Series: Dark Caravan Cycle #1
Published by Balzer & Bray on October 7, 2014
Pages: 480 pages
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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
Finally, a paranormal romance where the focus is on the paranormal and not a human who unwittingly stumbles upon it. Exquisite Captive is a breath of fresh air. It has jinni in it. Jinni! This book is full of unique, immersive mythology, swooning romance, and the importance of free will.
Although we briefly go into the heads of a few different characters, at the heart of it this story is about Nalia. Nalia is a jinni, and not just that. She is the last surviving member of the ruling class of jinni, called the Ghan Aisouri, meaning she is one of the most powerful jinni alive. After escaping the slaughter of her people by the fire-wielding Ifrit she is sold into the jinni slave trade, called the Dark Caravan, and enslaved to Malek, a man who never seems to age and refuses to use his third wish, which is the only way to free her.
There is some stuff going on that hints at the larger plot of the series—the new empress of Nalia’s homeland has sent an assassin to kill her; Raif, the leader of the jinn revolution, wants her help to overthrow the Ifrit. But, the story is really about freedom and power. Nalia spends most of the book coming to terms with the horrible things the Ghan Aisouri did to the lower castes, and how she can atone for them while still staying true to what she is. She herself is enslaved much like the lower jinn were once under her, and she has to battle the conflicting emotions she has regarding her master. Nalia was a great female protagonist—she was strong, but she wasn’t perfect. Sometimes she fell and sometimes she did the wrong thing, but everything she did she did for the people she loved and what she thought was right. Even when I didn’t agree with what she did I understood why she did it.
There is a love triangle, though, which readers will either hate or love. There is Raif, the leader of the revolution between the enslaved lower caste jinn and the Ghan Aisouri, now against the Ifrit who took over. He is passionate about what he believes is right, which is that everyone she be free, and fights his attraction to Nalia almost as much as she fights her attraction to him. I actually really liked Raif. Much like Nalia he does what he has to for what he believes is right and to protect those he loves, even if it goes against what he wants.
The other side of the triangle is Malek, Nalia’s master. He’s the bad boy with a past, who is usually awful but sometimes not. To be honest, I wasn’t a fan. I usually love the boy boy characters, but I just couldn’t look past the fact that he enslaved her for years and refused to free her even after developing feelings for her. He did horrible things to her, including basically torturing her by trapping her in an enchanted bottle for months, and a tortured past wasn’t enough for me to look past that. Even though I didn’t like him, I was still interested in the tumultuous relationship between him and Nalia. From start to finish she is conflicted about him because of what he’s done to her in the past and how he treats her in the present. No matter how close they got the story never forgot the huge power imbalance between them. I thought the subject matter was handled as well as it could be in the story.
The magic and world was very fresh and unique. I loved learning about how the wish-making magic worked, what the world, Arjinna, the jinni lived in was like, the culture of the different castes. My only wish was that we could actually go to Arjinna in this book, but I can wait. The little glimpses we got of it were beautifully described and just enough to hold me over for the next book.
I would recommend Exquisite Captive for anyone looking for a fresh fantasy world, well-developed characters, some steamy romance, and a plot that will make you think long after you’ve finished. I really enjoyed this one and am looking forward to book two.
Have you read Exquisite Captive? What did you think?