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Book Review

‘The Golem and the Jinni’ is a believable fantasy

8/21/2013

Book082213Courtesy of Beaverdale Books

Review by Shirley Shiffler

Harper

4/23/13

$26.99

496 pp.

As often happens at Beaverdale Books, a customer recently asked me what I’ve enjoyed reading lately. I immediately handed her “The Golem and the Jinni.” She took one look, shook her head and said she did not enjoy fantasy. I think it’s a tribute to how well written and absorbing these characters are that my first reaction was, “But it isn’t really fantasy, um, it just so happens that the two main characters are not actually human…”

A Jinni is a supernatural creature from the Muslim tradition, made of fire but able to travel like the wind and live for centuries. The Golem is a mythological figure from Jewish folklore, a being formed of clay and brought to life (and eventually destroyed) by the power of its master’s spell.

From such different backgrounds, these two unlikely friends pass as human in 1899 New York City. But the story actually begins centuries earlier with the Jinni trapped by a wizard into a copper flask. The flask had been passed down through generations of a Syrian family that immigrated to America, where the Jinni is set free. He is, however, still held by the bonds that keep him in his human form. The Golem was created in Eastern Europe by dark Kabbalistic magic. She was to be the wife of a man who was planning to make his fortune in New York, but when he dies, she enters the city alone.

Despite their magic and seeming immortality, they are still potentially powerless under the spells of their masters and are ultimately led to a terrifying centuries-old confrontation. CV             

Shirley Shiffler grew up in Urbandale, graduated from Drake (twice!), and now lives in Beaverdale. If she seems tired, it’s probably because she stayed up too late reading!

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