Bradley's Reviews > The Golem and the Jinni

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
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it was amazing
bookshelves: history, fantasy, romance, 2016-shelf

I'm really quite amazed at the things this novel does right. It's a detailed and grand scaled historical romance as well as being a delightful hop in magical realism, but I couldn't help make direct connections to Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell.

But not because many of the ideas are the same. They aren't. What is the same is the length and the attention to historicism and the depth of the real history and especially the depth of the magic. The length of the novel and beautiful prose also has a lot to do with it, as well.

It's basically an immigrant story that becomes an empowerment story with a strong thread of very understated romance. The large set of characters never overwhelms the main two. The woman of Earth and the man of Fire are both magical creatures that find their way at the turn of the last century's New York City. It's really quite delightful.

She was created out of clay and designed with intelligence and curiosity, but she was also designed to be subservient and modest... with an evil strain built in to all golems that make them wish to utterly destroy their creators once they get a taste for blood. He was a wild spirit of fire before he was enslaved and was forced to live in stasis for a thousand years until luck would have him freed... and at loose ends in cold winters that he is unable to escape from.

How beautiful is that? It sounds like the setup for a grand romance. But it isn't. Not really. Theirs is a relationship based on trust and deep friendship, and even when that trust is broken, they forgive and return to each other.

There's even an evil wizard that returns through each life with not just a complicated background but also a complicated inner life. I can't quite call him irredeemable. He does good and and makes beauty. He made the golem, after all. But his nature leads him down very dark pathways, too.

So was this a character novel or a plot-driven one? Both. And wonderfully so. I got engrossed in everything. The journey was a pure delight. :)

I totally recommend for anyone who wants a classy and gorgeous historical romance full of deep magic and iconic archetypal characters that are beautifully drawn. :)
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Reading Progress

August 14, 2013 – Shelved
August 14, 2013 – Shelved as: to-read
November 25, 2016 – Started Reading
November 26, 2016 – Shelved as: history
November 26, 2016 – Shelved as: fantasy
November 26, 2016 – Shelved as: romance
November 26, 2016 – Finished Reading
December 31, 2016 – Shelved as: 2016-shelf

Comments Showing 1-30 of 30 (30 new)

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Robert Loved this one too, Brad, and I'm excited Ms Wecker is working on a follow up in the same universe

Matthew Quann Great review for an excellent novel. As Robert noted above, a follow-up is on the way and I couldn't be happier.

Bradley I'm really looking forward to the follow up. I really want to know if the two of them can find an accommodation. Who knows? 40-50 years *should* be enough, right?

message 4: by Trish (new)

Trish You liked a romance. YOU liked a romance. You liked A ROMANCE?????

Bradley It was a very light romance. :) It more like mutual admiration over a great distance.

Which was very nice. :)

But yes, it was a romance. :)

message 6: by Trish (new)

Trish You mean it was pining. *sighs*

Bradley No no, they're too different, but they're close together. They have a very strong mutual respect but neither of them knows how to proceed. (Circumstances make that hard, too, with other love interests. :)

message 8: by Trish (new)

Trish But how can you actually be in love if you are too different and don't know how to proceed?! *is very confused now*

Bradley One is fire and the other is earth. :) Literally. He is a free spirit enchained and she is faithful and solid. They fight but they are both very loyal to each other as friends. You'd have to read the novel to know what I mean. I mean, they're both magical creatures, yes, but as people they're very different, too. It ends with her thinking that they'd have to carve a very non-traditional reality for themselves if they are ever to make something happen.

(By then, they haven't even kissed. It's THAT slow a romance. But on the other hand, they trust each other with their lives. :)

message 10: by Trish (new)

Trish Posh! Tosh! *throws up hands exasperatedly* That's all just drama-llama to keep the "suspense" high. Typical for YA. *pukes* Is this YA?

Bradley Absolutely NOT. No kids in this at all, and while he's a thousand years old and she's freshly made to be a sex doll for a guy who ups and dies on her even as he awakens her on the boat to America. This is all about kinds of slavery and fresh beginnings, with words to bind or kill both of them.

