Exquisite Captive by Heather Demetrios

exquisite captive

3 out of 5 stars.

Spoiler alert!

Nalia is a Jinni being held captive by a wealthy, powerful, Los Angeles man. After a Jinni revolution on their home world, many innocents are being sold in the slave trade to humans. Nalia is only one of many slaves, but she is the last of her type of Jinni. This has the consequence of placing her as the heir to the now defunct throne. Her brother is suffering under the tyrannical rule of the new empire and she is desperate to escape her master (Malek) to rush to his aid. She may even be willing to team up with a member of the rebellion that killed her family (Raif, their leader).

I found the premise of a modern day gangster/ creep owning a Jinni to be a really neat one. There aren’t very many books with the classical granting 3 wishes style Jinni, and even fewer that place it in a modern-day North America. Hooray for imaginative premises!

I found the system of wishes to be a little confusing. Malek can only ask Nalia for 3 wishes, and once she has granted the third, she is free. He can, however, ask for an unlimited number of requests in between wishes, and force Nalia to grant wishes for other clients. It is never clearly explained how this system works. The only difference mentioned is that one includes the phrase “I wish” and the requests do not. So why would he have made a second wish instead of more requests?

One thing that really, really bugged me was the attraction Nalia felt for Malek at times. He is portrayed as being someone who purchased her, ordered her to do whatever he wanted (except for sleeping with him, but pretty much everything else) and tortured her when she refused. This makes me squeamish. I do not want to pass judgment on those who like domination play in the bedroom because that is still consensual, but I get weird when someone portrays a woman as being attracted when actually being subjected to psychological and physical torture. It it probably just a personality quirk of mine, but it ruined a big part of this book for me. I don’t like abusive relationships.

I did like the system where there are different classes of Jinnis that draw their strength from the classical 4 elements (if you don’t know what this means, you need to read more fantasy) and get their powers replenished by being in contact with those elements. I enjoyed trying to figure out who is behind the slave trade and I really enjoyed the couple of snippets we got of Nalia trying to logically outmanoeuvre someone so their wish turns out rotten despite their intentions. There was some interesting tension building up as a Jinni assassin creeps ever closer to Nalia and a lot of the emotions throughout the book were very compelling.

I did enjoy this book overall. The setting and premise were well imagined and unique, and I really empathized with Nalia throughout most of the narrative. I just have a really hard time getting over her willingness to, at the drop of the hat, come close to forgiving Malek for buying and torturing her. The line between her seducing him for her own gains and her actually getting into it was fuzzy and I found that unpleasant. I don’t want any teen girls in abusive relationships to find that behaviour normal because of what they read, but I am probably just over thinking things. She did choose Raif and she did acknowledge that what Malek had done was wrong (you know, the whole “owning a sapient being thing”).

I will read the second one, in the hopes that Nalia punches Malek in his super-stupid face. It would be very satisfying.

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