Review: The Golem And The Jinni

I quite enjoyed Helene Wecker’s Golem and the Jinni. It’s a light fantasy set in the ghettoes of New York City in the late 1800’s wherein events conspire to loose a Jinni an an unbound Golem on the world. Wecker does a particularly good job of showing the reader both the city and the human condition through the eyes of her two fictional fish out of water.  There is something of a buddy-cop sound to the description: the Golem is tuned to people’s needs and lives to serve others while the Jinni is a swashbuckler who poorly understands consequences.  They do learn some of the expected lessons, but as with much of the book the execution elevates the tale.

The plot is well-constructed and detailed without being overly intricate, but my favorite parts were the introduction and set-up.  Wecker spends quite a bit of time introducing her protagonists and then introducing them to the city, doting on characters whose role in the plot is fairly minor.  This is a strength of the book.  I enjoyed watching these characters grope their way into the 1890’s and into human society by extension.  Each is reasonably realized, even when their incompleteness is intentional.  It is fun to see what they will do next, even without a driving plot.

The driving plot does arrive, wrongs are righted, old grudges worked out, characters redeemed – all the fantasy tropes.  That’s all executed competently.  I enjoyed watching it, but wasn’t gripped by it in the way I might be in a Cornwell tale.  I did come away wondering how the characters would react to all the derring-do, and that’s at least as interesting for me.


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