(Review originally posted at Book Lovers Inc)
After reading Mina Khan’s previous book, The Djinn's Dilemma
, I was charmed by the djinn characters, and supremely intrigued by the thought of further exploration of the djinn world she’d hinted at. A Tale of Two Djinns made precisely such an exploration, taking place almost completely in the djinn world and featuring a couple of djinn protagonists. Unsurprisingly, I loved the world-building and loved the characters.
I like how the main characters, Akshay and Mina, move from their initially physical, primal attraction to a progressively deeper understanding of each other’s personalities, their true selves beyond the titles and responsibilities that they’re otherwise known for. Notably, the attraction between Akshay and Mina was hot. ^_^ Playful and flirty at first, then progressively punctuated with sweet, smile-inducing bits. I’m not sure who I liked more of the duo; they worked so well in tandem because the quirks in one brought out the same in the other. Akshay’s strength and intensity to Maya’s firey will. His protectiveness to her nurturing. Their respective senses of loyalty. They rocked equally!
What was really interesting about the romantic development, however, was that it was based on deception. There are reasons–believable, understandable reasons–for the two main characters to hide crucial details about themselves, and by extension to prevent the other from getting too close. As a reader, nothing gets on my nerves quicker than the introduction of a profund misunderstanding between a potential couple just for the sake of (needlessly) prolonging a dilemma. This story had no such device, for the actions and behaviors were all included for reasons of self-preservation (literally and figuratively). That alone was a breath of fresh air amongst romantic plot devices.
While the djinn world setting was magical and surreal feeling, there was a fine grit of darker things coating the surface that I found intriguing. The ripple-effect brought on by conflict; the suddenness and seeming senselessness of loss; the consequences of misperceptions and prejudice. None of those things weighed down the tone of the story with their inclusion; rather, they provided some heft, a measure of realism.
There was a very important, relevant theme in particular that was laced throughout the story, and that was the oft-marginalized role of women in societies. The inclusion of this element was not too obvious, but rather demonstrated in small ways, and as part of the larger plot structure. There was one scene in particular in which a group of female royals sit by, secretly influencing decision-making with their wisdom, but limited in their ability to lay claim to such intelligence and evenhandedness. I found myself thinking about and paying closer attention to those cues, and by the end was left with more than the expected warm-fuzzies of a romance (of which there was plenty, mind you); I thought, “Well, what if I found myself in such a position? What would I do?” I love that I was thinking such things, above and beyond romance itself.
Because of its thematic complexity, its strong and magnetic characters, and its vivid setting, A Tale of Two Djinns is easily a keeper. I’m a fan of the author and the series now, and I truly can’t wait for the next foray into this world!