The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
A Novel

77%

71 Critic Reviews

The sometimes slow pace picks up considerably as the disparate characters decipher the past and try to save the souls variously threatened by the golem and the jinni...
-NY Times

Synopsis

In The Golem and the Jinni, a chance meeting between mythical beings takes readers on a dazzling journey through cultures in turn-of-the-century New York.

Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life to by a disgraced rabbi who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic and dies at sea on the voyage from Poland. Chava is unmoored and adrift as the ship arrives in New York harbor in 1899.

Ahmad is a jinni, a being of fire born in the ancient Syrian desert, trapped in an old copper flask, and released in New York City, though still not entirely free

Ahmad and Chava become unlikely friends and soul mates with a mystical connection. Marvelous and compulsively readable, Helene Wecker's debut novel The Golem and the Jinni weaves strands of Yiddish and Middle Eastern literature, historical fiction and magical fable, into a wondrously inventive and unforgettable tale.

 

About Helene Wecker

See more books from this Author
Helene Wecker received a B.A. from Carleton College in Minnesota, and an M.F.A. from Columbia University in New York. A Chicago-area native who's made her home in Minneapolis, Seattle, and New York, she now lives near San Francisco with her husband and daughter. The Golem and the Jinni is her first novel.
 
Published April 23, 2013 by Harper. 657 pages
Genres: History, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Literature & Fiction. Fiction
Bestseller Status:
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Peak Rank on Feb 09 2014
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Weeks as Bestseller
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Critic reviews for The Golem and the Jinni
All: 71 | Positive: 58 | Negative: 13

Kirkus

Excellent
on Mar 31 2013

Wecker takes the premise and runs with it, and though her story runs on too long for what is in essence a fairy tale, she writes skillfully, nicely evoking the layers of alienness that fall upon strangers in a strange land.

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Publishers Weekly

Above average
on Mar 11 2013

The ending dips into melodrama, but the human touches more than compensate in Wecker's spellbinding blend of fantasy and historical fiction.

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NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Susann Cokal on May 16 2013

The sometimes slow pace picks up considerably as the disparate characters decipher the past and try to save the souls variously threatened by the golem and the jinni...

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NY Times

Below average
Reviewed by Patricia Cohen on May 06 2013

More of a problem is the series of not-quite-convincing contrivances that she uses to force the various plotlines finally to merge.

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Blog Critics

Above average
Reviewed by ManoflaBook.com on May 13 2013

...I immediately got sucked in, somehow lost a bit of interest in the middle but found myself engrossed in the story once again towards the end.

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Dear Author

Good
Reviewed by Jayne S on Jun 27 2014

Here the payoff is thoughtful, mesmerizing book with intriguing characters, situations and a hopeful but by no means certain happiness for some...The plot is one that kept me guessing and believe me, this is a good thing. Its intricacies take quite a while to unfold and take shape.

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Kirkus

Good
on Mar 31 2013

Two lessons: Don’t discount a woman just because she’s made of clay, and consider your wishes carefully should you find that magic lamp.

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Examiner

Above average
Reviewed by David Cooper on Apr 23 2013

In addition to the title characters the book has a strong cast of supporting characters including the title characters' human mentors, protectors, and co-workers, and people in Eastern Europe and the Levant who figure in the backstories prior to the title characters' immigration to late 19th Century New York.

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Examiner

Good
Reviewed by Alison Peek on Apr 05 2013

A history lesson, sociology lesson, and a compelling story all rolled into a fast paced compulsively readable book, Wecker is able to take the reader through the streets of old New York, the sands of ancient Syria, and Orthodox Judaism while keeping every aspect relatable.

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NY Journal of Books

Above average
Reviewed by David Cooper on Apr 23 2013

The Golem and the Jinni is recommended to adults who enjoy a good story and have a childlike sense of make-believe.

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Star Tribune

Good
Reviewed by Curt Schleier on Jun 15 2013

...the story is so complex and so intricately woven that it does not lend itself to summary...But it is involving, zigging and zagging, going where least (or never) expected...

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Book Reporter

Good
Reviewed by Amy Gwiazdowski on Apr 26 2013

This may be a story of mythical creatures, but in the end, it’s a story of people adjusting to new lives and learning how to fit in. The simplicity of that is what makes THE GOLEM AND THE JINNI wonderful.

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Entertainment Weekly

Good
Reviewed by Tina Jordan on May 03 2013

The book's magic, filtered through the old-time hustle and bustle of the Lower East Side, lingers long after the final page.

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Christian Science Monitor

Below average
Reviewed by Yvonne Zipp on May 08 2013

Wecker intersperses her supernatural beings' adventures in New York with the story of just how Ahmad ended up in the bottle. The resolution to that mystery was one of the least satisfying things about the novel, and I wish she had resisted the temptation to link her main characters' back stories.

