New York, 1899:
Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life by a Jewish rabbi. When her master dies on the voyage from Poland, she arrives alone in an unknown city.
Ahmad is a djinni, a being of fire, trapped from centuries and brought back to life by Arbeely, an impoverished tinsmith who invites him to stay in his workshop in Lower Manhattan.
Together, experiencing freedom for the first time, they form the most unlikely of friendships. But a powerful threat will soon test their bond, driving them back into their own worlds and forcing them to make a fateful choice.
I seem to remember hearing Regan (@peruseproject) mention this book but I can’t remember when or where.
So when it caught my eye at the bookstore, I decided to read the back (which you just read as well) and obviously took the book home. I just can’t resist historical fantasy..
As the blurb said, this story follows Chava, a woman made of clay and Ahmad, a djinni. It’s funny that the blurb mentions these names because they are not their real names. Chava didn’t have a name when she arrived in New York and Ahmad is not the djinni’s real name. So it’s a bit silly to hold on to those names like that, to me they were always the golem and the djinni.
Next to the fantasy elements, this book talks a lot about immigration. People travelled to New York to earn more money so they could send it home to their family, or to start over completely. Almost none of them spoke English and they were all scared. Imagine arriving at this huge city, where you don’t know anyone and you can’t ask for help because nobody will understand what you’re saying. In the book there is a Jewish shelter where newcomers can stay for five days so they can find a job and rest from the crossing, but after those five days they have to leave.
Reading this, I really felt their fear for the future, the longing for their family back home. It’s an accomplishment to put these feelings in words.
What I really loved was the fact that there are actually many more main characters, other then the golem and the djinni and that is what makes this book so amazing. You get to know all these people with their problems and fears, their history and how they are related to either the golem or the djinni.
This is a big book and it doesn’t have a lot of action in it which I didn’t mind at all. The story-telling was great with lots of details. I could imagine myself walking around New York during the turn of the century. It gave me the same feeling as when I was reading The Night Circus, so if you liked that, you’ll love this!
The only reason why I’m not giving it five stars is because of the ending. While reading the book, it didn’t feel as if it was leading up to something, it was a slow-paced walk through New York, the desert, Poland,… and then suddenly there’s this problem. I have to admit, I found it difficult to put my head around it. I don’t want to spoil anything so I won’t go into detail here but once you read it, maybe you’ll understand. Or maybe you’ll think it’s a great twist. It just didn’t sit well with me. It was a little bit too easy and it all happened really fast. For a book this size, the ending… oh, I don’t know how to explain.. I just didn’t like it.
The rest of the book is still so good that it deserves those four stars, believe me. It’s magical and it all feels real, even though you’re reading about a woman made of clay and a fire spirit, they were flawed and scared but they gave each other hope. I really, really, really liked it. It’s one of the best books I read all year.
I’m glad I got to read it now, when the days are shorter and darker, I think it added to the magic.
So if you’re looking for a great, slow read to enjoy during these cold, winter days, you should really pick this one up.
I’m so happy to have read it and I’m pretty sure I’ll reread it in the future (which is a huge thing for me because I’m not a rereader)
Seriously, go buy it, you won’t regret it!
Also! Here is the book trailer from Harper Collins.
More background information about the characters and the setting can be found on Helene Wecker’s website, I love when authors give you extra information 🙂 It makes it more real.
The cover I used, I found on Pinterest.