The Golem and the Jinni

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The Golem and the Jinni
Golem and the Jinni book cover.jpg
First edition (hardcover)
AuthorHelene Wecker
Audio read byGeorge Guidall
Cover artistRichard Ljoenes
CountryUnited States
GenreHistorical fiction/fantasy
Publication date
April 1, 2013
Media typePrint (hardcover & paperback), e-book, audiobook
Followed byThe Iron Season 

The Golem and the Jinni (known as The Golem and the Djinni in the United Kingdom) is a debut novel written by Helene Wecker, published by Harper in April 2013. It combines the genre of historical fiction with elements of fantasy, telling the story of two displaced magical creatures in 19th century New York City.

Plot summary[edit]

In the Polish town of Konin, a corrupt kabbalist named Yehudah Schaalman creates a golem in the shape of a woman at the request of young Otto Rotfeld, who seeks a submissive wife. Rotfeld dies during a subsequent sea voyage to New York City, leaving the newly awakened golem in an unfamiliar environment. A rabbi takes in the golem and, naming her Chava, starts teaching her to pass as human among the diverse groups of people living in New York at the end of the 19th century. Meanwhile, a tinsmith in New York’s Little Syria accidentally frees a jinni from a flask in which he has been imprisoned for centuries. With no memory of how he was subdued, the jinni is virtually powerless and trapped in human form. He takes the name Ahmad and apprentices with the tinsmith while searching for a way to return to his natural form.

Chava and Ahmad eventually meet and become friends, though they have different views on being inhuman while living in a human world. Chava is caring and seeks to be more human, whereas Ahmad holds a jaded view towards humanity and engages in hedonistic pursuits. Chava and Ahmad's influence on the lives of the people around them comes to a climax as Chava's creator comes to New York and turns out to be a reincarnation of the evil sorcerer who trapped Ahmad, intent on enslaving them both.

Critical reception[edit]

The Golem and the Jinni received mostly positive reviews. Kirkus Reviews gave the novel a starred review stating Wecker “writes skillfully, nicely evoking the layers of alienness that fall upon strangers in a strange land”.[1] Entertainment Weekly gave the book an “A” grade saying: “The book's magic, filtered through the old-time hustle and bustle of the Lower East Side, lingers long after the final page.”[2] Reviewer Curt Schleier said: “The story is so inventive, so elegantly written and so well constructed that it’s hard to believe this is a first novel.”[3] The Publishers Weekly review concluded with: “The ending dips into melodrama, but the human touches more than compensate in Wecker's spellbinding blend of fantasy and historical fiction.”[4] Criticism of the book focused on the book’s length and narrative pacing, with one reviewer saying the story gets “swamped by pages and pages of the jinni’s ancient backstory, historical minutiae and the histrionics and melodrama of the sorcerer’s quest for eternal life.”[5]

In 2014 the novel was nominated for the Nebula Award for Best Novel[6] and the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel,[7] and won the 2014 Mythopoeic Award.[8]

The audiobook presentation, narrated by George Guidall, was a finalist for a 2014 Audie Award.[9]


Reviewers latched on to themes of immigration within the novel. The New York Times said the novel “neatly lends itself to allegory, contrasting several Old Worlds with the immigrant experience and its new class divisions.”[10] USA Today remarked that the novel is “a traditional story about assimilation, as the Golem and the Jinni navigate life under challenging constraints and are forced to suppress their true natures. The immigrants around them, too, struggle in a new world that is strange and suspicious of their presence. Above all, this is a story about the painful burdens of history and identity.”[11]

Reviewer Abigail Nussbaum, writing for Strange Horizons, believes the novel has a strong theme of loneliness stating: “Chava and Ahmad are doubly isolated, unable to look inward and find solace in their community as the humans around them do, ” and “...even human characters like Rabbi Meyer, Michael, and Arbeely are unable to find solace for their loneliness in communal living.”[12]


On October 9, 2015, Wecker confirmed that she was working on a sequel, titled The Iron Season, due to be released in 2018.[13]


  1. ^ "The Golem and the Jinni". Kirkus Reviews. 31 March 2013. Retrieved 10 February 2014.
  2. ^ Jordan, Tina (3 May 2013). "Book Review: The Golem and the Jinni". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 10 February 2014.
  3. ^ Scheier, Curt (15 June 2013). "Book Review: The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker". Star Tribune. Retrieved 10 February 2014.
  4. ^ "The Golem and the Jinni". Publishers Weekly. 11 March 2013. Retrieved 10 February 2014.
  5. ^ Bohjalian, Chris (17 May 2013). "Helene Wecker's 'The Golem and the Jinni'". The Washington Post. Retrieved 10 February 2014.
  6. ^ "2013 Nebula Nominees Announced". Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. 25 February 2014. Retrieved 4 June 2014.
  7. ^ "World Fantasy Awards Winners 2014". Locus. November 9, 2014. Archived from the original on November 10, 2014. Retrieved March 6, 2015.
  8. ^ "Mythopoeic Awards: 2014 Winners Announced" Archived August 14, 2014, at the Wayback Machine. Mythopoeic Society. Retrieved 2014-08-18.
  9. ^ "Audies Gala 2014: Winners and Finalists". Audio Publishers Association. Retrieved June 6, 2015.
  10. ^ Cokal, Susann (16 March 2013). "Breaking the Mold: 'The Golem and the Jinni', by Helene Wecker". The New York Times. Retrieved 10 February 2014.
  11. ^ Ciuraru, Carmela (27 April 2013). "'The Golem and the Jinni': Supernatural story of assimilation". USA Today. Retrieved 10 February 2014.
  12. ^ Nussbaum, Abigail (23 August 2013). "'The Golem and the Jinni' by Helene Wecker". Strange Horizons. Retrieved 10 February 2014.
  13. ^ Helene Wecker [@helenewecker] (October 9, 2015). "It's called THE IRON SEASON, and it'll be out in 2018 from the lovely folks at HarperCollins" (Tweet). Retrieved December 1, 2015 – via Twitter.

External links[edit]