I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Jinn and Juice by Nicole Peeler
Series: The Jinni #1
Published: 2015 by Orbit
Genres: Fantasy, Urban Fantasy
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Imagine a world where magical creatures are real and live among us. We don’t see them, because they keep to themselves and try not to shatter our worldview. These beings have their own pecking order, and even though we’re at the bottom of the chain, we could be a threat if we were to band together and try to eradicate them. And so, they hide in the shadows and go about their business. Now, imagine that all of that is happening in Pittsburgh.
I grew up in Western Pennsylvania, and Pittsburgh was the nearest real city to my hometown. That means that I’ve spent a decent amount of time there over the years, on everything from benign school trips to shenanigans involving lederhosen, shot skis, and dancing on tables at the Hofbrauhaus. So when I heard about Jinn and Juice, the first in a new urban fantasy series that just so happens to be set in Pittsburgh, I couldn’t resist.
The protagonist is a belly-dancing Jinni named Lyla. She works at a club that’s frequented by other supernatural types, and she’s built up a relatively happy life. But Lyla isn’t a normal Jinni. She wasn’t born that way. Instead, she was the victim of a curse that transformed her from an ordinary human girl into a jinni, and all the rules that go with it. When she is bound by a master, Lyla grows exponentially stronger, but is no longer free, and can be forced to do unspeakable things (although, as Lyla points out, there are loopholes in the way that she fulfills wishes. For example, if her master demanded sexual favors, she could make it seem to him like something was happening, when he was really interacting with a piece of fruit instead of a person).
For Lyla, Pittsburgh is a safe haven for the magi who want to enslave her. In the world of Jinn and Juice, magic is most effective around certain nodes of power. Pittsburgh has one of the strongest nodes in the world. However, the mining and steel industries polluted the node with iron, and so Pittsburgh’s magic remains tainted and inaccessible to most magical beings. Lyla wants nothing more to be human again, which is possible if she remains unbound when the curse comes to its end, and staying in Pittsburgh has gotten her extremely close to achieving her goal.
That is, of course, until a handsome stranger binds Lyla. But Ozan isn’t your typical magi who thinks of jinni as chattel. He fully acknowledges that binding Lyla is a reprehensible thing to do, but he’s trying to save a missing child from a terrible situation, and he’s exhausted all other options. The moment that Oz binds Lyla, she realizes that her unique situation as a jinni who was created rather than born means that she’s the only being who can channel Pittsburgh’s magical node as if it were any other. This makes Lyla a target for the mechanations of Kourous, the jinni who cursed her nearly a thousand years before.
Jinn and Juice was an entertaining read filled with colorful characters. I loved reading the descriptions of Lyla’s friends, who are fiercely protective of her when Ozan appears on the scene, and become almost like family. Even though Lyla spends the entire book struggling to become human, one of the themes that permeates the book is that she’s already found support and happiness just being herself. And even though I was rooting for her happiness, I’m not quite sure that becoming human is what would really make Lyla happy. I think she’d be better off if she could find a way to keep her magic without being vulnerable to being bound, because after a thousand years, it feels like she’d be casting off a significant portion of her identity rather quickly, and I think she’d miss it once it was too late. But that’s probably me overthinking it, because Jinn and Juice isn’t a particularly deep novel. And to me, that’s okay, because there are times when a light feel good adventure with a smidgen of romance is perfect. I read most of it in airports and some of it while jetlagged, and so I was glad that it wasn’t so much a thinking book as a forget-your-surroundings-cause-magic book. I’m also a big sucker for books where the setting becomes equally as important as characters, kind of how like in Crime and Punishment the city of St. Petersburg becomes the embodiment of Raskolnikov’s troubled mind. Not that Jinn and Juice is anything like Dostoevsky, but still, you get the point.
…and I just realized that this review is already significantly longer than usual, and I haven’t even gotten to the romance part. I’m gonna have to stop myself here, because to be fair, you probably were getting pretty close to the tl;dr point at least a paragraph ago (for folks who didn’t grow up on the internet, tl;dr = too long, didn’t read).
In summation, Jinn and Juice is a fun travel read that creates a magical alternate version of one of my favorite cities. It’s probably not for everyone, but I’ve been on a bit of a jinni kick lately, and enjoyed it quite a bit.