Cover of Exquisite Captive: dark background, side profile of Nalia, looking down with eyes closed and hand at her mouth and bangle bracelet on her wrist

About the Book

Title: Exquisite Captive (Dark Caravan Cycle #1)
Published: 2014
Series: Dark Caravan Cycle
Swoonworthy Scale: 8

Cover Story: Exquisite Big Face
BFF Charm: Heck Yes!
Talky Talk: Once Upon a Time in Los Angeles
Bonus Factors: Jinn, Anastasia
Relationship Status: Absolutely Captivated

Cover Story: Exquisite Big Face

Dreaded Big Face strikes again! Although this one might not be entirely terrible? There’s something pretty and pained about this photo, even if the pose doesn’t seem really natural. (I know because I just recreated it. For science.)

The Deal:

The last of the ruling jinn caste, Nalia escaped a devastating coup in her homeland of Arjinna. Now hiding on Earth, Nalia is subjected to the dark caravan slave trade, shackled to the every whim of her cruel and handsome master, Malek. But she perseveres, clinging onto the hope of returning to her world to rescue her imprisoned brother.

So when Raif, the leader of the resistance back in Arjinna, presents Nalia with an opportunity to free her from her master, the offer just might be too good to refuse. Nalia’s freedom might finally be within her grasp — but at what cost? 

BFF Charm: Heck Yes!

BFF Charm Heck Yes - sparklier and shinier than the original BFF Charm

Surviving a genocide, only to be sold as a slave?! DAYUM, Nalia has it rough — no matter how many lavish gifts her master bestows upon her. But a pity charm this ain’t. Nalia is defiant, stubborn, and courageous — someone I’d be proud to call a BFF. 

Swoonworthy Scale: NONONONONO (But Also 8)

It should go without saying that the slave/master aspect of Nalia’s relationship with Malek is deplorable. And that’s even without factoring in his mean streak. Or how he’s seemingly ageless and has been watching her grow over the past three years. There’s a shit ton of ick, is what I mean.

AND YET. Nalia and Malek have moments of undeniable hotness that she and I both hate ourselves for acknowledging. Fortunately, her sparkage with Raif is way less morally confusing, even if it’s still complicated by the class differences and bitter history in jinn society. But bottom line: your wish of panty melting is this book’s command. 

Talky Talk: Once Upon a Time in Los Angeles

The story follows Nalia in her new home of Los Angeles, which happens to be a hotbed for jinn expats like herself. Heather Demetrios infuses mythical grandeur into a modern day setting to great effect, but she also includes enough humour to balance out the darker, heavier content.

Although there might not be a comedic antidote strong enough to combat the nightmare fuel known as the creeptastic scary villain that’s hunting Nalia. At the end of every handful of chapters or so, the story shifts to this grisly perspective. I actually planned out how many chapters I’d allow myself to read before bedtime, just so I wouldn’t have end on one of those. Like I said, NIGHTMARE FUEL.

Bonus Factor: Jinn

Genie pointing from the cartoon Aladdin

Jinn are so hot right now! And I, for one, welcome our new jinn YA overlords. Especially when they also tell a larger story of slavery and human trafficking — an issues book without being an issues book.

Bonus Factor: Anastasia

To be honest, I didn’t notice the connection to the Anastasia urban legend until the book made it for me. And then it was like a light bulb went off: YES, OF COURSE, THIS IS WHY I LOVE THIS PREMISE. When I was a kid, I def. imagined that I, not Rihanna, was a long-lost princess of China. (Hey, if it can happen to Mia Thermopolis… )

Relationship Status: Absolutely Captivated

It’s always nerve-racking to go out with a book that seems PERFECT for you. So imagine my sigh of relief when we hit it off right away. Like, staying-up-all-night hit it off. I’m glad this series wants a couple more dates with me, because I totally need more of it in my life. 

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my free review copy from Balzer + Bray. I received neither money nor froyo for writing this review (dammit!). Exquisite Captive is available now.

Mandy (she/her) lives in Edmonton, AB. When she’s not raiding the library for YA books, she enjoys eating ice cream (esp. in cold weather), learning fancy pole dance tricks, and stanning BTS. Mandy has been writing for FYA since 2012, and she oversaw all things FYA Book Club from 2013 to 2023.