Balzer + Bray, 2014. 463 pages.
High School: 9-12
CML Juvenile Fiction: JuvFic Demetrios
The chaos resulting from violent civil war has lead to an increase in trafficking on "the Dark Caravan," the illicit trade caravan between Earth and the mystical realm of Arjinna. Nalia is a beautiful young jinn enslaved to Malek, a wheeler and dealer who lives a lavish Hollywood lifestyle by forcing Nalia to grant wishes to his clients. Nalia is in disguise as a jinn of the Shaitan caste, but she's actually the last surviving member of the Ghan Aisouri, the all female once mighty ruling caste of Arjinna. If Malek finds out, he will punish her for deceiving him and compel her to reveal the secret that Ghan Aisouri died to protect. If the Ifrit or her political enemies find out, they will send an assassin after her. Nalia only wants to be free and also free her younger brother who is enslaved back on Arjinna. To do so, however, she will have to thread a very fine line between Malek's increasingly insistent advances and the political objectives of her sword enemies, plus evade a deranged assassin who hungers for her magic.
Don't be fooled by the "romance novel" title of this book. Heather Demetrios's first novel won a PEN award for good reason. Exquisite Captive, her 2nd book, is vividly written, fast paced, and doesn't flounder under the weight of exposition. Demetrios expertly weaves her magic system and the politics of Arjinna into plot of Exquisite Captive. Moreover, all of the characters are well drawn and fully realized. It would've been very easy to make Malek into a one note villain, but he's got legit reasons for his actions and his (warped) worldview. Best of all, it turns out that the Ghan Aisouri were not sugar and spice and everything nice. They ruled with an iron fist, brutally subjugating the lesser castes of jinn.
Enjoyable as a well crafted tale in its own right, Exquisite Captive is also a great book to use for discussions of politics, class issues, feminism, sexual harassment, and trafficking. As a heroine, Nalia might be down but she is *never* out. She's an excellent role model when it comes to exploring ideas of resilience, agency, courage, and what to do when faced with dilemmas and tough choices.
Bibliotherapy Topics: Grief-Loss, Trauma, Trust, War
Katherine Keller - CML Evening and Weekend Supervisor