I received this book for free from Publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!! This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Exquisite Captive by Heather Demetrios
Series: Dark Caravan Cycle #1
Published by Balzer + Bray on October 7th, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Mythology, Urban Fantasy, Young Adult
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss
Forced to obey her master.
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.
I’m going to be straight up honest with you guys (I mean, when am I ever not?) and tell you that I didn’t have high expectations for this book at all. I’d seen so many negative reviews and some friends of mine didn’t even finish it… I totally thought it would be terrible, and that I’d quit after 50 pages or so. Well… it wasn’t. Maybe those low expectations helped, because I actually quite enjoyed this one.
I really thought the world of Exquisite Captive was super creative. I love jinnis. I don’t know why there aren’t more books about them, though there are some coming now – so maybe it’s an upcoming trend. But Demetrios’s world, where the jinnis in their realm are split into castes and have different elemental magic, was really vivid and wonderful. But the story mostly takes place on Earth, our time, because there’s been a coup in the jinni realm, and Nalia, the last surviving member of the highest caste, has been enslaved on the “Dark Caravan”. She’s bound to her master until she grants his third and final wish, and if she displeases him, she can be sucked into her bottle, where the iron drains her of her magic and power.
I was instantly drawn in by Nalia’s story. I’ll admit I didn’t have the strongest connection to her, but I respected her strength and ferocity. I loved the passages that described her connection to the elements and her magic, which more or less makes me think the world building was the strongest part of the novel. Nalia also suffers from a heavy dose of survivor’s guilt (and regular guilt) which added an air of mystery about what exactly happened in the past, with the coup. I must say that I don’t fully understand her love for her brother, Bashil, which is pretty much the only thing keeping her going. She wants to save him so desperately and claims he’s the only one she loves, but later it’s revealed that people of her caste never talk to their siblings of lower castes (as Bashil was). She says she loved him the instant she saw him. Instaloving on a brother? Really weird. Whyyy.
Which brings me to the other lovings in Exquisite Captive. This is what I was most nervous about, because I’d heard terrible things. There is a love triangle, yes. But it’s not the worst one of all time, to be honest. It kind of reminded me of Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, because you have the evil guy holding the girl captive, and then the good guy claiming he can save her. It’s not completely the same though, but that did help me kind of understand the dynamic between Malek and Nalia. He’s not a good dude. And from page 1, I was majorly skeptical about him. But he shows softer moments, and when romance did occur between the two, the chemistry was palpable. Demetrios can write romance, that’s for sure.
But obviously the star is Raif (with the most unpronounceable name – Rafe? Ra-eef? o_O), because they have a hate-to-love dynamic. Raif is the leader of the rebellion and bears no subtle hatred for Nalia’s caste. Regardless, she has the power to help them defeat the Ifrit, so he tries to save her. I loved their dynamic, seriously. It was slow build, suspicious, cautious, and wonderful…. UNTIL. A certain fateful moment. And at about 80% of the book it goes from 10 to 60 in no time at all. I mean, the romance was building, and I was totally behind that, but then it was all “I CHOOSE YOU. FOREVER.” “I LOVE HIM.” And, err, I could have done without that a little bit. It made my feelings about the ship very complicated, but overall I still rather liked it. Those kissing scenes… unf.
The plot is probably what will be the biggest stumbling block to readers, because it is extremely slow. This book is massive, and it took me forever to get though – though that was also due to my own busy schedule. But while there was a driving force of mystery, because an Ifrit assassin is coming to try to kill Nalia and she needs to plot and scheme to get free before that happens, there were so many scenes that just seemed unnecessary. Descriptions were extremely lengthy and Nalia often got stuck in her own ponderings for pages on end. The mystery did keep me reading, and the fact that I was into the romance helped as well, but the plot itself could have been stronger.