Monday, December 1, 2014

ARC Review: Exquisite Captive by Heather Demetrios

Title: Exquisite Captive
Series: The Dark Caravan #1
Author: Heather Demetrios 
Published: October 9, 2014 by Balthazar + Bray (HaperCollins)

Synopsis: 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.

*** I received a copy of this book from the publisher at BEA in exchange for an honest review in return. This fact has not changed my opinion ***

Exquisite Captive is one of those books where it finished so strong I almost forgot all the issues and frustrations that I had with it early in the book. It was one of those books that I really enjoyed but I'm not exactly sure why. It had a unique and compelling world but the world-building was problematic, the plot was good but pacing was rough, and the characters were complex and interesting. But despite everything I didn't like I really did enjoy reading this book.

One of the reasons why could have been the amazing world Heather Demetrios created. It was such a unique and enthralling world. First and foremost it had amazing elements of epic fantasies that I always love. It had political intrigue, thrilling action, and a reluctant hero who is the rightful ruler of a land like no other. In the case of Exquisite Captive, that land is Arjinna, a world of jinni (otherwise known as genies). I enjoyed learning about the caste system in Arjinna, the power struggle there, and the magical system. Each of the castes are able to drew their power from a different elements, with the main character being able to draw power from them all. It was very Avatar: The Last Airbender but it wasn't all basic elemental magic, it still felt creative and interesting. But despite the fact that I really enjoyed the world, the world-building was kind of problematic. In addition to the fact that it told rather than showed, the beginning of the book felt like nothing but world-building. While it set the scene well, it felt excessive and overwhelming, especially with some jarring flashbacks. But the world of Exquisite Captive was still one of it's best parts.  

Another thing that I liked about this book was the characters. Heather Demetrios created more than one complex character that had great character development throughout the book. Nalia was a great protagonist. She was fierce and strong but with weaknesses that made her reluctant to be a hero. She was a little self-centered and indecisive and it did get her into a lot of trouble throughout the book. In addition to Nalia there were some really likable secondary characters. Probably my favorite was Zanari, but I also really liked Leilan and Raif. I do feel like I have to briefly mention the romance hear. It was odd, but it wasn't bad. I'm not entirely sure I would call it a love-triangle or instalove but it did have some elements of both. There were some more mature scenes but I didn't feel the heat from them. They felt more like plot device than actual romance, especially in the beginning. But that may have been because they involved some of the more dubious characters in this book. And they were quite dubious, the book had some amazing antagonists. Not only was there a completely sinister villain but there were other characters who walked a fine line between good and bad, and that included Nalia. But that dubiousness is what made them so compelling. It was one of those books where I didn't even realize I had connected with the characters until we reached the climax and I was not only worried for them but about them. 

And that climax was incredible. It was thrilling and action-packed. I found myself nervously anticipating what was going to come next. The plot on the whole was pretty good, there were a lot of different threads working together. It had it's own specific plot for this book and it also set up one or two larger plot threads that will continue into future books. But the pacing was extremely slow, and much of it suffered from First Book Syndrome. As I said before, the beginning felt like all world-building. All I seemed to be doing was setting things up. Things that wouldn't happen until the last 100 pages, things that won't happen until the next few books. It felt like nothing of consequence really happened until about two-thirds of the way into the book. And despite a fantastic ending, that brought a lot of things full circle, I found myself completely forgetting what had happened in the beginning of the book. Maybe that was because it felt unimportant or maybe it was because the book honestly felt a little long. I found myself wondering when it was going to end because it felt like an eternity since I had started it. 

I also do want to mention that while I had an ARC of this, most of it I experienced as an audiobook. And even that was hit and miss for me. The narrator, did a great job of setting the scene. I felt like I could visualize the people and places she was explaining, both real and imaginary. But especially at the beginning, I found her just a little too breathy, especially when it came to Nalia. She gave each character a distinct voice, so distinct that I could tell who was talking even when Nalia couldn't, but she made Nalia sound asthmatic. She kept taking long breathes after every sentence and as Nalia was the MC, this spilled over into the rest of her narration. It was especially annoying at the beginning and then it either got better or I got used to it. I'm not sure I would recommend this as an audiobook but I would recommend it to read. 

I give Exquisite Captive by Heather Demetrios 8 out of 10 

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Borrow. This is a decent start to a series that I want to continue with. It had it's issues but when it was all said and done, I enjoyed it. It had a great world, a thrilling plot, and interesting characters. If you're looking for a unique YA fantasy then check this one out at the library. 


  1. i have read daughter of smoke and bone.. and I might just start this one

    1. I actually haven't read Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Everyone raves about it but I'm not big on the angels and demons concept. But the high praise makes me more interested than I normally would be. I hope you check out Exquisite Captive and enjoy it like I did!