The Golem and the Jinni, by Helene Wecker is a beautiful and remarkable piece of historical fantasy. Set in New York City in the early 1900’s, the book follows the lives of a golem named Chava and a jinni named Ahmad as they try to adjust to life among humans. Chava has lost her master, and without a master, she is overwhelmed by the needs and wishes of those around her. Ahmad is bound to a wizard, but he doesn’t know who the wizard is, or how to free himself. While Chava struggles with a crushing sense of obligation towards others, Ahmad has no sense of empathy and no understanding of how his actions affect others. He does what he wants, when he wants. For the most part, these two characters face New York separately, but when they finally meet, they are able to help each other reach a tenuous sense of balance between responsibility and freedom.
I loved this book for its rich sense of culture and of place. Wecker is equally adept at describing daily life in a busy bakery and life in a glass castle in the desert. I loved the language and the characters and the feeling of being in another world. The fantasy elements are subtle enough that I think people who don’t normally enjoy fantasy will love this for the historical fiction. At the same time, these elements are rich enough that people who aren’t crazy about historical fiction will like it for the fantasy. There is a love story, though it develops slowly and carefully – in fact, for most of the book, I didn’t think the romance would happen at all. This is a book I can’t stop thinking about. You can find my full-length review at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books.