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Friday, April 24, 2015


Author:  Nicole Peeler  
Plot Type:  Urban Fantasy (UF)
Ratings:  Violence4; Sensuality2; Humor—2   
Publisher and Titles:  Orbit
          Jinn and Juice (e-book11/2014; paperback4/2015)

     This is Peeler's second urban fantasy series. She also wrote the JANE TRUE series. Click HERE to read my reviews of the books in that series.

     The series is set in Pittsburgh, which Peeler describes again and again as "steel-soaked" or "steel-stained" or "steel-corrupted." Pittsburgh lies at the confluence of three rivers, two above ground and one underground, and the moving water indicates the presence of magical ley lines. When ley lines converge, they form a powerful Node of magic, pulsing with magical "juice." A century of industrial development and its accompanying pollution have permanently polluted the ley lines and the magical Node under the city. Most magical beings cannot draw on the Deep Magic of the Pittsburgh Node because its magic will poison them.

     In this mythology, supernaturals can live either in the human world or in Sideways (which is similar to the Fae realm found in other mythologies). They can also create pockets of Sideways in the human world. For example, many supernaturals have Sideways pockets in their clothing in which they hide their weapons, making their guns and swords invisible to the human eye.  

     This supernatural world has two general types: Purebloods and Immunda. Purebloods are powerful, purely magical beings, like Jinn or sidhe Lords that use Deep Magic that runs deep in the ley lines and the Nodes. The Immunda are "everything else, really. Including creatures like sirens, vampires, gaki, succubi…anything that gathers its magic parasitically off humans…also things with mixed human-and-magical blood, including shape shifters. Those..creatures can skim off the surface of the Node and ley lines, but they can't use the Deep Magic." (Jinn and Juice, p. 55) Purebloods need Deep Magic to survive, so they cannot live in Pittsburgh because they can't pull magic from the Node. That is why Pittsburgh has become a haven for the Immunda.

     The two main characters in the series are a Jinn and a Magi, two supernatural entities who are almost always fierce enemies. The Magi are "a race of humans taught that another species of being existed simply to serve them, whether they liked it or not. Magi had no problem yanking Jinn away from their…families and friends. And powerful Magi tribes would keep a Jinni forever if they could, passing down a binding from parent to child." (Jinn and Juice, p. 193)

     Jinn have Fire power (black flames) and can change shape and size at will. Powerful Jinn can teleport. They survive by drawing power from the Deep Magic of Nodes. According to their own origin myth, Jinn were originally created from the heat of the universe, but in real life, two Jinn can meld together and reproduce. They stay as far away from Magi as they possibly can.

     Magi are born with latent abilities, but their true powers don't kick in until they are initiated by another Magi. During the initiation ceremony, the mature Magi Calls an unBound Jinni, who then says a different set of magical words to initiate the immature Magi. Immediately, the new Magi's eyes turn silver and his/her magical powers are activated.

      A Magi captures a Jinni by speaking magical words in a See, Call, and Bind sequence. Once a Magi Binds a Jinni, that Magi becomes the Jinni's Master. The Jinni must do the Master's bidding and never lie to him/her until the Magi either dies or rescinds the Binding spell. In this world, Jinn are almost always bound to Magi. They can sense one another, so it is difficult for a Jinni to remain free. Most Magi are power-hungry, cruel Masters who use their Jinn for selfish purposes. 

     The series heroine is Lyla, a thousand-year-old Jinn who is a belly dancer at a magical nightclub called Purgatory. Lyla is unique in that she began life as a human and was changed into a Jinni after being cursed by a powerful Jinni named Kouros. Other Jinn view Lyla as an abomination who deserves to be killed, which is why she is hiding out in Pittsburgh, where other Jinn cannot tolerate the steel-soaked, poisonous Node. Because Lyla is a Jinni in a human body, she is the only Immunda who can draw on Pittsburgh's Node without being poisoned. As the first novel opens, no one else knows about Lyla's curse or that she can access Pittsburgh's Node, except for her tight circle of friends.

