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Review: Exquisite Captive by Heather Demetrios

Exquisite Captive (The Dark Caravan Cycle #1) by Heather Demetrios
Young Adult, Fantasy
Ebook, Hardback, Audio (480 pages, BALZER + BRAY)
For fans of Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone series and Leigh Bardugo's Grisha Trilogy comes the first book in the Dark Caravan Cycle, a modern fantasy-adventure trilogy about a gorgeous, fierce eighteen-year-old jinni who is pitted against two magnetic adversaries, both of whom want her—and need her—to make their wishes come true.
Nalia is a jinni of tremendous ancient power, the only survivor of a coup that killed nearly everyone she loved. 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 release Nalia from her master so that she can return to her ravaged homeland and free her imprisoned brother. 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.

Author Site: website

Fresh Concept with Promise but Poorly Executed (2 stars)

It's so rare to find jinni explored in YA fiction that I was very excited to give Heather Demetrios' EXQUISITE CAPTIVE a read. But it was problematic straight out the gate and never let up.

My first impression was that the storyline seemed very adult. I actually had to double-check and make sure I hadn't been mistaken about it being a young adult title. It's quite dark, violent and the slavery aspect of it is explored in ways that I'm not sure the target audience is ready to read. Realistic to be sure, but I found it strangely uncomfortable how frequently Demetrios had her characters hover around the sexual aspect of a master/servant relationship.

Nalie is your classic Mary-Sue type that is the last-of-her-kind and everyone wants to either kill her or own her. She was very naive before the big coup that lead to her being enslaved and sold into slavery on Earth. Yet she's still been able to hide who she really is with magic. Then there's her character Nalia's master Malek. I was utterly stumped as to whether he was intended to be part of a love triangle and if he was, I'm not okay with it. At all. He's abusive and when his motivations (that's not the right word for it but I don't want to spoil the story) are explained it feels like an excuse in the worst kind of way. Raif in contrast is very... well, he's your cookie-cutter revolutionary which isn't a terrible thing but makes him pretty dull and of course, he hates Nalia only to wind up being her love interest.

Further causing issue with the book were the extensive info dumps. Nalia would be in the middle of something like talking to someone or looking out a window—OMG she's constantly looking out the dang window—and there'd suddenly be this info dump. I love well done world-building and intricate mythologies but the story was slow as it was without distracting info dumps that weren't really useful to the actual plot. The pacing was ridiculously slow. As in I hit about page 40 and was contemplating making this a did-not-finish book which I rarely do. Alas, I did this again at about 100 pages and decided to finish because of it's good qualities.

What does make it good even though I ultimately didn't like it, is that it's something different in the genre. Even though the info dumps made it a sloggy read and I felt like some elements needed explaining in further detail while others didn't need any the concept was interesting and I liked what Demetrios was attempting to pull off enough to make sure I said it. It just didn't work for me as a reader, the slow pacing, dull plot, and my dislike of the characters made it one I can't recommend.

Notes: ARC received via Amazon Vine.

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