It’s dangerous to play god …
I believe these books could be characterized as urban fantasy, since the turn-of-the-20th-century city of New York plays a huge role; the city comes across as a living, breathing entity, described in lyrical terms. The amount of research that the author must have had to do makes me tired just to contemplate.
It’s interesting to analyze the depictions of the non-human characters. For me, the Golem comes alive more fully than the Jinni does, probably because we’re more familiar with creatures made of the prime elements of Earth and Water than with those made of Air and Fire. And Chava Levy has several advantages that Ahmad lacks; she lost her master before her character was formed and so acquired the ability to read all human minds, and she was mentored by a truly compassionate and deep-thinking Rabbi at the start of her life. Ahmad was already ancient when he was thrust into an alien society that had no interest for him, and it seems that the jinn are self-centered from their inception. Developing the ability to form friendships is nearly an impossibility for a jinni. It makes sense that Chava would adapt more easily to the human condition than the Jinni would.
Then there is the poignant story of the other golem. Chava had the benefit of being created for a master who wanted an intelligent and curious female mate, and while Yehudah Schaalman is the major villain of the piece, he is nevertheless quite skilled at what he does, and he did a pretty good job of creating a golem who could pass for human. Rabbi Altschul, on the other hand, wanted a killing machine who might be able to avenge the pogroms underway in Europe at the time; furthermore he dies before the golem was finished and it was activated before it was complete. Poor Yossele! He is such a pathetic character – the end of the book made me sad, although the conclusion is basically hopeful and positive.
I immediately thought of one of my most favorite lines in all of fantasy literature. It’s from “The Island of the Mighty,” by Evangeline Walton, and it occurs at the very end of Chapter 8. The Welsh god Gwydion has created a woman out of flowers as a mate for his son Llew, who has been cursed to never lie with a human woman. But Blodeuwedd turns out to be as empty and transitory as the flowers she was made from and she betrays her mate, so … “Gwydion rode on alone toward Dinodig, going forth, after the fashion of all orthodox gods, to damn the creature he had fashioned ill …”
Be very careful what you do when you play at being god.
5 stars to this book – highly recommended.
Find my review of the first volume here: http://termitespeaker.blogspot.com/2013/07/becoming-human-golem-and-jinni-by.html