First Impression Friday: “The Hidden Palace” by Helene Wecker

I’ve been trying to read this book for like four months, and every time I get it checked out from the library I forget about it so it gets auto-returned and then I have to get back on the waiting list and I finally, finally have some time to just sit down and read it (I hope).

From GoodReads:

Chava is a golem, a woman made of clay, who can hear the thoughts and longings of those around her and feels compelled by her nature to help them. Ahmad is a jinni, a restless creature of fire, once free to roam the desert but now imprisoned in the shape of a man. Fearing they’ll be exposed as monsters, these magical beings hide their true selves and try to pass as human–just two more immigrants in the bustling world of 1900s Manhattan. Brought together under calamitous circumstances, their lives are now entwined–but they’re not yet certain of what they mean to each other.

Both Chava and Ahmad have changed the lives of the people around them. Park Avenue heiress Sophia Winston, whose brief encounter with Ahmad left her with a strange illness that makes her shiver with cold, travels to the Middle East to seek a cure. There she meets Dima, a tempestuous female jinni who’s been banished from her tribe. Back in New York, in a tenement on the Lower East Side, a little girl named Kreindel helps her rabbi father build a golem they name Yossele–not knowing that she’s about to be sent to an orphanage uptown, where the hulking Yossele will become her only friend and protector.

Spanning the tumultuous years from the turn of the twentieth century to the beginning of World War I, The Hidden Palace follows these lives and others as they collide and interleave. Can Chava and Ahmad find their places in the human world while remaining true to each other? Or will their opposing natures and desires eventually tear them apart–especially once they encounter, thrillingly, other beings like themselves?

The Hidden Palace (The Golem and the Jinni, #2)

It’s been over three years since I first read The Golem and the Jinni, and I really wanted to get that book in paperback but they’ve changed the cover for some reason and I hate the new one, so now I’ve got to track down a hardcover on ThriftBooks that’s in decent enough condition so here we are.

By the end of the first chapter, I realized I’d forgotten most of what happened in the first book. I don’t remember Chava being married to Michael, and I don’t remember Ahmad defeating the wizard who’d once trapped him in the bottle. But the book provides enough of a rough sketch for me to figure out where we are: just a few months after the end of the first book. The first part of this book opens with an inscription saying 1900-1908, so this is going to cover a lot more time than the first book did.

The first chapter dealt with Chava and Ahmad, and the second chapter dealt with Sophia Winston and the beginnings of her trip to the Middle East, because she’s had a miscarriage after an encounter with Ahmad and she’s been sick and chilled ever since. I don’t quite know what to make of the book yet, and it’s interesting reading it. I listened to the first book as an audiobook, and the narrator was wonderful. The writing is still just as lyrical as the first book, even if this one is several years later than it was originally promised.

I’m looking forward to the journey of our three heroes, and hoping to see what happens with the orphan girl and the future second golem of New York.

Do you re-read the first book before a second one comes out? Are you a fan of Helene Wecker? Let me know in the comments!

And as always, keep reading.

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