Hardcover, 480 pages
Published October 7th 2014 by Balzer+Bray
Format read: E-ARC via Edelweiss
Demetrios's expert plotting and beautiful world building will enchant readers, while also provoking them to think about the cost of freedom and free will, in a continuing warring world.
Compelled to help her enemy.
Determined to free herself.
Nalia is a jinni of tremendous ancient power, the only survivor of a coup that killed nearly everyone she loved. Stuffed into a bottle and sold by a slave trader, she’s now in hiding on the dark caravan, the lucrative jinni slave trade between Arjinna and Earth, where jinn are forced to grant wishes and obey their human masters’ every command. She’d give almost anything to be free of the golden shackles that bind her to Malek, her handsome, cruel master, and his lavish Hollywood lifestyle.
Enter Raif, the enigmatic leader of Arjinna’s revolution and Nalia’s sworn enemy. He promises to free Nalia from her master so that she can return to her ravaged homeland and free her imprisoned brother—all for an unbearably high price. Nalia’s not sure she can trust him, but Raif’s her only hope of escape. With her enemies on the hunt, Earth has become more perilous than ever for Nalia. There’s just one catch: for Raif’s unbinding magic to work, Nalia must gain possession of her bottle…and convince the dangerously persuasive Malek that she truly loves him. Battling a dark past and harboring a terrible secret, Nalia soon realizes her freedom may come at a price too terrible to pay: but how far is she willing to go for it?
Inspired by Arabian Nights, EXQUISITE CAPTIVE brings to life a deliciously seductive world where a wish can be a curse and shadows are sometimes safer than the light.
(Honestly, I think my reaction when I found out she had two books coming out over the couple of months was something along the lines of "HELL YES." *Runs around in joy*)
Exquisite Captive is the first of those two books, an intriguing tale of a once-powerful jinni named Nalia, who is now forced to live enslaved to an abusive master in contemporary Los Angeles.
Things that worked:
When readers first meet Nalia, she's angry and sullen. She finds her life on earth mostly repugnant, and struggles with the fact that: 1) she has an abusive master, 2) said abusive master is now attracted to her, and 3) keeping her abusive master happy is the key to saving her brother, and her own life.
Demetrios does a great job of showing how Nalia is initially very much like a caged tropical bird; trapped in a life where Malik's sycophants admire her for the most obvious of abilities, but don't have the capacity to understand how great she can truly be.
But once Raif enters Nalia's life and she realizes that there is another way out, readers begin to see her blossom. Even as she struggles with the realities of what it takes to achieve that other way, there's tacit recognition that Nalia is no longer alone in her struggles.
She has someone to watch her back, a novel reminder that many younger readers - especially those going through adolescence- will likely relate to. It's hardly surprising that as that reminder becomes stronger, Nalia's powers grow.
As for the secondary character, Demetrios creates strong, layered individuals with Malik and Raif. They both have their issues and challenges, and as Demtrios helps readers explore their background, she's also careful to remind that even the most seemingly black-and-white individuals have their shades of grey.
One of the best parts of reading Exquisite Captive, is the fact that Demetrios has created such a immersive world.
She's clearly spent a lot of time working out just how Arjinna works and how it relates to earth. There's also detailed looks into the powers of the jinni, and how the jinni caste system - for lack of a better word - is configured.
While developing a thorough comprehension of the world can occasionally be difficult - more on this later - this is still a world that will draw you in, and make you not want to leave.
While the book is very much Nalia's journey, Demetrios does remind readers on the importance of relationships.
Nalia's friendships and relationships with those who have sought refuge in LA alongside her, are a great reminder that even in the loneliness of warfare, there are those who will understand the trauma and the difficulties that you've been through.
A frank look at the deeper issues
Much like Something Real and her upcoming book I'll See You There, Demetrios doesn't shy away from handling the deeper issues in this book. While there are discussions of genocide, caste systems, and victimization, it's the instances of domestic violence that really stands out for me in this book.
It's worth pointing out that Demetrios handles those scenes with absolute sensitivity, but also with complete honesty. She shows beyond a shadow of a doubt why those scenes are integral to the plot, while also sincerely reflecting on how such violence can impact the emotional psyche of the abuser and the abused.
This is something that educators and parents may want to keep in mind with younger readers, while also taking advantage of the smart, reflective questions that Demetrios asks her characters to ask themselves, as they try to come to terms with such a relationship.
Demetrios leaves her characters in a place that ties up a lot of loose ends, but also leave readers with enough questions that they'll be dying to get the next book in the series.
(I should know - I'm one of them!)
Things that didn't work/Things to consider:
Don't get me wrong: Demetrios has done a great job in creating a believable world. Her caste system is as solid as a rock, and the magical/verbal idiosyncrasies that she's given to jinnis of certain rank are certainly believable.
However, I had a hard time keep track of all of the jinnis and powers when I was first reading, so a glossary of some kind would definitely help. Maybe for the paperback edition?
It's not the easiest of reads at times; Demetrios unflinchingly explores what it means to suffer in indentured servitude to someone who battles with internal demons, along with the difficulties of having to reconsider ideology that was once believed to be true. There are also frank discussions about class systems and discrimination, including how physical appearances can determine an individual's fate.
But Demetrios handles all of these issues with the thoughtfulness and the profundity that readers have come to expect from her writing, and also manages to weave together the mythos for a urban fantasy world that will absolutely blow away readers.
I highly recommend this book for previous fans of Heather Demetrios, but also for fans of urban street fantasy. Heather has written a book that will leave you thinking, and I can't wait to see how other readers feel about it.
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About the author:
When she’s not traipsing around the world or spending time in imaginary places, Heather Demetrios lives with her husband in New York City. Originally from Los Angeles, she now calls the East Coast home. Heather will receive her MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts later this year and is a recipient of the PEN New England Susan P. Bloom Discovery Award for her debut young adult novel,Something Real. You can visit Heather online at www.heatherdemetrios.com.