-researched New York 1899 for this novel, and has infused elements of Jewish mythology and custom, as well as Arabic mythology and Syrian culture, into this novel. She has written in such a way that this all blends together, and creates a beautiful and unique tapestry for a historical fantasy novel.
Overall, this is a highly recommended novel, and was extremely enjoyable! Well done!
Overall: 5 stars out of 5 stars.