I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Exquisite Captive by Heather Demetrios
Published by Balzer + Bray on October 7th 2014
Genres: Paranormal Fantasy, Young Adult
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Forced to obey her master.
Compelled to help her enemy.
Determined to free herself.
Nalia is a jinni of tremendous ancient power, the only survivor of a coup that killed nearly everyone she loved. Stuffed into a bottle and sold by a slave trader, she’s 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 free Nalia from her master so that she can return to her ravaged homeland and free her imprisoned brother—all for an unbearably high price. Nalia’s not sure she can trust him, but Raif’s her only hope of escape. With her enemies on the hunt, Earth has become more perilous than ever for Nalia. 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. Battling a dark past and harboring a terrible secret, Nalia soon realizes her freedom may come at a price too terrible to pay: but how far is she willing to go for it?
Inspired by Arabian Nights, EXQUISITE CAPTIVE brings to life a deliciously seductive world where a wish can be a curse and shadows are sometimes safer than the light.
It’s really hard for me to pick a stance on Exquisite Captive. I don’t feel right saying it’s a bad book because it’s made up of all the things that make a up a good book (rich world building, complicated characters, intricate lore, clear plot arc) but somehow it’s also not exactly what I would call a good book.
Part of the problem is its pacing. This book is slooooooooow. There’s a lot of introspection, waiting for opportunity and infodumps (dear god, the infodumps) that keep the plot from ever feeling active. There’s no urgency. Nalia was getting ready for the final epic showdown and I realized I couldn’t tell the difference between that moment and her going out for the night.
As interesting as the complex world-building is, I would’ve appreciated it more if it hadn’t occurred in a billion word chunks every three pages for the entire first half of the book. It felt like getting hit in the brain repeatedly with a solid iron shovel and I mean that as literally as you can mean a figurative statement. Then, just when the infodumps started to wane, these super awesome flashback things started happening. In contrast to the infodumps, these were usually bizarrely brief so they didn’t get a chance to really convey anything. As a result they were disorienting and came across as largely pointless.
The ship suffered a similar fate. Nalia and Raif spent most of the book thinking about each other instead of actually interacting. I think the ship has potential and could be quite lovely but they seem a wee bit bizarrely attached to each other for two people who have only had a handful of real, live conversations. I’m not crying instalove exactly, more undeveloped. I think I could ship it if there were an actual relationship to ship.
Another part of the problem is Nalia and Raif are both Angels (the Buffy version). They’re broody, tortured, noble, overly serious to the point of maybe being physically incapable of quipping. Which, fine, some people like that. I don’t. Stoic, noble types are all well and good but give me a snarky asshole any day.
Speaking of assholes, let’s talk about one of the parts of the book I did quite like. Malek, Nalia’s Master, was by far the most interesting thing about Exquisite Captive for me. At first he seems like he could easily become the third leg in a triangle and go the way of every bad boy love interest before him (he’s tortured but reeeeeeasooons). Instead, Malek’s character serves a much more interesting purpose. Nalia, unlike countless heroines before her, recognizes that even though Malek thinks he loves her (and, to be fair, possibly really does to the best of his ability) he can’t truly love her and be her Master at the same time. (Owning people and really loving them are sort of mutually exclusive as one requires seeing them as an object and the other a person)
Even when she finds herself softening towards him and appreciating the things he does for her on his good days, she always gets her head on straight. She constantly remembers that as long as he has complete and utter control over her, they can never develop a relationship and that just because he’s being nice now, it doesn’t mean it makes up for years of treating her like a horse that needs to be broken.
I’d also like to award massive points for a casual, throwaway reference to the badass warrior class of jinni being generally lesbian and bisexual. It’s so normalized that Nalia was surprised to realize she only appeared to be attracted to guys. It would’ve been better if Nalia was actually bisexual and who knows, there’s still room to go there, but it doesn’t seem like that’ll happen.
Overall, I wasn’t really into Exquisite Captive. However, I do think the book ends at a good place for the series to pick up. There were a few worrying things about the ending View Spoiler »Why oh why must Malek have wormed his way into Nalia and Raif’s quest? Please, please, please do not let this be the launching point of the bad ship Nalia/Malek. « Hide Spoiler but I’m not ready to give up yet. The stage has been set, the info dumped and I have high hopes that things will (finally) start happening.