Holy cow, thank god that's over. I am seriously regretting not DNFing this book. I'm woefully disappointed.
This world started out super cool. Black market djinn on earth with a girl trying to break free from her abusive master. I was down. But then the cliches began:
Twilight love triangle -- check!
Secret chosen one -- check!
Enemies turned lovers -- check!
Admit love for each other after three days -- check!
Quirky best friend who's only good for romantic advice -- check!
Side LGBTQIA+ character -- check!
It was exhausting and repetitive and OH MY GOSH NAILA SEDUCE HIM AND GET THE DAMN BOTTLE ALREADY! Goodness gracious I was so fed up with her by about halfway through.
Also, this book was HUGE exposition dump. I was ridiculously pissed that we never got to see the world they were from. There was so much telling and not enough doing. I was so bored. Finally, how a girl could have feelings for her master WHO TORTURED HER AND SHE HAD A BIG EPIC MOMENT WHERE SHE TOLD HIM OFF? How is this love triangle even still a thing? And oh yeah, that guy she is so torn up about killing? I called it that he was related to Raif somehow. Secret from character's past coming to ruin their relationship cliche -- check!
I didn't realize, when I read Exquisite Captive, that it's the first in a series. It reads like a standalone, with enough backstory and forward-moving tension to feel self-contained. And then the cliffhanger ending happened, so I'm relieved there will be more.
The fantasy world (overlaying our contemporary) is influenced by Arabian folklore and jinni mythology, which makes it exotic and enticing. The main character is an 18-year old female jinni who has been enslaved since she was 15 years old. This is important because, as we start into her narrative, her temperamental, rich-as-sin master has shifted from cruel to seductive (and ew).
At first, the themes smacked of insta-love, with a love triangle. I was fully prepared to put it down based on that alone BUT I'm glad I didn't. Because Demetrios turns the trope in its head, with elements of Stockholm Syndrome. It was nice to see the abusive/manipulative relationship elements from the PoV of the young woman caught within the isolation of it. It's so easy to paint villain vs. hero but as anyone who has been in this kind of controlling relationship (magic aside) can tell you, what Nalia experiences is pretty much spot-on.
I also really appreciate that Demetrios did her research on the current slave trade and human trafficking, Arabic terms, jinni mythology, etc. for this book. Book 2 comes out in September and I'll definitely be picking it up. Oh, and there's plenty of diversity in it- yay!
I recommend this for fans of contemporary fantasy, Middle Eastern mythology and folklore, high-stakes adventure stories, and magic. There may be parts you raise an eyebrow to, but stick with it- I promise the few wrinkles even themselves out.
Not a bad premise, but the execution fails to live up. Most of the relationships are just not believable.
I received an advanced copy of this and to be honest I stopped at 50%. It was so boring, had huge info dumps and the story never got anywhere. Just letting those know so they aren't surprised, I've heard many people loved it though.
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