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The Hidden Palace: A Novel of the Golem and the Jinni    by Helene Wecker order for
Hidden Palace
by Helene Wecker
Order:  USA  Can
Harper, 2021 (2021)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The Hidden Palace is a sequel to Helene Wecker's wonderful historical fantasy, The Golem and the Jinni. It was set in 1899 New York City. There, both mythological creatures were almost accidentally (and separately) set adrift in the city. They had to learn to fit in with humans while hiding their true natures.

When the Golem was created (out of clay), so was the command which can destroy her. After arriving in New York, she was named Chava and started work in a bakery. When inadvertently released, Jinni Ahmad (though made of fire) remained trapped in human form by a metal cuff on his wrist. In the first episode, Golem and Jinni met, became friends and eventually lovers. The very young Chava came of age, while the much older Ahmad sought redemption.

Chava is constantly aware of thoughts and longings of all around her, always feeling pressure to help them. Though Ahmad loves her, he becomes frustrated by her deference to human needs. He makes her feel 'young and inexperienced'. Little do they know that each will soon meet another of their own kind. Small Kreindel helps her rabbi father build golem Yossele, who secretly accompanies her when the rabbi dies and she's sent to an orphanage.

Another plot thread follows heiress Sophia Winston, badly damaged by Ahmad in the first episode. She is always cold, and eventually travels in the Middle East seeking a cure. She eventually encounters female jinni Dima, who's been banished from her kind and has heard of Ahmad, also an exile. Sophia agrees to help Dima journey to New York, in exchange for a cure.

Clashes, misunderstandings, and collateral damage all follow. Yet, by the end both golem and jinni have found a new purpose in life - and new ways to live alongside humankind.

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