Archive for October, 2021

Review of The Hidden Palace by Helene Wecker

Tuesday, October 12th, 2021

It’s dangerous to play god …

     I loved the original volume of The Golem and the Jinni, but I read it some six years ago, so I reread it before beginning this sequel.  As I did so, I realized that there was a lot left hanging at the end, especially where Sophia’s story was concerned.  The sequel tied up most of that and it didn’t disappoint.

I believe these books could be characterized as urban fantasy, since the turn-of-the-20th-century city of New York plays a huge role; the city comes across as a living, breathing entity, described in lyrical terms.  The amount of research that the author must have had to do makes me tired just to contemplate. 

It’s interesting to analyze the depictions of the non-human characters.  For me, the Golem comes alive more fully than the Jinni does, probably because we’re more familiar with creatures made of the prime elements of Earth and Water than with those made of Air and Fire.  And Chava Levy has several advantages that Ahmad lacks; she lost her master before her character was formed and so acquired the ability to read all human minds, and she was mentored by a truly compassionate and deep-thinking Rabbi at the start of her life.  Ahmad was already ancient when he was thrust into an alien society that had no interest for him, and it seems that the jinn are self-centered from their inception.  Developing the ability to form friendships is nearly an impossibility for a jinni.  It makes sense that Chava would adapt more easily to the human condition than the Jinni would.

Then there is the poignant story of the other golem.  Chava had the benefit of being created for a master who wanted an intelligent and curious female mate, and while Yehudah Schaalman is the major villain of the piece, he is nevertheless quite skilled at what he does, and he did a pretty good job of creating a golem who could pass for human.  Rabbi Altschul, on the other hand, wanted a killing machine who might be able to avenge the pogroms underway in Europe at the time; furthermore he dies before the golem was finished and it was activated before it was complete.  Poor Yossele!  He is such a pathetic character – the end of the book made me sad, although the conclusion is basically hopeful and positive.

I immediately thought of one of my most favorite lines in all of fantasy literature.  It’s from “The Island of the Mighty,” by Evangeline Walton, and it occurs at the very end of Chapter 8.  The Welsh god Gwydion has created a woman out of flowers as a mate for his son Llew, who has been cursed to never lie with a human woman.  But Blodeuwedd turns out to be as empty and transitory as the flowers she was made from and she betrays her mate, so … “Gwydion rode on alone toward Dinodig, going forth, after the fashion of all orthodox gods, to damn the creature he had fashioned ill …”

Be very careful what you do when you play at being god.

5 stars to this book – highly recommended.

Find my review of the first volume here: 

Aramteskan Grammar

Friday, October 1st, 2021

Lauren Gawne is a linguist and senior lecturer at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia. She is the co-host of the Lingthusiasm podcast and writes the Superlinguo blog on language and linguistics.


This document provides an overview of the grammar of the Aramteskan language, created by Lauren Gawne for P. M. Freestone’s Shadowscent series (The Darkest Bloom and Crown of Smoke). This represents the state of completed work on the grammar at the conclusion of these two books. This is by no means a complete or detailed grammar, and some sections may contain more information than others.

Version History

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.