The Kingdom of Copper by S.A. Chakraborty

Title: The Kingdom of Copper
Author: S.A. Chakraborty
Series: The Daevabad Trilogy, #2
Pages: 621
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Release Date: January 22nd 2019

**Contains spoilers for The City of Brass!**

      “S. A. Chakraborty continues the sweeping adventure begun in The City of Brass conjuring a world where djinn summon flames with the snap of a finger and waters run deep with old magic; where blood can be dangerous as any spell, and a clever con artist from Cairo will alter the fate of a kingdom.
    Nahri’s life changed forever the moment she accidentally summoned Dara, a formidable, mysterious djinn, during one of her schemes. Whisked from her home in Cairo, she was thrust into the dazzling royal court of Daevabad—and quickly discovered she would need all her grifter instincts to survive there.
      Now, with Daevabad entrenched in the dark aftermath of a devastating battle, Nahri must forge a new path for herself. But even as she embraces her heritage and the power it holds, she knows she’s been trapped in a gilded cage, watched by a king who rules from the throne that once belonged to her family—and one misstep will doom her tribe…
      Meanwhile, Ali has been exiled for daring to defy his father. Hunted by assassins, adrift on the unforgiving copper sands of his ancestral land, he is forced to rely on the frightening abilities the marid—the unpredictable water spirits—have gifted him. But in doing so, he threatens to unearth a terrible secret his family has long kept buried.
      And as a new century approaches and the djinn gather within Daevabad’s towering brass walls for celebrations, a threat brews unseen in the desolate north. It’s a force that would bring a storm of fire straight to the city’s gates . . . and one that seeks the aid of a warrior trapped between worlds, torn between a violent duty he can never escape and a peace he fears he will never deserve.”

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“And then he took off, sprinting toward the cliff edge. He ran as fast as he could and when the cliff gave way to air, he kept going, hurling himself into empty space. For one petrifying moment, he was falling, the distant, rock-strewn ground he was about to be dashed upon rushing up…”

S.A. Chakraborty’s delivers another imaginative and extraordinary story with The Kingdom of Copper, the second novel in the Daevabad Trilogy. Following the events of the first book, Nahri, once a street thief, is fully immersed in Daevabad’s royal court. As the last surviving Nahid, Nahri has been named the Banu Nahid, healer and leader to her people. Ali, prince of Daevabad, has been exiled, but circumstances force him to return to his home, a place he is no longer welcome. Nahri and Ali both must navigate the moods of a tyrannical king while trying to protect the most vulnerable in the city. But they must do so alone as their friendship was severed the moment Ali cut down Nahri’s Afshin, Dara. Five years have past, but the hurt still remains. Daevabad is already on the brink of a civil war as tensions between the tribes and the shafit inhabitants comes to a head, but it is an unexpected player from outside that threatens to bring the city to its knees.

Chakraborty writes some of the most mesmerizing characters I’ve ever come across in a fantasy. Nahri’s very existence challenges many of the preconceived ideas the people of Daevabad have. She grew up without family and without ties to her heritage. Accidentally summoning a daeva led her to another world where djinn rule and while this knowledge led to Nahri gaining power, the most important discovery for her has been learning more about her family. Still, there are a lot of secrets in this city, and no secret is benign. Despite being at odds with people with enormous amounts of power, Nahri isn’t afraid to challenge them. Though her allies are few, she’s always thinking ahead and is willing to take the path less traveled if it means keeping power out of the hands of those who would readily abuse it.

I had issues with Ali in the first novel like his need to always play the hero, which got him into all kinds of trouble, and his naivete, which led him astray on many occasions. Ali, five years older, is more mature and maybe a little humbler. He is returning to the father that cast him aside and a brother who is less than welcoming. Still, he hasn’t lost his moral code and in a place where shafit, offspring of humans and djinn, are mistreated, Ali is one of the few djinn who will stand up for them. Unfortunately this often pits him against his father the king and more recently the heir and Ali’s brother, Muntadhir. This latter relationship has shifted from the first book and although Mundahir has been loyal to the family name, it is clear that Ali exhibits characteristics that would make him the better leader, something that does not go unnoticed by their father and which sows even more animosity between the brothers.

Dara has always been my favorite in this series. His life has been devoted to service, both voluntarily and compulsory. His connection with Nahri was completely unexpected and ultimately led to him being severed from her. Dara’s greatest strength is his loyalty but it’s also his greatest weakness. He’s been used over and over again as someone else’s weapon and though he may want to escape from the endless battles, he’s still willing to sacrifice freedom for someone else’s cause. As complex as these leads are, Chakraborty still infuses just as much intricacy into her secondary characters. I can’t think of a single flat character and continually marvel at how well Chakraborty juggles all of these different personalities in a consistent and compelling way.

The Kingdom of Copper is full of political machinations, dangerous secrets, and flawed characters whose foolhardy beliefs may spell doom for them all. This sequel is can’t-miss and I am counting down the days until we get the finale.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★
(5/5)

Mini Reviews: The City of Brass + Gabi, a Girl in Pieces

MiniI have a set of very different books for you for this round of mini-reviews. These are both titles that I’ve been meaning to get to for a while and I’m glad I finally found the time to pick them up. Everyone has been raving about S.A Chakraborty’s The City of Brass and I’m so happy to have finally met these characters. Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero has been on my TBR for years. With the start of Latinx Heritage Month coming, I wanted to finally get to this one in early September. I am very disappointed in myself for not picking it up sooner. You can read my thoughts on these two titles a little more in depth below. Covers below are linked to Goodreads.

