Series: Dark Caravan Cycle #1
Genres: Fantasy & Magic, Young Adult
Published by Harper Collins on October 7th 2014
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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?
For me, Exquisite Captive was one of those books that everyone seems to like, but just didn’t do it for me. After letting my sister read it and being assured that she really enjoyed it, I jumped in, hoping for a captivating 460-some pages. But now that I’ve finished it (and even had a day to let the story settle), I can say that nothing about the book really impressed me, and I know it’ll fade from my memory quickly.
So what did I like about it? After all, I did finish the hefty book, rather than just DNF-ing it.
One word: Raif. Okay, that’s a name, not a word per say, but still. Is it insta-love? Probably. They exchange “I love you’s” within a few days of meeting each other. But he’s the main reason I kept reading. If you want to indulge in a purely fictional book-boyfriend, look no further than Raif. Between his emerald green eyes, his deeply caring interior hidden by his tough-leader exterior, his sense of duty and his sun-on-the-earth-just-after-a-rainstorm scent (don’t judge until you read it, haha), Raif certainly held my interest. Was it the love of the century? Far from it. But it was enjoyable.
What else? Well, the reason I finally decided upon reading the book was the gorgeous MAP in the front. I adore maps in books, and will usually flip back to it several times while reading; getting my bearings within the story really helps me immerse myself in it.
But while this map is lovely, I had little use for it in this book. Why? Well, maybe because it’s a map of Arjinna and NOTHING IN THE BOOK WAS SET IN ARJINNA. Only flashbacks short flashbacks in the book are set in Nalia’s home, while the rest of it takes place on Earth. So while I did enjoy these fleeting descriptions of Arjinna, I was constantly left wanting more, wanting to actually visit Arjinna, only to be frustrated.
Well it seems I’ve already started on what I didn’t like, so let me continue. I was bothered by the other love interest, who was Nalia’s master, Malek. He is controlling, manipulative, inflicts pain upon Nalia, and misguidedly thinks he loves her. Before I would’ve just brushed this off more, but recently I’ve come to realize how unacceptable and inexcusable this behavior is (I’m slow, I know). I was always uncomfortable reading Malek’s parts, because even the justifications given for his behavior in the story do not make his actions forgivable.
The plot also disappointed me — it managed to be both intricate and spread thin at the same time. There were parts when so many different things were happening, but also a lot of wait-for-the-plan-to-work scenes that bored me. At times I could practically feel when the plot was being stretched thin just to cover a trilogy of long books. That’s not something a reader should feel about a good book, really. Also, the first third or so of the book felt a lot like info-dumping when it came to describing the finer points of jinni and Arjinna.
I would talk about the MC, Nalia, but I feel like there’s not too much to say. Just when I though I would finally like her because she did something pretty fierce, she would always let me down by doing something not-so-smart (to put it nicely) or thinking something pretty silly, leaving her unlikeable.
One of the books only saving graces? After most of the story being fairly predictable, my interest was revived from the dead (if only a little) by an ending that I didn’t see coming. Before the end I had resolved not to read any sequels, but afterwards I was a little unsure. Plus, wouldn’t it be nice to possibly see Arjinna after all this time reading about it?!