On her own, she decides to marry some guy out of fear and desiring safety. He knocks up a heiress and tumbles her life into the muck. They have to live and work with their bad decisions while slowly realizing that while they're utterly alone in the world, being practically the only ones of their kind, they at least find a sympathetic ear in each other. :)

THIS IS NOT YA. *stares daggers*

Too much blood and suicidal thoughts, too much darkness and slavery.

message 12: by Trish (new)

Trish Uhm, ever read Twilight #2?! Plenty of suicidal thoughts there, the girls are usually slaes to "theor urges" or some "perfect male speciman" and YA doesn't mean young protagonists exclusively. The execution can have slight differences and still be the same dreck (so weird using that word in English *lol*).

Bradley You're just winding me up. This book was actually rather lyrical and had wonderful detail and it actually got me emotionally. And it's mainly a historical novel spanning lots of time and many fantastic spaces including great references to Solomon and a ton of great Kabbalah. And the suicide I'm referring to is built into the nature of being a Golem. One command to create life and another to take it away. She was given the tools of her own destruction instead of having it taken from her, but when she loses it, she kinda goes nuts. The Jinni's bad choices makes him reevaluate his entire life and when he gets enslaved all over again he decides to take out the evil wizard that has bound their lives together by an act of suicide. It's gorgeous.

*stares daggers*

This isn't dreck. This is actually a beautiful novel with themes intertwining and pulling at each other in surprising and unique ways even if the starting points in personalities seem well-used.

And most of all, no YA work can be this complicated or subtle or thoughtful. Kids would yawn at this. But me? I was entranced.


message 14: by Trish (new)

Trish Uh-huh. *pats Brad on shoulder* It's Ok, buddy. Most of us have this one book that is totally not our genre but gets to us. The justifications are always the same (lyrical, complex, not like others, ...). Bwahahahahaha!
Oh and there are quite a number of YA titles with history or historical references ...
Come to think of it, it's not the first YA you liked - the other is actually one we both loved: Valente's Fairyland series.
This simply means they've gotten to you at least twice now.
*looks at Brad in mock concern*

Bradley This ISN'T YA!!!!!! There's no kids in SIGHT!!!!!!!!


Bradley I just checked. 40 people out of 63 thousand readers shelved this as YA. Fantasy and Historical Fiction was the highest.

*narrows eyes and curses under his breath*

message 17: by Jason (new) - added it

Jason Vigorito LOL, you two!!! :-D

message 18: by Jason (new) - added it

Jason Vigorito *grabs popcorn and a blue Icee*

Bradley Tell her to stop!!!! *cry*

message 20: by Trish (new)

Trish *laughs maniacally*

You only go by these stats whenever they are in your favour. Every other time you tell everyone and their mother that most people are just wrong.

message 21: by Amy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Amy Y'all are cute. :) And this book is gorgeous. It's definitely one I'll read again. I remember it having such a well-developed sense of place, wonderfully drawn characters, and an almost dream-like tone. It's been a minute since I've read it, but those things have stuck with me, even though I've forgotten some of the details.

Great review, Brad!

Bradley Okay, fine. Lord of the Rings is YA, too. So is Titanborn. While we're at it, so are The Books of Blood and so is your black little heart. See? Now we've made the term YA completely meaningless.

*stares daggers*

And besides, have you read this book? Do you know of ANYONE who thinks it's YA?

Bradley Thanks Amy! I think it'll stick with me too. :) It really was a wonderful ADULT book. :)

message 24: by Amy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Amy DEFINITELY adult. *winks conspiratorially*

message 25: by Trish (new)

Trish Brad wrote: "Okay, fine. Lord of the Rings is YA, too. So is Titanborn. While we're at it, so are The Books of Blood and so is your black little heart. See? Now we've made the term YA completely meaningless.


Well, according to your own stats above, there are indeed people shelving it as YA - so does the local bookstore. ;)

And no, not EVERYTHING is YA, but there are certain classic YA themes that I see here (and dread).


This is almost too easy.

Bradley GET THEE BEHIND ME, saYAtan!

Celeste Great review, Brad. This sounds like a lovely book. I'll have to give it a read!

message 28: by Trish (new)

Trish *laughs uncontrollably*
Ah, this was great fun, thanks! *slaps Brad on the chest*
Haven't had such a laug in forever!
*wipes away tears*

Bradley My pleasure, Celeste! :)

And Trish: I'm gLad thAt yoU are havinG a great time at my expense.

Jeeze, where's that H!

message 30: by Trish (new)

Trish xD

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