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USA Today

Good
Reviewed by Carmela Ciuraru on Apr 27 2013

Although Wecker explores issues that remain acutely relevant today, she also knows how to entertain readers. She's a marvelous storyteller, attentive not just to her mystical protagonists, but to a rich cast of supporting characters as well. The Golem and the Jinni is an impressive debut...

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Dallas News

Above average
Reviewed by Ron Hogan on Apr 27 2013

...it’s hard to begrudge Wecker the obvious affection she feels for every aspect of the world she’s created — and easy enough to linger with her as she fits it all together.

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The Boston Globe

Good
Reviewed by Jane Ciabattari on May 08 2013

Wecker maintains her novel’s originality as she orchestrates a satisfying and unpredictable ending. The Golem and the Jinni is a continuous delight — provocative, atmospheric, and superbly paced.

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BookPage

Good
Reviewed by Trisha on Nov 26 2013

Suspenseful, creative and entertaining, this book should delight fans of both fantasy and historical fiction. (And one of the best debuts of 2013!) Don't miss it.

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Tor

Below average
Reviewed by Niall Alexander on Aug 15 2013

...the denouement proved a mite too tidy for my liking—the difference between gathering narrative threads together and tying every which one up in a contrivance of pretty ribbons seems lost on the author—and whilst Wecker mostly resists the romance, I wish she had wholly.

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Historical Novel Society

Good
Reviewed by Richard Bourgeois on May 11 2013

Wecker’s view of old New York and its teeming immigrant culture is as immersive as it is delightful. As a fantasy it works brilliantly...

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The Washington Post

Below average
Reviewed by Chris Bohjalian on May 17 2013

Unfortunately...moments are swamped by pages and pages of the jinni’s ancient backstory, historical minutiae and the histrionics and melodrama of the sorcerer’s quest for eternal life.

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Seattle PI

Below average
Reviewed by ManoflaBook.com on May 16 2013

I liked this novel very much, but it was missing that extra "oomph" which I was hoping for, that blend of Yiddish / Arabic slang in midst of the NY ghetto. I missed the cultural jokes which the immigrants are so famous for...

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BookDragon

Good
on Aug 12 2013

Heart-thumping escapes, possessions that span continents and centuries, missed opportunities, neverending death, pitiless betrayal, and, most importantly, unbounded love – yes, all that’s in there … and so much more than you ever expected.

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The Ranting Dragon

Good
on Dec 30 2013

The Golem and the Jinni accomplishes more in one book than most series can in several. From beginning to end, you’re not just seeing but experiencing lives.

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Winnipeg Free Press

Excellent
Reviewed by Joel Boyce on May 25 2013

For a celebrated veteran, this novel would be a great work — a near-flawless gem. As it stands, it's one of the strongest debuts in years.

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Strange Horizons

Below average
Reviewed by Abigail Nussbaum on Aug 23 2013

I don't know whether, like Edward Docx, I wish that The Golem and the Jinni had been purely a mimetic novel, but I do think that in relying on genre tropes and conventions to do some of her heavy lifting, Wecker has created a weaker work...

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Red Online

Good
Reviewed by VIv Groskop on Sep 26 2013

Dubbed 'the most exciting fantasy debut since Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr Norell', it’s truly amazing. One of those books that makes you feel like you've discovered a whole new world.

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Dawn.com

Good
Reviewed by Mohsin Siddiqui on Jul 28 2013

More than anything else...it is a story of metamorphosis and discovery, one that elegantly pulls together history, fable and faith into a narrative of quiet, compelling surprise.

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Upcoming4.Me

Excellent
on Oct 16 2013

...“The Golem and The Jinni” is at the top of my favourite books of the year. It is one of those books that I'll happily return to over the years. A beautiful debut.

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Jewish Journal

Excellent
Reviewed by Dora Levy Mossanen on Jul 31 2013

It is a mark of Wecker’s deft touch that the meeting of all these characters and the closure of the story does not feel contrived, but rather inevitable in this fantastical story that is rendered with such precise emotional analysis and detailed sense of place that one is readily engaged, involved and invested.

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Luxury Reading

Good
Reviewed by A.D. Cole on May 27 2013

The emotional depth of the characters, the intricate detail of the plot, and the exciting and relatively unexplored subject matter all combine to make this a very readable, thoroughly enjoyable novel.

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That's What She Read

Good
Reviewed by Michelle on Jun 07 2013

The Golem and the Jinni is a great, old-fashioned, simple story in which the action takes a backseat to the protagonists, where the story unfolds at its own pace, and where the mirror it holds up to the face of humanity creates some surprising and always thought-provoking reflections.

