Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.
This book has been getting some buzz lately. While I'm not as gushy about it as the majority seem to be (for reasons I'll get to in a bit), it's a nice work of urban fantasy, with a creative premise and a level of writing that's a cut above the norm. The setting is a lyrical New York City circa 1900, with its patchwork communities of immigrants and workers, its seedy, dangerous neighborhoods, and its idle, wealthy aristocracy walled off in their palatial estates. Into this storied place come two creatures out of myth. One is a golem, a woman made from clay by an unsavory old man with knowledge of the occult arts, then given life-like features. She is brought into existence in Poland to serve as a wife for a sad sack of a man who is about to use the last of his squandered family fortune to emigrate to the US. However, he dies midway through the ocean voyage, leaving the golem to continue on her own, masterless, after the boat docks at Ellis Island.
The other lead character is the jinni, a being of fire who was captured by a Syrian wizard, fixed in human form, then imprisoned in a flask. Centuries later, a metalsmith living in a Syrian neighborhood of New York accidently releases him.
Wrecker does a lovely job with her creations' personalities. The golem, based on the robot-like creature of Jewish legend, has a stolid, practical temperament, and struggles to navigate the confusing human world without a master to give her direction. Instead, she finds herself animated by the needs of *everyone* around her -- though they pull in such conflicting directions, the net effect is a sort of free will. For her, being a capable worker, it's a world she can find a place in, but not one where she feels entirely happy or safe.
The Jinni on the other hand, is a tempestuous, restless being, capable of making a good living as a craftsman, but too independent to take direction well and easily frustrated by the rigid social rules of the human world. He takes to wandering the streets at night, making new acquaintances in both low and high places, and searching for secrets about his forgotten past. Naturally, these two protagonists encounter each other, and develop a friendship that starts in mutual curiosity, then continues through mutual exasperation, then deepens as they begin to expand each other's understanding of the world and their lives intertwine with the humans around them. It's a lovely odd-couple story, helped even more by audiobook narrator George Guidall’s capable reading of the two central personas.
The novel's strength lies in Wrecker’s unhurried, descriptive passages, which beautifully evoke turn-of-20th-century urban America, the noise of trains, the grit and grime of cobblestone streets, the daily hustles, worries, and woes of her characters, and the general press and jostle of humanity. The two inhuman protagonists both have their own perspectives on this world, on relationships, religion, morality, and two separate immigrant communities that exist streets away, but worlds apart. It’s fun to watch their views play off each other, never quite agreeing, but deepening one another.
However, I found other aspects of the book underwhelming. The side characters aren’t very interesting. After the midpoint of the story, the fantasy elements begin to dominate the plot and the drama becomes a little forced. The action in the final chapters unfolds in somewhat of a jumbled, rushed way. More attention from an editor would have helped.
For me, though, the strengths of this one outdo the weaknesses. If you like novels that mix history, magic realism, and escapism, check it out. 3.5 stars.
I loved this book. The two main characters, a Golem (a woman formed from mud) and a Jinni arrive in 1899 New York City. The story involves both of them needing to hide their true natures and we meet the people who help them succeed. The story takes place in the Jewish and Syrian neighborhoods in New York City. The story speaks for itself so I think that's all I say. It isn't fantasy, it isn't reality. It is what it is. The narrator, George Guidall, is superb.
My only criticism, and the reason I gave the story 4 stars instead of 5, is that it took too long for the Golem and the Jinni to meet and for their stories to meld. And one or two too many characters I cared about died. But that is life in a big city, even in 1899 I suppose.
Myst/thrillers and ✨fun fantasies✨are my favorites but always open for a good story.
This book starts out as two separate stories, one of a Jin (genie), the other of a Golum ( a being made from the earth but looks human). Both seem to go against the norm of their predisposed brutal reputation. They are innocents hungry for knowledge and work while harboring a feeling of loneliness because neither are living the existence they were meant to. They are lucky to be taken in by two separate men who are each as kind as the other and want the best for them.
In early New York a dark fairy tale like listen unfolds as we travel through the mystery that surrounds the creation and past of these two fabled entities. A quarter way into the book they unexpectedly cross each others paths and immediately recognize their strange similarities. A much needed friendship starts for these two lonely beings, but because of their friendship and, unknown to them connection, they could stand to be each others undoing.
Ups and downs, discoveries and diverse characters keeps the story moving forward with a good mixture of events to keep a connection to the listener. Guidall 's wonderful annunciation of each characters verbiage is of course vital to the pace, and he is just stellar with his, not over the top women characters, and believable dark-siinister villains. I don't think I would have enjoyed this book as much without his narration.
This is a compelling story with an excellent narrator. Readers will learn about golems and genies as well as getting a flavor of old New York in the 19th century.
The setting, character development, human insights, and narrator all made this book a wonderful listen. There was a gentle, penetrating quality which made this book particularly enjoyable after listing to other fantasy novels which contained a lot of violence. A remarkable first novel.
This is one of the best books of the summer. When I read the publisher's description I thought this would be a work of fantasy involving time and the possibility of peace between Muslims and Jews. I was delighted to find instead a deep story about people, just people. It was not a reference to politics or war or the problems of the Middle East. It was a study on the question of what it means to be human, about freedom and redemption that comes from choosing to do the right thing, and most of all, love. The descriptions of the immigrant communities and geography of Manhattan in the late 1800's were wonderful and deeply satisfying. The characters and dialogue captivating and true. George Guidall's narration was, as usual, excellent.
Is this what literature is supposed to be like? I think so. Wonderful.
It doesn't get any better than this. A very good story perfectly narrated by George Guidall.
The book grips you from the very beginning and won't let go before the end.
Definitely in the top ten!
Loved them all but the jinni was someone I identified with in some ways so was my favorite.
I love a skilled voice actor that can capture the mood and emotion of a book like this and really engage me in the book even now some time later I can recall the jinni and his often bemused and sometimes baffled tone while addressing the many strange customs of the new world he finds himself in.
The jinni for sure, if you could get him to tell you tales of hundreds of years living in a world of spirits and elemental creatures that would be awesome!
This was probably not a book I would have bought on the publishers description alone but the personal reviews were so positive that I took a chance and was very happy that I did. I have already recommended this to several of my friends as a story this well told crosses genres in its ability to grab hold of a reader and keep them there.
It was original and very well written. A story that draws you in and keeps you until the very last page- wishing it wouldn't end. I love books like that- it doesn't happen often enough!
I kept wondering how the author came up with the idea for this story - it's so unique. She does a good job of keeping you guessing. Also of making you really care about the characters and what happens to them. It's a fantastical story, obviously, but done in a way so that it never seems silly or too far-fetched.
I haven't heard any other George Guidall's performances, but he was fantastic! Very distinct voices for each character that fit them very well- even with accents and female voices. There was never any confusion about who was speaking, which can happen if the performer is not very good.
This novel easily ranks among the top 5% of audio books. George Guidall is undeniably the best male narrator. He savors words and breaths life into phrases. His timing and rhythm is impeccable. (I buy some audio books just to hear Guidall's wonderful voice.)
But, the story and plot is equally entrancing. It is an original novel, with unique characters, colorful history, and interesting introduction to Jewish mysticism and Bedouin myths. The characters are believable and develop well throughout the story. Do pay attention to the little details. They matter.