                      NOVEL 1:  Jinn and Juice                      
     As the story begins, Lyla is very close to the end of her curse. If she can get through the next few days without being Bound by a Magi, she will become human again for the first time in a millennium. She and Charlie have been living in Pittsburgh for a long time because it is a place where they feel safe from predatory supernaturals. Although Charlie and Lyla are considered Immunda, they are different from the others. As Lyla explains to Oz, she and Charlie have something extra: "Charlie has gods inside of himhis magical channels are about as wide and well-worn as you can get, And I'm just…different…I'm decently strong for a Jinni…When I'm Bound, I'm a lot stronger, And when I'm Bound to a strong Magi…I'm even stronger."

     Layla has never seen a Magi since she moved to Pittsburgh. As the end of her curse gets closer and closer, she is having nightmares about Kouros, the treacherous Jinni who changed her from a human woman to a Jinni. She has dreamed about him for many years, but these recent dreams seem almost real.

     Lyla has a small group of close friends who support her throughout her various trials and tribulations:
   Charlie: He owns Purgatory and is an immortal oracle possessed by gods.
   Rachel Divide: She is a humana psychic gay drag queen and Charlie's lover. 
   Yulia: She is a will-o'-the-wisp and Lyla's best friend.  
   Aki: He is a kitsune, a shape-changing fox (from Japanese mythology).

     One night, as Lyla is performing at Purgatory, she senses the presence of a Magi. Determined never to be enslaved again, she tries to escape, but to no avail. Soon, she finds herself Bound to a Magi named Ozan (Oz) Sawyer, who inherited his pale features and sandy hair from his Irish father and his Magi abilities from his Turkish mother. Lyla has been bound many times during her life (but never in Pittsburgh), and she knows from experience that Magi are cruel Masters who never give a thought to the well-being of the Jinn they enslave. 

     As it turns out, Oz has only been a mature Magi for a month, so he is quite unsure of his abilities. All he wants is for Lyla to help him find an Afghan girl named Tamina. Oz was an American aid worker on assignment in Afghanistan when he was befriended by Tamina's relatives, a Magi family who realized immediately that he was an immature Magi. Recently, Tamina and her family left Afghanistan and resettled in Pittsburgh, but when the Afghan relatives learned that Tamina's parents had been murdered and that Tamina was missing, they arranged for Oz to be initiated so that he could return to America, Bind a Jinni, and command the Jinni to find Tamina. Oz promises that he will unBind Lyla in time for her end-of-curse deadline, but she doesn't believe himat first, anyway.

     The story follows Oz, Lyla, and Lyla's friends as they search for Tamina, investigate an infestation of obnoxious magical creatures from Sideways, and learn the truth about Tamina's disappearance and her connection with Kouros. As you would expect, Oz and Lyla move well beyond a Master-Slave relationship, although they only get as far as a few passionate kisses in this book (much like the hero-heroine relationship in Peeler's JANE TRUE series).

     The first book in a series is always packed to the gills with world-building, and this book is no exception. Unfortunately, there is so much exposition that both plot and characterization suffer terribly. Some details (like the poisonous Node) are repeated over and over again, while others (like the Blood sect and the Crypt) pop up suddenly with little or no explanation. Another problem is that the plot relies on several "Aha!" moments to carry it alongepiphanies in which the heroine has implausible flashes of insight based on nothing but a few flimsy clues and some questionable assumptions. 

     The relationship between Lyla and Oz is weak and lacking in emotion. Even though we learn Lyla and Oz's back stories, they are thinly developed characters with a definite lack of human qualities. I could never truly connect with either of themthe same problem I had with the characters in the JANE TRUE novels. Another problem is the stilted dialogue and the lack of emotional bonding between the hero and the heroine. Their romantic scenes always feel forced. The secondary characters are entertaining, but I always question the wisdom of dumping lots of different types of supernatural creatures into a seriesparticularly into the first book. It's difficult enough to introduce a new mythology and to flesh out a cast of characters, so why add a host of weird supernatural beasties to the list, each of which must be described in some detail. That just slows down the pace, overwhelms the plot, and adds little to the story.

     One last quibble: The paperback version is full of copy-proofing errors in spelling and word-use, mostly the kind that slip past auto-spell-checks. Orbit should have done a better job with this.

     In the final analysis, I always judge a book by its ability to keep me engrossed. This one didn't have me glued to the page, but I was interested enough to read it through to the end just to find out what happened with Kouros. If you enjoyed Peeler's writing style in JANE TRUE, you'll probably like this series as well. Click HERE to read an excerpt from Jinn and Juice on the Orbit web site.

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