To Free a Captured Heart by R.L. Naquin

To Free a Captured Heart by R.L. NaquinThe blurb for this book didn’t quite match the story so some of it confused me at first. But then, if you’d told me this was a book about a djinn and her friends trapped into being guests at a casino, I might have given it a pass. It wouldn’t seem like much could happen of interest. The story does all take place inside a casino hotel and the attached riverboat casino, however, and there is debt involved. The reasons and situations were not what I had expected, though. Instead, this is a strong urban fantasy with an often spunky tone and a lot going on. The main plot is a mystery full of twists and turns.

The story stands alone despite being a late entry in a complex world. I have not read the earlier series and had no trouble enjoying this one. I am considering looking up the other books, though, because the hints dropped in this one are intriguing. While the book has a lovely ending that lives up to the happily ever after promise of romance, I think people expecting a romance novel might be disappointed. If you go in with urban fantasy in mind, you should have a lot of fun with the read.

Like most urban fantasy, there’s a light level mostly in interactions within the team with a deeper, and darker, story underneath. The team is a mix of two djinns, one-half djinn, a wooden golem, and a ghost. Their responsibility is to help souls cross over by gathering them up and sending them on at the depository.

Kam’s team is sent to solve the mystery of why so many souls are gathering here. The costs of doing their job might be high, but the team is intent on saving both lives and souls, so it’s worth it. The master villain behind it all is both childlike and truly villainous for all he doesn’t seem to recognize the extent of his depravity.

What passes as a love story is between Kam and Tahm, both djinns. Kam ran away from home when her family betrothed her to Tahm, a much older friend of her brother. She had a huge crush on him and couldn’t bear being trapped in a marriage with unrequited love. The situation was more complicated than she’d assumed, as we learn throughout the book, but maybe she’s more ready for it now in any case. Despite what I said about this not reading like a romance, there is clear development in their relationship, and I like how it complicates their job.

Tahm’s brother is embroiled in the mystery on the other side. There are many possibilities offered for his role, both bitter and bittersweet, that the team uncovers in their investigation. Ash, the half djinn, has her own complications to deal with. The arrival and departure of other friends made in the earlier series does a good job of showing the true family Kam has made here among the Hidden (non-human intelligences with or without magic) on Earth.

I’ve tried to give you a glimpse of the characters and the strengths in the story without spoiling anything, and it has enough twists to make that difficult. This is a fun read with a very dark underside. It looks at the dangers of power and how something that sounds reasonable, but underhanded, can become unbelievably horrible. Redemption and forgiveness appear as themes as well, along with the love story.

P.S. I received this title from the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review.

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5 Responses to To Free a Captured Heart by R.L. Naquin

  1. jjmcgaffey says:

    This is very strange. It is not the book I read…sometime last year? about a ghost-talker and her team dealing with strange murders in a casino, that turns out to be a demon (or possibly a djinn they call a demon – he’s confusing). But boy it sounds similar (in plot points, if not actual story). If I could remember what the book I read was, I’d check…but I can’t (immediately) track it down.

  2. jjmcgaffey says:

    Ah, found it – Diana Pharaoh Francis’s The Incubus Job. Now I want to read this and see if it is similar…

    • Margaret McGaffey Fisk says:

      Actually, since from your description the djinn is the bad guy, it’s completely opposite :). The djinns are the heroes.

  3. jjmcgaffey says:

    True. Though I seem to recall a half-djinn good guy – which I may be making up, at this point.

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