Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Book Review: Adijan and Her Genie by L-J Baker

Adijan and Her Genie
by L-J Baker
Adijan and Her Genie is the third book written by L-J Baker. It's brilliant and definitely my favourite. It also happened to be a review copy (in the interests of openness) and this is especially awesome because I can reread it, something I will definitely be doing. Many times (though I'll warn you upfront that it seems to be the most hit and miss among readers, I know of three people who didn't find it very good).

Everything about this book screams Aladdin when you first pick it up, but it isn't actually just another rehashing of the Aladdin and the Lamp. It contains many of the typical Arabian Nights elements - a poor 'boy', Adijan, who's a drunkard, raised in a brothel, who dabbles in the shadier side of business; a magical object that contains a being constrained to obey their master's commands; a beautiful beloved and a self-interested schemer, even magic carpets... all in a typical Middle Eastern Arabian Night style setting.

But that is where the similarity ends. From there, L-J Baker makes it all her own. For one thing, the main character starts off happily married.

Adijan is perpetually down-on-her-luck and constantly dreaming of her future business empire. She makes a fairly hand-to-mouth-to-wine jug living through messenger jobs and other errands, and is madly in love with her wife, Shalimar. Shalimar is a sweet, happy woman who loves oranges, Adijan and everyone she meets, and, by the sounds of it, has Down's Syndrome. We only meet her at the end of the book, but Adijan constantly thinks about and talks about her, so we get to know her well long before.

After a particularly difficult and odd delivery, Adijan returns home satisfied she's finally made enough to settle her debts and start up her empire, to find her darling gone. Her brother-in-law, an arrogant and grasping merchant, has taken her away and begun divorce proceedings, in order to marry Shalimar off to someone who will benefit him. He's convinced that Shalimar is simple minded, and even if he thinks otherwise, he doesn't particularly care.

Unfortunately, Adijan is lowly, powerless, and a bit too well known for being gone for weeks on end and spending any spare money on drink. Her aunt, who runs the brothel she grew up in, and the man who loves her aunt (a bubbly, slightly over friendly man named Fakir), do their best to pick her up, hold her back and clean her up again as she charges out in one mad attempt after another to try and rescue her wife.

Adijan and Her Genie
Adijan and Her Genie
by L-J Baker
The way the world works in her city is strongly in favour of bribery, so she goes to try and collect payment from an enchanter she just finished working for... except he's dead, and his widow is quite unreasonable, throwing the apparently cheap trinket Adijan delivered to him in her face, and her out on the street. Which starts a desperate Adijan on a series of attempts to get some kind of payment for the necklace from pawnbrokers and the man she originally collected it from. Only it's apparently hers for 'as long as she lives' and worthless.

 Except, of course, there's a genie inside. Except she's not actually a genie, she's a woman who lost a fight with an enchanter. And (after a bit of frostiness, and the realisation that she wasn't about to be forced into sex... ) off they go to release her (hopefully), so that she can reward Adijan, and Adijan can bribe and pay various people to get her wife back. Of course, it's not that easy...

This was a fast moving book (mostly driven by Adijan haring off on a new scheme, or reacting to something else), a great deal of fun, and the clash of personalities (and class warfare) between 'Honey Petal' and Adijan was a hilarious and fascinating contrast. Both these characters ended up growing as people - one learning that poor people might actually be people, the other maturing a bit, and - despite spending most of the book inches away from absolute disaster, and finally making a terrible sacrifice, and risking the remainder of her heart and future, Adijan does win through in the end (as of course, any good fairytale character must) and achieves something better (not necessarily 'more', just better) than her wildest dreams. And of course, Shalimar gets her oranges.
'Princess Parizade Bringing
Home the Singing Tree'
 by Maxfield Parrish

Love, love, love this book and would heartily recommend it to anyone who likes fantasy, regardless of their interest or lack of, in lesbian romances and characters.

Interesting fact: The cover art (by C. A. Casey) is based on 'Princess Parizade Bringing Home the Singing Tree', an 1889 painting by Maxfield Parrish. And by 'based on', I'd say 'fairly blatantly copied' and/or rasterised and filtered in Photoshop - but it's fifty times better than the cover art on the first two books. Princess Parizade (which means 'child of the genii') is a girl who dressed as a man and went on a quest after three magical treasures, from 'The Story of Two Sisters Who Were Jealous of Their Younger Sister', a story from the Arabian Nights, which can be read here.
The Cat

THE OTHER REVIEWER says about Adijan and Her Genie...

There's not much I can add, but not out of not enjoying the book. On the contrary, this was my favourite book written by L-J Baker so far as well. Likeable, interesting characters and the interaction between them made it an enjoyable read.

Further Notes:
Lending this book to a friend with an Arabic background led to a less favourable reaction. They were kind enough to write us a short guest review here.

Buy Adijan and Her Genie on Amazon (paperback or Kindle ebook).

More Reviews of L-J Baker's books

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