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http://caffeinatedbookreviewer.com

Excellent
Reviewed by kimbacaffeinate on Apr 15 2013

Within the first few pages I knew that I had stepped into a world that I would not soon forget. Walker’s beautiful world building and thought-provoking tale quickly endeared itself to me.

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Rhapsody in Books

Good
Reviewed by rhapsodyinbooks on May 20 2013

This author clearly loves her characters, and I couldn’t help but do the same! I was enchanted by this unusual, imaginative, and heartwarming story, and would love to see a sequel!

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Before It's News

Below average
on Mar 25 2013

I...wanted more sense of time and place. Just as with the language, I didn’t feel transported to this other place, this other time. The same was true in the flashback scenes when we’re in Ahmad’s desert home.

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A Bookworm's World

Good
Reviewed by Luanne on May 21 2013

This was such a unique and different idea for a novel. Middle Eastern mysticism mixed with Jewish folklore and dipped into New York City's rich history. And under Wecker's skillful pen, it really works.

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Devourer of Books

Excellent
on May 20 2013

The Golem and the Jinni is one of the very rare books that I wish was longer, so that I might continue to dwell within its pages. Very highly recommended.

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Smart B***s Trashy Books

Good
Reviewed by CarrieS on Jun 24 2013

As a historical novel, this book earns an 'A+'. As a love story, my initial response is that it earns a 'B' - but I keep thinking about it, and marveling at its gradual, subtle development, and that haunting, thoughtful quality is making me bump the grade up every time I think about it again.

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Reading Reality

Good
Reviewed by Marlene Harris on Jan 27 2014

While Chava and Ahmad seem meant for each other because of their mutual otherness, discovering that it was literally true subtracted rather than added to the tale. But so much of the story is just fantastic, that I was glad to see these two reach beyond their mythical and mystical past to find a future together.

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Inverarity is not a Scottish village

Good
on Aug 10 2013

This is Helene Wecker's debut novel, but I would never have thought it was a first novel. And unlike so many debut fantasy novels, it's entirely self-contained.

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Fantasy Faction

Above average
on Sep 21 2013

...the jinni and the golem did make a handsome couple. He, a hero of fire, and she, a walking statue with snow glittering on her cheeks.

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She Reads Novels

Good
Reviewed by Helen on Aug 29 2013

As a first novel, The Golem and the Djinni was a very ambitious one but everything worked perfectly. There were so many things about this book that impressed me – the beautiful writing, the clever plot, the blending of fantasy with historical fiction, and most of all, the wonderful characterisation of both Chava and Ahmad.

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Kathy Takes on Books

Below average
Reviewed by Kathy Davie on May 28 2013

Wecker seemed about to link Sophia with Fadwa, but it didn’t go anywhere, which was disappointing, and her assessment of Fadwa’s problem was vague...

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Rated Reads

Excellent
Reviewed by Melissa Fox on Feb 11 2014

It was amazing and perfect and totally and completely satisfying. If all adult books were like this, I’d probably read more of them.

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Book Hooked Blog

Good
Reviewed by Julie G. on Jan 08 2014

Such an amazing, beautiful book. I can't say enough good things about it. I've been raving about it for days to my friends because I just can't stop talking about it.

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My Shelf Confessions

Good
Reviewed by Tabitha the Pabkins on Jan 14 2014

Reading The Golem and the Jinni was like watching a fantastical historical documentary on the lives and loves of two people you only wish you could have known. I highly recommend it, even to those who wouldn’t normally read this type of novel, this is the one you need to step outside your comfort zone for.

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Drey's Library

Good
Reviewed by Drey on Apr 25 2013

...I promise you won’t regret the time spent with these characters, or with the story. Go pick this up!

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Medieval Bookworm

Good
Reviewed by Meghan on Sep 13 2013

I really enjoyed this read – I would definitely recommend The Golem and the Djinni to those who enjoy a mix of fantasy and historical fiction.

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http://roofbeamreader.com

Excellent
on Jan 01 2014

Above everything, she reminds us that the world belongs to all of us and that the best we can do with our lives is to love and to learn. The Golem and the Jinni was one of my favorite reads of 2013.

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BookPeople's Blog

Good
Reviewed by Consuelo on May 22 2013

I’ve read tales of both golems and genies before, and none of them were quite like this. They are taken out of their usual contexts, but the history of each is respected and the Jewish and Arabic folklores woven together in a beautiful way.

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Having Said That

Below average
Reviewed by Heather on Nov 21 2013

While I applaud the author for an original concept, there were more things I didn’t like than I did, and I struggled to finish this one...