Title: The City of Brass
Author: S.A. Chakraborty
Series: The Daevabad Trilogy, #1
Pages: 533
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Release Date: November 14th 2017 

      “Nahri has never believed in magic. Certainly, she has power; on the streets of 18th century Cairo, she’s a con woman of unsurpassed talent. But she knows better than anyone that the trade she uses to get by—palm readings, zars, healings—are all tricks, sleights of hand, learned skills; a means to the delightful end of swindling Ottoman nobles.
      But when Nahri accidentally summons an equally sly, darkly mysterious djinn warrior to her side during one of her cons, she’s forced to accept that the magical world she thought only existed in childhood stories is real. For the warrior tells her a new tale: across hot, windswept sands teeming with creatures of fire, and rivers where the mythical marid sleep; past ruins of once-magnificent human metropolises, and mountains where the circling hawks are not what they seem, lies Daevabad, the legendary city of brass, a city to which Nahri is irrevocably bound.
      In that city, behind gilded brass walls laced with enchantments, behind the six gates of the six djinn tribes, old resentments are simmering. And when Nahri decides to enter this world, she learns that true power is fierce and brutal. That magic cannot shield her from the dangerous web of court politics. That even the cleverest of schemes can have deadly consequences.
After all, there is a reason they say be careful what you wish for…”

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“A hot breeze swept past her cheeks, and Nahri lifted her eyes. The cliffs were on fire; the wet trees snapped and cracked as they burned. The air smelled poisonous, hot and seeded with tiny burning embers that swept across the dead landscape and twinkled above the dark river.”

S.A. Chakraborty’s The City of Brass is an all-encompassing fantasy with great characters and a world that’s spellbindingly brilliant. Orphaned and penniless, Nahri has managed to survive on the streets of Cairo, stealing and swindling her marks out of money. When she inadvertently summons a dangerous djinn, Nahri discovers the fantastical stories she grew up hearing are rooted in truth. Chakraborty’s world is deliciously multilayered and I loved that with every page, we discovered something new. Nahri was an easy character to like. She’s cunning and resourceful; she wants more than what life has dealt her and is willing to do what is needed to get it. I really enjoyed Dara, not just because he’s the kind of brooding character I’m immediately drawn to, but because like Nahri, he is also thrown into a world he doesn’t quite understand. The world as Dara left it has shifted. His people are no longer in control of the city of Daevabad; instead, the Qahtani, a djinn family, have taken over. The royal family have tried to find a balance in their city between djinn, daeva, and the shafit (offspring of djinn and humans). Their methods are not always humane. Ali is King Ghassan’s second son, both a scholar and a warrior; his own convictions often pit him against his own father. Ali was often times a frustrating character. I liked that he wanted to be better than the example his father and often his brother gave him, but his self-righteousness and naivete made me want to shake him by the shoulders. Chakraborty does a fantastic job giving voice to every side in this story. The internal conflict in Daevabad is not new and the characters’ decisions have far reaching consequences. The City of Brass is a perfect read for those looking for a dynamic fantasy and complex characters.

Rating: 4/5

★★★★


Title: Gabi,a Girl in Pieces
Author: Isabel Quintero
Series: N/A
Pages: 284
Publisher: Cinco Puntos Press
Release Date: October 14th 2014

      “Gabi Hernandez chronicles her last year in high school in her diary: college applications, Cindy’s pregnancy, Sebastian’s coming out, the cute boys, her father’s meth habit, and the food she craves. And best of all, the poetry that helps forge her identity.
      July 24
      My mother named me Gabriella, after my grandmother who, coincidentally, didn’t want to meet me when I was born because my mother was unmarried, and therefore living in sin. My mom has told me the story many, many, MANY, times of how, when she confessed to my grandmother that she was pregnant with me, her mother beat her. BEAT HER! She was twenty-five. That story is the basis of my sexual education and has reiterated why it’s important to wait until you’re married to give it up. So now, every time I go out with a guy, my mom says, “Ojos abiertos, piernas cerradas.” Eyes open, legs closed. That’s as far as the birds and the bees talk has gone. And I don’t mind it. I don’t necessarily agree with that whole wait until you’re married crap, though. I mean, this is America and the 21st century; not Mexico one hundred years ago. But, of course, I can’t tell my mom that because she will think I’m bad. Or worse: trying to be White.

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“I felt my head lifted up and my neck bared, somewhere distant between all the pain. Tears streamed down my face and my body twitched uncontrollably. I wondered if this would, at least, put an end to my torture.”

I am mentally kicking myself for not picking up Isabel Quintero’s Gabi, a Girl in Pieces sooner. This contemporary features one of the most genuine voices I’ve come across, handling difficult issues with honesty and care, with representation that spoke directly to this Latina reader. Gabi Hernandez is many things. Best friend. Daughter. Sister. Fat girl. Mexican-American. In her senior year of high school, Gabi is trying to juggle all her different identities while simultaneously not disappointing her mother and not letting her father’s meth addiction take her whole family down with him. Told in diary entries, Quintero’s novel feels intimate and personal. Gabi feels fully-fleshed out; she’s candid, self-depreciating, and had me laughing out loud on several occasions. So many of these characters felt familiar from the eccentric tía to the judgmental mother. The novel addresses teen pregnancy, homophobia, being the child of an addict, and gender roles in the Latinx community. I loved that Gabi found a creative outlet in her poetry and found it really rewarding to see how her poetry matures over the course of the novel. Gabi, a Girl in Pieces is the kind of novel I wish I had as a teen as several of Gabi’s hopes and fears felt like my own. TW: homophobia, fatphobia, slut shaming, rape, and drug use.

Rating: 5/5

★★★★★