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THE HIDDEN PALACE by Helene Wecker Kirkus Star


by Helene Wecker

Pub Date: June 8th, 2021
ISBN: 978-0-06-246871-0
Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Wecker returns, eight years after The Golem and the Jinni, with a sequel that brings the saga into the 20th century.

In a blend of romance, Mary Shelley–esque horror, and folklore, Wecker recounts the continuing adventures of Chava, the Jewish golem, and Ahmad, the Arabian jinni. Bound to each other by love, they have nonetheless parted long enough for Ahmad to have had a brief affair with a human. “I wasn’t careful enough. I made her ill, permanently. I’m not certain how it happened, I only know that I was the cause,” he confesses to Chava. And now, Sophia Winston, known as Saffiyah among the Bedouins she visits—“Saffiyah the stranger, Saffiyah the afflicted”—has a big problem: Having been touched by the jinni, the spirit of pure fire, she can’t get warm, even in the blast furnace of the desert, where, among other historical characters, she runs into a certain Thomas E. Lawrence—soon to be known as Lawrence of Arabia—and Gertrude Bell. Meanwhile, back in New York, Chava, now known as Chava Levy, and Ahmad find each other again, performing miraculous labors, she as a champion baker who, of course, doesn’t need to sleep and he as an “iron-bound” figure in human form who works diligently, in self-imposed exile, for a Syrian immigrant tinsmith. Not far away, a rabbi happens upon a secret book that contains the recipe for making a golem—a project fraught with peril but one that turns out to be helpful to his daughter, Kreindel, after bad fortune lands her in an orphanage. Kreindel is the most resourceful of the characters Wecker sets into motion in this tale, and she knows a golem when she sees one, including the one who teaches her home ec. Wecker skillfully combines the storylines of these and numerous other players, good and evil, in a story that, while self-contained, gives every promise of being continued.

An enchanting tale that, though demanding lots of suspended disbelief, pleases on every page.