Dark Caravan Cycle #1
Balzer + Bray
Available October 7th
THE STORY (from Goodreads)
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?
Exquisite Captive is an aptly named story, Nalia’s tale of servitude a striking combination of beauty and darkness, the gilded shackles that bind her to Malek all the more painful for the shame and guilt their elegance masks. Ms. Demetrios does her readers a kindness by supplying a glossary of the various jinni castes in the front of the book, preparing us upfront for the unusual terminology and ensuring we’re instantly riveted by this epic fantasy because little time is wasted trying to sort through complicated history and an unfamiliar vocabulary. She also proves herself to be more than adept at feeding readers backstory in easily digestible pieces, giving us time to familiarize ourselves with Nalia and her predicament before slowly revealing the history of her people and what led them all to this exact moment in time.
Nalia is someone easy to root for from the very beginning, a prologue detailing the pain and terror she feels in the confines of the bottle tying her to Malek echoing through us until we want nothing more than for her to attain her freedom by any means possible. She handles her time with Malek remarkably well, staging minor rebellions however she can just so she doesn’t lose herself to him completely, but also knowing when subservience will be more to her benefit than fight and fire. Her guilt over her brother and the fate of the other Ghan Aisouri eats at her every waking moment, but instead of allowing herself to be weighed down by melancholy and myriad “what if” questions, she puts one foot in front of the other and does what needs to be done.
Many readers may initial shy away from this story simply due to the fact that there are two men in Nalia’s life once revolutionary leader Raif approaches her at Malek’s home, but the lines connecting the three of them do not form the traditional triangle found in so many YA novels. Instead, Ms. Demetrios gives us in Malek someone who simply cannot be viewed as a love interest given what he’s put Nalia through for the past three years, but yet, YET, she’s written him in such a way that we fall prey to the dangerous illusion that is the promise of change. In his quiet moments with Nalia, Malek shows glimmers of true affection so enticingly fragile we can’t help but want to protect them from the times when his baser nature gets the better him, and every viscerally tender moment causes the hope that he will choose to be the better of his two selves to reignite. Swiftly following that hope though are tendrils of doubt, weaving themselves in and around us so we are as shackled as Nalia, wondering if we’ll ever be able to see Malek for what he truly is rather than what we wish him to be.
Overall, Exquisite Captive is a haunting start to this series, the wishes, fears, and hopes of both characters and readers coalescing into a single beautiful story that leaves us looking forward with nothing but anticipation.
This book was sent to me by the publisher free of charge for the purpose of a review.
I received no other compensation and the above is my honest opinion.