The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker pretty much delivers what it promises—a golem and a jinni hanging out in turn of the century NYC circa 1899. It is also Wecker’s debut novel.
WHY I PICKED IT UP:
I spied it on the New Fiction rack of my local bookstore and thought it had a great title, cover art, and premise.
WHERE/WHY I STOPPED:
I’m actually still reading the sample, a few pages into chapter two, when the Jinni appears, but I can already tell this is one I’m gonna add to my reading list.
The first sentence acts as a very small hook, beginning, “The Golem awoke…” The book does start a little slow, hereafter detailing in an almost Dickensian tradition a short back-story of the Golem’s master. But the real hook caught me a few pages later where the Golem’s creator tells her master that all Golems will one day run amok and must eventually be destroyed.
This is great—foreshadowing is almost always a great hook—and now I’m interested. Wecker seals the deal by making our Golem identifiable and vulnerable despite being also strong and nigh indestructible.
WHAT COULD BE BETTER, IF ANYTHING:
My first minor criticism is that the book’s opening is a little slow. If I hadn’t been in a very boring place I might not quite have made it through to the real hook. This is a small criticism as Wecker does a great job of creating character and voice. The first part almost seems like a fairy-tale, but there was a small part where I wondered what she was doing.
I’ll explain: “The book’s title and opening sentence are about a golem, why am I reading a short bio about the golem’s master before he’s even created the golem?” I thought. But this section only lasts a few pages and we’re given another hook as we’re told the story of the golem’s creation.
My next quibble–The second chapter is a rather abrupt departure from the first. We’re still in NYC, but all the familiar characters are gone and we’re introduced to the Jinni in a very sudden almost-fight-scene. I’m hooked with the golem, and I’m VERY glad Wecker started with her origin as the book’s opening. The Jinni’s chapter is a bit too chaotic and TOO in medias res featuring too many characters with whom we do not yet identify.
I guess if it fell to me to improve the second chapter I would fast forward to the point at which the Golem and Jinni meet, then do some flashbacks to the Jinni’s story to break us in slow.
The flaws are very small and did not at all deter me from enjoying this book’s opening. If i finish it, I’ll post a follow up! A great debut, check this one out!
And once you do, leave me a comment! Tell me how it was!