Genres: Action & Adventure, Fantasy & Magic, General, Love & Romance, Young Adult
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For fans of Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone series and Leigh Bardugo's Grisha Trilogy comes the first book in the Dark Caravan Cycle, a modern fantasy-adventure trilogy about a gorgeous, fierce eighteen-year-old jinni who is pitted against two magnetic adversaries, both of whom want her—and need her—to make their wishes come true.Nalia is a jinni of tremendous ancient power, the only survivor of a coup that killed nearly everyone she loved. 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 release Nalia from her master so that she can return to her ravaged homeland and free her imprisoned brother. 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.
Many thanks to Nicole at The Book Bandit Blog for gifting me her ARC of Exquisite Captive. Her fabulous generosity in no way affected my review.
What a complex and intriguing story Heather Demetrios has given us in Exquisite Captive! At times the subject matter was difficult and I found myself wondering why the main character was making some of the choices she made, but in the end I was left with a better understanding of each characters unique, and sometimes dark, complexities. The beauty of this book was that Demetrios was able to weave an imaginative and magical story while shining a light on a very real issue in society today.
Demetrios challenges us through her writing to look beyond the surface and try to understand the motives behind Nalia, the main character’s, actions. So often in real life, we are quick to judge and condemn people (women specifically) for “allowing” bad things to happen to them. Far too often we don’t take the time to look beyond the initial judgement to try to understand what’s going on and what we can do to help.
In Exquisite Captive, Nalia has been a prisoner her whole life. She grew up as part of the highest of jinni castes that rules over the land of Arjinna with a heavy hand. As a young girl, Nalia is forced by her mother to do things she doesn’t want to do, the memory of which continues to haunt her every day. As a teenager, she is the sole survivor a horrific uprising that kills every member of her caste and is eventually forced into a brutal slave trade known as The Dark Caravan. From there she is transported from her world of Arjinna to Earth as you and I know it, and is sold to a cunning and ruthless business man. Malek is bent on making Nalia fulfill his every wish and command through total control, both physically and emotionally. He is not kind to her, punishes her for even the smallest of infractions and controls every facet of her life. This just deepens Nalia’s feelings of failure and worthlessness. Throughout much of the story there is a theme of Nalia needing something or someone to hold on to, that is until finally she realizes that she has the strength she needs to fight for what is right.
After three years under Malek’s rule, Nalia is completely broken emotionally, but when he begins to reveal another side to his madness, it causes Nalia to question her feelings towards him. It’s a strange and complicated relationship, and at first I wasn’t sure how I could ever understand it. Demetrios does an outstanding job of letting Nalia’s character open up to me as a reader and that helped me to understand how her desperate need for acceptance and love is what initally drove her to act in the way she did. She had been starved of any feeling of worth her whole life, so when it is presented to her she clings to it, no matter what the source. I won’t deny that some people may not appreciate the relationship Demetrios created between Nalia and Malek, but personally, I thought it demonstrated the honest and painful truth that is sometimes present in real-life abusive, co-dependent relationships.
Thankfully, Nalia is forced to confront these very painful truths in her life due a to a long-hidden secret finally being discovered. Not only is her own life in danger, but the life of someone she holds so dear, as well as the entire jinni race. It was such a fantastic experience to watch Nalia take an emotional journey of finding out who she truly is as person, outside of what has happened to her; her desire to be needed turns into a desire to be free. In this journey, she meets Raif, a leader of the jinni revolution, and a man of deeply rooted passions and full of mystery. In the beginning, their relationship is based out of necessity as they both need the other to succeed in their individual battles, but along they way a deeper connection is forged. They realize they need to work together to succeed and the dynamic between Nalia and Raif quickly became one of my favorite aspects of the story. I adored what he, and his sister, brought into Nalia’s life. It was wonderful change for Nalia to finally see what true admiration and dedication from another person was like.
To me, the true star of this novel is the legend and folklore Demetrios created for her jinni race. All fives castes are supremely unique and captivating, each having its own defining features and beliefs. I’ve always been fascinated with Arabian mythology and supernatural beings, and was immediately drawn into the story and it’s mysticism. I adore how Demetrios used the four natural elements; earth, air, water and fire, to create four distinct jinni societies, at once so separate from each other but also strongly connected to the other. To watch Nalia uncover the true extent of her powers was also intensely magical in and of itself. Demetrios does a stellar job of describing the magic the jinni posses, and she demonstrates it so beautifully in some key scenes throughout the novel. I was so drawn into the jinni world and culture and I can only hope that we get to explore it even further in the books to come.
Exquisite Captive is a story that grabbed me from the very first page and pulled me along on a wild and transformative journey. There were times where my heart broke for Nalia, times when I wanted to scream at her for decisions she was making, times when I truly understood the price she was paying, and times when I passionately rooted for her as she fought to reclaim her life. This is a story of passion, of pain and ultimately of the power that can be found in freedom.