Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Orbit Books on April 7, 2015
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
My thanks to Orbit Books and NetGalley for providing me with a digital review copy. No compensation was provided for this review, and all opinions are my own.
Born in ancient Persia, Leila turned to her house Jinni, Kouros, for help escaping an arranged marriage. View Spoiler »
Nicole Peeler’s urban fantasy novel JINN AND JUICE introduces us to a quirky cast and an unusual supernatural type: a jinni!
The supes aren’t the only unusual elements of this one – JINN AND JUICE also features an urban setting that I’ve never read about in UF: Pittsburgh. Since I’ve never been there and have no plans to go, it was fun to get a sense of what the city’s like. One of my favourite parts of UF is how atmospheric it can be, really capturing the various neighborhoods and locations of a given city. But I can’t help but think it would be fun to read a UF novel that wasn’t set in either North America or England. Maybe it’s because authors usually seem to write UF set in cities they’re familiar with (Nicole Peeler’s author bio states that she lives in Pittsburgh). But that’s more of a sub-genre gripe in general, not one specifically directed at JINN AND JUICE.
Nicole Peeler’s version of Pittsburgh may look familiar to Americans, but of course it’s more than it seems. There’s the human world as we know it, but right next door is Sideways, the fey world where many supernatural creatures choose to live. Sideways is another plane, one where magic flourishes without the interference of steel. While all magical beings – including humans with magic – can “go Sideways,” only the Pure Bloods are welcome. The mixed blood and oddball supes, known as Immunda, are ridiculed and preyed upon when they go Sideways so most choose to live in the human world.
It’s at a supernatural burlesque club that we first meet our protagonist Lyla, a belly dancing jinni who’s rumored to be almost as old as Methuselah. She’s spent a millennium alternately being Bound and unBound by the Magi, magical humans who believe it is their birthright to command the jinn. For if a Magi commands something, the jinni must obey…and Lyla’s never been a fan of obedience.
Having spent the last century unBound, Lyla is understandably enraged when a fledgling Magi named Oz manages to command her. While Oz purports to have good intentions, a jinni can never trust a Magi. Thankfully Lyla’s got her crew to back her up and try to get her unBound again – and let me just say how awesome they all are. I especially loved how positively queer relationships were portrayed among them, and how much fun they have together even while fighting for their lives. #squadgoals
Oz is an adorable love interest, definitely a more reasonable personality type than the macho alpha male types who seem to crop up a lot in UF (although I do love those types, now and then). While Oz’s more sensitive vibe may not be to everyone’s tastes, I thought it was a wise choice on Peeler’s part since a controlling alpha male who had also basically enslaved the protagonist is a lot less viable as a likeable romantic lead. That said, Oz isn’t just a useless character who sits on the sidelines being emotional. He’s got some skills in the boxing ring that help Lyla & co. go up against some big bad beasties that keep him from being one-dimensional.
If you’re not offended by pretty raunchy humour then you’ll likely find JINN AND JUICE hilarious. But if you find yourself rolling your eyes at sexual innuendo and crass slang…well, you should probably steer clear. While this one was a little light on plot it was heavy on world building and bursting with lovable characters. A promising UF series debut, and I will be reading the sequel when it releases.