Exquisite Captive | Thoughts
I went into this without high expectations - not saying I thought it would be bad, but I was in the mood for a quick little tale of romance, and I've been loving stories about Jinn since reading The Forbidden Wish.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that Exquisite Captive had more to offer than just a simple insta-romance. Rather, there was decent world building even if it came across as info-dumping in the form of a paragraph a page, and the characters were more than just two-dimensional puppets meant to serve the purpose of the boy-meets-girl theme. Sure, some of the "revelations" were either kind of obvious or came out of nowhere, but overall I was hooked from start to finish. Topics of slavery, responsibility, caste division, and revolution lift this story out of the typical "beautiful jinni desired by all" territory and weigh in on some compelling discussion about the gray areas of right and wrong and how the fight on either side can be understood if you simply take the time to try.
While set in modern-day Los Angeles, the world-building comes across for a world in which we never actually set foot in this first book. Arjinna, the land of the Jinn, is at war since an uprising left its leaders murdered and opened a booming slave-trade with Earth. The introduction of automatic weaponry - guns - to Arjinna laid waste to its jinn, whose magic was no match for the speed of bullets. Thus did Nalia, the last of her bloodline, end up sold to a human on Earth and for three years has been his captive.
Raif is the leader of the resistance, not the same group who overtook Arjinna so brutally, but a rebellion against the old rulers and now the new. His kind are historical enemies of Nalia's, but his hatred of the idea of her is quickly replaced by respect and affection as he gets to know her. It's obvious the romance angle is for Nalia the exiled and now imprisoned lost empress and Raif the rebel, but I was more fascinated by Nalia's relationship with her master, Malek. Cruel, brutal, and her oppressor, Malek has recently been acting more a suitor than a master. I would even find myself forgetting the punishments he doled out when Nalia did not answer a summons quickly enough, after just a page or two of him acting a gentleman. This is intentional, as Nalia herself is confused by the twisted attraction she feels for him even as she loathes his presence. Is it just to secure her freedom that she allows him to get closer? Demetrios does a pretty good job showing us multiple sides of her characters, and at the same time I'm screaming at Nalia that he is abusive, I'm slightly attracted to the idea of saving Malek.
This story is magical, from the different jinn and their jewel-toned characteristics to the poetic descriptions, as well as brutal. The treatment of the slave-jinn is not shied away from, not in terms of their physical, emotional, or sexual mistreatment. I was somewhat confused at the intended audience of this book, as the language and violent descriptions at times belied an older audience, but the tame, teenager-level romance leaned closer to a younger reader. The slaves sexual mistreatment is only a suggestion throughout, merely a stated fact that some jinni's are forced to service their masters in this way, but Nalia is spared this fate as her master would rather earn her than take her.
With the new relationship dynamics at the conclusion, the figurative bombs waiting to drop when certain knowledge is brought to light, and the promise of a revolutionary battle in the magical world of Arjinna, I am definitely intrigued enough to read on.