Review: The Golem and the Djinni

The Golem and the Djinni by Helene Wrecker

Golem and DjinniChava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life by a disgraced rabbi who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic. When her master, the husband who commissioned her, dies at sea on the voyage from Poland, she is unmoored and adrift as the ship arrives in New York in 1899.

Ahmad is a djinni, a being of fire, born in the ancient Syrian desert. Trapped in an old copper flask by a Bedouin wizard centuries ago, he is released accidentally by a tinsmith in a Lower Manhattan shop. Though he is no longer imprisoned, Ahmad is not entirely free – an unbreakable band of iron binds him to the physical world.

The Golem & The Djinni is their magical, unforgettable story; unlikely friends whose tenuous attachment challenges their opposing natures – until the night a terrifying incident drives them back into their separate worlds. But a powerful threat will soon bring Chava and Ahmad together again, challenging their existence and forcing them to make a fateful choice.

The wonderful thing about this book is the split stories. You start with the Golem and her creation, her journey to New York – but then the Djinni comes in, and his friend the tinsmith, and then we meet a rabbi and the staff of a bakery, and the story flits back to Syria and a girl herding goats, then forward again to the ice-cream man and Sophie, rich and bored and waiting to be married, all interwoven between the Golem and the Djinni. The way the individual stories tie into each other is brilliant – they do come together by the end of the book, but for most of it you’re reading these separate characters and their lives, without knowing exactly how they’re going to fit. It works so well for the story and plot, as you then understand all the people, you see their backgrounds and their characters, without having an info-dump – and by the time we get to the end, we feel that we know all of them. I especially loved that the Golem’s story is known from the beginning and that we see her growing and changing, and the Djinni’s story is found out over the course of the book; he’s fighting to rediscover his memories until everything comes together.

The plot isn’t predictable, either. It ambles along, weaving and turning, and I like that the Golem and the Djinni become friends when they meet – it’s a very unexpected friendship, and I do dearly love that the author hasn’t forced them together. They’re both very interesting characters, and it’s their characters that make the story, which makes for a lovely read. It’s not fast-paced, but it is tense (at the end, at any rate) – and the variation in the stories keeps you turning the pages.

This is part of my Discoverability Challenge.