Monday, October 4, 2021

The Hidden Palace (The Golem and the Jinni #2) - Helene Wecker

 

Summary: Chava is a golem, a woman made of clay, able to hear the thoughts and longings of the people around her and compelled by her nature to help them. Ahmad is a jinni, a perpetually restless and free-spirited creature of fire, imprisoned in the shape of a man. Fearing they’ll be exposed as monsters, these magical beings hide their true selves and pretend to be human—just two more immigrants in the bustling world of 1900s Manhattan. Having encountered each other under calamitous circumstances, Chava and Ahmad’s lives are now entwined—but they’re not yet certain of what they mean to each other.

Each has unwittingly affected the humans around them. Park Avenue heiress Sophia Winston, whose brief encounter with Ahmad left her with a strange illness that makes her shiver with cold, travels to the Middle East to seek a cure. There she meets a tempestuous female jinni who’s been banished from her tribe. Back in New York, in a tenement on the Lower East Side, a little girl named Kreindel helps her rabbi father build a golem they name Yossele—not knowing that she’s about to be sent to an orphanage uptown, where the hulking Yossele will become her only friend and protector.

Spanning the tumultuous years from the turn of the twentieth century to the beginning of World War I, The Hidden Palace follows these lives and others as they collide and interleave. Can Chava and Ahmad find their places in the human world while remaining true to each other? Or will their opposing natures and desires eventually tear them apart—especially once they encounter, thrillingly, other beings like themselves?

In this enthralling historical epic, set in New York City and the Middle East in the years leading to World War I— the long-awaited follow-up to the acclaimed New York Times bestseller The Golem and the Jinni—Helene Wecker revisits her beloved characters Chava and Ahmad as they confront unexpected new challenges in a rapidly changing human world. (Summary and pic from goodreads.com)

My Review: It has been over seven years since the prequel to this book, The Golem and the Jinni, came out. It has been a long seven years of waiting for this newest addition. At the time, I don’t think that any of us thought we’d be so lucky as to get a sequel to it, and so this was a much-awaited and much-anticipated book that I have personally been waiting for. It wasn’t until I entered the book onto Goodreads that I saw there was a companion book coming out (and that was years ago). Don’t you love when that happens on Goodreads? You find out that a book you loved is one of a series or has another one coming? Man, it’s like a very happy surprise.

One thing that is always a worry for me is that I’m not sure I’ll be able to keep up and know what’s going on in the sequel of a book without a major refresher. I don’t usually like to go back and re-read a book (too many new things on my shelf calling my name!) but I actually remembered the first book quite well. However, Wecker did an excellent job of reminding the reader of things that happened, who the characters were, and gently coaxing those memories out. Because of this, I think you could read it as a standalone. However, I don’t know why you’d want to. Being in this world is a pleasure and I felt that The Golem and the Jinni was such a book that warrants a read. I highly recommend it.

I loved The Hidden Palace. It’s long, and I enjoyed every minute of it. First of all, Wecker is an excellent writer. She writes in a way that pulls you in, but still makes the reading accessible. Sometimes writing is beautiful and it requires a lot of mental energy to keep up. Wecker’s is not like that. Her writing is beautiful and present but allows the reader to be immersed in the story and the world. I loved that about the first book as well. It’s truly a delight to read such a talented author.

The strength of this book definitely lies in its character development. The Hidden Palace is written in a way where we can explore each character individually, and then when they come together, we totally understand each of the individual’s thoughts, background, and actions. Many authors aren’t able to switch back and forth from characters so effortlessly. I always knew who I was with and where I was in this book. The characters aren’t written in first person, but Wecker’s writing skills allow us to explore each character in a way that puts us right there with them.

The story in this book is excellent. It is interesting, it moves at a good pace, and Wecker knows when to stop and explore a time and when to move on and allow time to pass. Many years are covered in this book, and yet it doesn’t feel like we’re missing huge chunks of time that weaken the plot.

I am happy to report that there is a satisfying ending to this book. It doesn’t end how I thought it might, but I guess I tried to go in with an open mind and let the story take me where it would. However, when I love a book so much, and have invested many hours in reading it and being with the characters, I certainly want a good ending (and by “good” I don’t necessarily mean happy). This is just such a book. I felt that rush of endorphins when finishing a good book, and feeling satisfied with it. I always have a hope that maybe there will be another one, but if there’s not, I will be okay with that.

If you read The Golem and the Jinni, you MUST read this sequel. It is excellently written with a beautiful story and exceptional character development. If you haven’t read The Golem and the Jinni, I highly recommend it, and you are lucky that you won’t have to wait so long for the sequel.

My Rating: 5 Stars

For the sensitive reader: This book is clean.

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