Series: The Dark Caravan, #1
Release Date: October 7th, 2014
Genres: Paranormal, YA
Source: Received in exchange for review
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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?
If I have to sum up Exquisite Captive with one word, it would be “disappointed”. I had high hopes for this one, since I’d heard such great things about Demetrios’ other novel, Something Real. I’m still interested in that one, but it’s always a sad day when a book you had high hopes for didn’t deliver.
Exquisite Captive is not all bad. Its concept, that of jinnis, was highly original and I loved that aspect. Demetrios obviously put quite some research in this novel and the world building is rich. It can be a bit much at times, especially because all the different jinni have different names and worship different gods. There is a guide in the beginning, but as I was reading an eARC, that didn’t help much. I can really imagine it’ll be helpful for people reading a physical copy, though. In Exquisite Captive, there are five types of jinni: those who can control one of the elements (fire, water, air, earth) and also those who can control all four (called the Ghan Aisouri).
Our main character, Nalia, is the last living Ghan Aisouri and also a little bit a Mary Sue. She has her faults, of course, but come on: she’s the last one of her race, which just happens to be the most powerful in all of Ardjinna and Earth. Aside from her slight Mary Sue-ishness, I didn’t have much trouble with Nalia. To be honest, she was mostly a blank slate for me. I never really connected with her or felt for her, which I believe is mostly due to the writing. The style of the novel is distant, focussed mostly on building an atmosphere and adding to the world Demetrios set up. Though both atmosphere and world building are, indeed, highly present, it does cost the characters and – for me- the heart of the story.
My main issue with Exquisite Captive, though, is the romance. There is a bit of a love triangle, though it’s not in the foreground. One half of the love triangle is Raif, who was mostly okay though a bit bossy and blank. Nalia and Raif’s “developing” relationship, however, isn’t really all that developed. In fact, I’d dare call it instalove. Though there is a bit of a build-up, I just don’t think it’s enough to make the all-encompassing “love” that follows believable. And since some of the plot and the reader’s feelings depend on this relationship, the insta-love weakens the entire book.
But the most frustrating part of the love triangle is Malek. Oh, Malek. Nalia’s “romance” with Malek ignites because she has to seduce him for plot reasons, even though she doesn’t really want to. But of course, there’s this “spark” and she soon finds herself making out with Malek because she wants to. So far, so good, except that Malek is an abusive ass. There, I’ve said it. Nalia and Malek’s relationship is completely unhealthy because it is an abusive relationship. I mean, Nalia is literally Malek’s slave. That’s not a good start to a relationship. Every time Malek comes near her, Nalia is afraid he’ll hit her or put her in the bottle (which is the worst form of punishment – almost torture). It was so painful to see because their developing relationship is the picture of an abusive relationship. If only it was addressed as such! Then it would’ve been a whole other story. And while Nalia admits in the end that their relationship wasn’t exactly healthy, it’s never mentioned that it was downright abusive. I think Demetrios was trying to go for a controlling and sexy man, and while there’s nothing wrong with that per se, Malek overdid the controlling/abusive part and that erased all possible sexiness.
Then there is the pacing of the book. Goodreads tells me this is 480 pages, and I think a lot of those pages could have been cut. Especially the middle part of the book drags, because not much is happening besides Nalia shopping/hanging out at a bar/monologueing. There are also a few scenes from the point of view of the villain, which were creepy and awesome at first bit quickly became repetitive. Those scenes started to take the momentum out of the plot, which was honestly the last thing this book needed. I found myself skimming them because of this and also because each villain scene is essentially the same as the one before it. I liked it the first two times, but after that I wished they’d been cut out.
This all sounds rather harsh, and I didn’t like the book much to be honest. However, I won’t say the book doesn’t have any good parts. The jinni aspect was original and well-thought out, and I loved the diversity Demetrios included. A couple characters are LGBT just because, and I love that. The world is made of diverse people, and I appreciate it when books reflect that. Also, Nalia is not white, which I also love. The only issue I took with that was when her skin was described as “cinnamon“, which, no. Describing POC characters in terms of food has been a pretty big trend lately, for some reason. It’s something I do not appreciate at all (let’s be real – if someone called me “vanilla” or “yoghurt” or something I’d be pretty offended) and this trend needs to die. But other than that, I appreciated the diversity.
Exquisite Captive turned out to be not my kind of book. However, it seems like it’s a pretty polarizing read – so far people have either loved it or hated it. So I would recommend you pick this up if it interests you, because who knows, maybe you’ll be with the people who loved it! Exquisite Captive really does have potential, but it was wasted for me because of the things I mentioned above. I can forgive a lot, but an abusive relationship I just cannot condone. Let’s hope I have better luck with the next Demetrios novel I pick up, because she really is a skilled writer.
~Thank you HarperTeen for the review copy!~
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