One of the many pleasures of Helene Wecker's wondrous The Golem and the Jinni - and trust me, there are lots of them - is just how much it does and does well. Is the book a historical fiction? Without a doubt. Set in 1899 New York, the novel depicts a vibrant, rich world, and Wecker brings it all to wonderful life, whether it's secluded Jewish neighborhoods, active Arab communities, the lives of the upper class, or even just walks through Central Park at the turn of the century. But as the title would suggest, The Golem and the Jinni is also a fantasy novel, one which finds a masterless golem and a newly-freed (if still bound) jinni loose in this fascinating new world that neither of them knows. And if that's not enough, Wecker mixes in religion, culture, occult history, philosophy, mysticism, and fate, giving each of the themes their due while never letting her central story lose its momentum and enjoyment. What results is something that feels like of Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell if it was written by Michael Chabon - and if that sounds like high praise, well, it is, and it's deserved. Whether Wecker is exploring the differing worldviews of golems and jinnis (the former wants nothing more than to serve, while the latter wants nothing more than freedom), diving into occult religious practices, detailing the workings of a metalsmith, or simply walking through her vivid recreation of the city, she does so with great prose, complex and rich characters, and a plot that's both unpredictably complex and yet so character-driven that it always satisfies. It's a great novel, period, and the fact that it's a debut novel only makes it all the more remarkable. Here's hoping that Wecker has a long career from here on out, but even if she doesn't, she's put out one unassailably great book, and that's no small feat when it's as enjoyable and thoughtful as this one.