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Unabridged Chick

Good
Reviewed by Audra on Apr 30 2013

...it's a book that made me feel joyous as a reader, relishing the pleasure of being lost in a story so real I had to remind myself where I was every time I lifted my nose from the page.

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Meaghan Walsh Gerard

Below average
Reviewed by MWGERARD on Apr 30 2013

The novel...could have been about 75 pages shorter. At times the narrative slows too much. The lull lasts long enough for the reader to second guess himself.

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Tutu's Two Cents

Excellent
Reviewed by Tin on Aug 29 2013

The reader easily slips into believing in the humaness of these characters, rooting for them to overcome the limitations of their construction...This is a praiseworthy debut work.

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Book Monkey

Below average
on Aug 12 2013

Although I enjoyed the slow-build of their relationship, I would have liked there to be a little more romance to it!

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Cozy Little Book Journal

Good
on Mar 28 2013

...the rest of the world Wecker creates is not supernatural. It is emotionally rich, realistic and fully fleshed out. This book is not a fantasy novel. It really is a fable. Helene Wecker is now on my "READ ANYTHING THIS AUTHOR WRITES" list...

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Ageless Pages Reviews

Good
Reviewed by Jessie on May 01 2013

...everything within the 500-page length of the Golem and the Jinni is engrossing. It's impossible to put down. I'm sad I'll never get to experience it for the first time again...

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The Savvy Reader

Good
on Apr 15 2013

Marvelous and compulsively readable, The Golem and the Jinni weaves strands of folk mythology, historical fiction, and magical fable into a wondrously inventive and unforgettable tale.

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Dog Ear

Below average
Reviewed by Nicki on Jun 08 2013

Blending elements of Jewish and Arab folk mythology, Helene Wecker’s debut novel is atmospheric, even (if slow) paced, and deftly written. This will appeal to fans of Morgenstern’s The Night Circus.

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The Oaken Bookcase

Good
Reviewed by ANGELYA on May 02 2013

Helene Wecker has created a beautiful story full of loneliness, self-discovery and magic. It is a perfect combination of folklore set in a historical setting.

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No More Grumpy Bookseller Blog

Good
on May 07 2013

...like any good fairy or folk tale, Helene Wecker's story uses the fantastic to tell a story that is oh, so very common at heart: the struggle to be human.

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Collected Miscellany

Good
Reviewed by Kevin Holtsberry on May 03 2013

This is really a wonderful story and a great read; one that you can soak up and enjoy. An amazing accomplishment for any novel yet alone a debut one.

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Home Between Pages

Good
Reviewed by Rachel on Aug 30 2013

If it sounds like a complicated and intricate tale, it is. There are a number of side characters and stories happening in parallel narratives as the Golem’s and the Jinni’s but part of what is so compelling is that as a reader...you know that at some point all of these threads must come together. But the question that tugs is how?

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Rex Robot Reviews

Excellent
Reviewed by Shannon on Jul 15 2013

The characters are what really makes this novel come alive. They all come from different backgrounds but are each extremely fascinating in their own way. They all felt very real.

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http://sonderbooks.com

Good
on Jun 19 2013

This book captivated me all the way along. It explores what it means to be human, as we look at these two creatures passing as human: one made of clay, and one made of fire.

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http://www.thebookdorks.com

Above average
Reviewed by Shelley on Jan 22 2014

It’s true that this book moved a bit too slowly to develop its meetings, conflicts, etc. and then wrapped them up too quickly and unsatisfyingly...For all its problems, I almost always love magical realism, I enjoyed Wecker’s unique narrative voice here, and I would say this book was definitely worth a read

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Beyond Books

Good
on May 22 2013

I read in the shade. I read in the house. I read all over the place that one day until every last drop of story was done and I could close the book with a contented sigh.

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Let Them Read Books

Good
on Apr 23 2013

The characterization and period detail are excellent, and the story is surprisingly sweet and poignant.

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http://bookotron.com

Good
Reviewed by Rick Kleffel on Jul 08 2013

'The Golem and the Jinni' is the sort of book that you'll read all-too-quickly, slowing down as the end nears because you won't want to leave this world.

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More Than Just Magic

Excellent
Reviewed by ChristasBooks on May 23 2013

The Golem and the Jinni is one of those beautiful books that only come around every so often. I think I could talk forever about this book but only scratch the surface of why it’s wonderful.

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Jenny Loves to Read

Below average
Reviewed by Jenny Girl on May 06 2013

...for me the story went awry half way through due to it's length. That made me fall out of love with it. If the story was speeded up a bit then I would have styed in love.

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Reader Rating for The Golem and the Jinni
87%

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