With Jinn and Juice, Nicole Peeler launches a new urban fantasy series — and that’s very good news for fans of her hilarious and awesome Jane True series and for fans of paranormal fictional shenanigans in general.
In Jinn and Juice, we meet Leila — burlesque belly dancer, Pittsburgh resident… and 1,000-year-old jinni (genie). Leila was a young woman cursed by her family’s jinni, the evil Kouros, to live as a jinni for one thousand years. As a jinni, Leila has super magical powers, but she’s also subject to the will and whims of whoever happens to be her Master. Jinni can be either Bound or unBound — meaning that they can be Called and then basically owned by whatever Magi happens to find them. Once Bound to a Magi, jinni must be obedient and carry out their Magi’s orders. On the plus side, though, Bound jinni have access to all sorts of tremendous powers that they can’t access unBound, so there’s that.
For Leila, this jinni business basically sucks. She does not want to be a jinni. She’d love to be human again, and can be — so long as she is unBound when her 1,000 year curse ends. If she’s Bound at that time, then she’ll be cursed for another 1,000 years. Like I said, it sucks.
Leila lives in Pittsburgh, whose steel-soaked grounds provide a weird kind of magical current that Leila can plug into, although most supernaturals find Pittsburgh magic tainted and poisonous. Surrounding Leila are a Peeler-esque cast of unusual characters, including a psychic drag queen, an oracle, a will-o-the-wisp, and a pair of icky-creepy spider wraiths. This odd community works together in a paranormal burlesque club and forms a family of sorts — and they all band together to protect Leila when she is Called and Bound by a new Magi, the kinda-hot Ozan (known as Oz).
Together, Leila and Oz and company set out to locate a missing girl and figure out what the heck is causing all sorts of magical havoc in Pittsburgh. And meanwhile, Leila finds herself drawn to Oz more and more… but is that just the power of the Master-Jinni relationship, or is there actually a there there?
Okay, explanations aside, let me tell you about Jinn and Juice. First of all, it’s fun. If you’ve never read anything by Nicole Peeler, the main thing to know is that she’s hilarious. Her writing rocks, even when the storyline turns dangerous or tragic. Serious and often deadly things do happen, but the author gives her characters amazing lines that are eminently quote-worthy:
“While French fries on salads is pretty magical, that’s not what makes Pittsburgh special,” I said…
Nowadays magic was something for Dungeons and Dragons. In books, vampires sparkled and really wanted to marry teenagers who tripped a lot. Hollywood only dreamed about jinn. And none of these creatures or powers really existed in the same universe as chaos theory, or particle accelerators, or atomic bombs… except they did.
“Hit it with the bench!” shouted Ozan, and I had to obey. I reached for what had been one of the picnic table’s benches, hefting it with ease in one of my hamlike hands. Raising it above my head, I brought it down with all my strength on the bugbear’s head.
“Hulk smash!” I shouted, just for the fun of it.
“Are we ready?” Charlie asked, eyeballing our ragtag bunch with a worried expression. We didn’t exactly look professional… in fact, we looked exactly as you’d imagine a gothic burlesque would look, if it decided to do a SWAT team number.
Second thing to know: Love and sex matter in Peeler’s books. Attraction is hot. Sparks fly. Knees go weak with desire. The sexy factor in Jinn and Juice is top notch. Which is not to say that it’s all easy: One really interesting aspect of this story is how the power dynamics affect the sexual and emotional relationships. Leila’s master can order her to have sex with him if he chooses (although, hilariously, jinni seem to have all sorts of work-arounds when dealing with not-terribly-precise commands for acts that don’t suit them); he could even order her to enjoy it, I suppose. The fact that Leila’s new master is too decent to indulge is noteworthy — and later, even when the attraction is mutual and Leila is very into it, he declines — because how can either of them be sure that it’s real and not just a result of the Magi-Jinni bond?
Fangirl aside: This reminded me of the sire bond issues during the last season of The Vampire Diaries. I’m a big geeky nerd, I know.
The plot of Jinn and Juice is fueled by action, but it’s the people that really make it a treat. Leila herself is pretty awesome (especially how she’s the biggest, baddest thing in the room, despite her seemingly petite human frame), and I love her gang of eccentric, magical friends. Oz is just the right combination of smart, sexy, and sensitive, and the growing emotions and desire between Leila and Oz give off sparks.
Fans of the Jane True series will absolutely want to give Jinn and Juice a whirl — and really, this is a great choice for any one who enjoys urban fantasy that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Fun, magic, snark, along with dangerous, malevolent, volatile bad guys, make for quite an enjoyable and fast-paced adventure. Here’s hoping that the next installment in the series comes along soon!
Want. More. Now.
Title: Jinn and Juice
Author: Nicole Peeler
Publication date: November 25, 2014
Length: 384 pages
Genre: Contemporary fiction