I haven’t read a book that made me mad in a really long time. I’m glad that this book was the break from that. When I get mad at a book that’s really good, it’s because of how it all played out and what the outcome of everyone’s actions led to. It’s been a really long time since I felt this way and honestly, I appreciate the anger.
Oh my goodness, let me tell you about a 2017 Goodreads Award nomination that just blew me away. I can’t believe there isn’t more buzz around this book because it surprised me so hard. Dang.
The American Dream. Many people talk about it, but no one really knows what it means. Some people work their entire lives to try and achieve it and some people succeed. Sadly, sometimes it takes death to figure out that not only you achieved the American Dream, but excelled beyond it.
When I first started reading this book, I honestly thought this was going to be one of those super YA stories about a young woman who is on the brink of growing up and falls in love. Yes, it is all those things, but there is so much more to this than just vapid annoyance.
Trigger warning. Please note that this book has themes of:
- Mental health issues
- Eating disorders
- Drug abuse
“A novelist is a person who lives in other people’s skins.” – E. L. Doctorow
I didn’t know much about Forough Farrokhzad. I’ve actually never heard the name before, but when I received this book from Netgalley, I was interested in reading the life of a poet and how that life can be fictionalized to tell the tale. I didn’t know that fiction was really the only way you can tell her story.
An epic fantasy with daring sword fights, magic spells, but no prince in disguise. This is a book you’ll want to read, fall in love with, and hopefully see it turn into a movie.
Here’s more about the book
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.
It’s kind of tough for me to put into words how much I liked this book. While it did have its flaws and it wasn’t the most perfect read, I still enjoyed it. I wanted to read this book in particular because it takes place in the Middle East and that’s one of the areas I wanted to focus reading this year.
From the synopsis of this book, you would think that this is a simple tale about a young woman who finds herself in a magical universe right in the middle of Cairo. However, this book is way more than what this story tells you. The book is deeply steeped in Middle Eastern culture, folklore, history, and there is also some hints at Islam as well.
In its essence, this is a book about the power struggle between two tribes of the Daeva. One group called the daeva believe in the power of fire while the other group, the djinn, don’t. This division between the two groups of people causes for some massive political and social issues amongst the people. Let’s not even get into the half-human born folks that live in Daevabad as well.
What I personally loved was Nahri. She’s a daeva born into the human world and lived on the streets her entire life. She’s a thief and a liar and she knows nothing about the powers she possesses aside from the occasional wound healing very quickly. When she summons Dara, her Afshin, he whisks her away to the world she belongs.
As you can see, there’s obviously some issues with someone who grew up in the human world coming to a world made up of magical beings. This goes double for someone who can heal and bring something to the world that’s been missing for a few years.
I loved reading this part of the book because you get to learn about these worlds alongside Nahri. You get to see her thoughts and how she reacts and her reactions were completely natural.
The epic battles throughout the story were also well created and thought out. I can see the fights in my head between the people and the emotions were definitely prevalent in the reads. These were some of the parts that really drew me into the story, made me care about these characters, and eventually made me want to read more.
It took me a while to get right into the book mostly because the world building was a little off. SA Chakraborty would explain a concept of the daevas or the djinn to you, which was a little confusing. However, then you see Nahri ask the same questions you asked yourself and suddenly everything makes sense.
Nahri and Dara don’t arrive in Daevabad until halfway through the book. In my opinion, I feel like it should have been sooner so that we can learn alongside Nahri all the little details about the world. I had to do a lot of googling to understand the certain weapons they used, the origins of the djinn and daevas (there’s an origin and you can look it up!), and even some of the Arabic phrases she threw in there every once in a while.
There is also an issue with the wording of things. Whenever Chakraborty introduced a new point in the plot, it was really confusing and I needed to read it a few times over to understand it. It may have been the way I was reading, but it definitely threw me off and pulled my final star. Even though the world building was a little confusing for me, it was immediately nullified by the elaborate writing, the action and adventure of it all, and reading about a world that I don’t regularly read.
The end of the book got me hooked and I will admit, I shed a few tears. I know this is the first book from a debut author with another book in this series coming soon. The first books are always the toughest, but if they grab you enough, then you’ll definitely want to read the second. I will definitely be looking out for the second book in the future.
- Hardcover: 544 pages
- Harper Voyager (November 14, 2017)
- Rating: 4/5 stars
- Buy The City of Brass on Amazon
Simone and Her Books is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This in no way affects my opinion of the above book.
My friend, Michaela, at The Ardent Biblio recently talked about reading War and Peace for the first time. If you aren’t aware, War and Peace is considered one of the best books of all time written by the most prolific writers, Leo Tolstoy.
However, it was originally written in Russian, is over 1400 pages long, and it takes place during the Franco-Russian War. Unless you’re actually studying the text, there aren’t many people who decide to pick this book and read it. And if you do decide to read it, there’s a lot of families, a lot of names, and a lot of important moments you have to remember.
But a copy of the book has been sitting on my shelf for years. I even dedicated some time to read Anna Karenina (Tolstoy’s other epic classic) a few years back only to stop reading it one day and never picked it back up.
When it comes to books like this, I’m immediately intimidated. I felt the same way about Game of Thrones when the show first came out. I was weary with reading the novel because of all the characters, the places, and the events you had to remember. I think this is one of the many reasons why I put off reading War and Peace.
Today just happened to be the day I decided I will read it. I know that some of this influence does come from Michaela, but the other part comes from the fact that I’m currently watching the TV adaptation of the book. Here’s a trailer below:
So you must be angry at me for watching the BBC version of this show rather than reading the actual novel. Don’t worry, I will definitely read the novel in time. I just would rather watch the show first before diving into the book.
I think we’ve come to a day and age where reading classics (or some more difficult fantasy novels) has become easier. Aside from the myriad of translations you can choose from (definitely check out The Ardent Biblio post about it above), many of the beloved classics from yesteryear are now available on TV. Movies and retellings and mini-series have been made in abundance for so many classic books. I remember the day I watched all of the BBC Pride and Prejudice and after watching the epic mini-series, I decided to read the book. I read Little Women after watching the 1995-film version with Winona Ryder for the millionth time.
Similarly to many other books I come across, I always have a tough time with visualizing characters and people. With a ton of names and events, it’s hard to keep track of them all. I always find myself flipping from the front of the book and the family tree and the index back to the page I was reading. God forbid the author doesn’t even give you that! Even when the novel is simpler, I always find myself using some actor or actress I feel is appropriate for the main character instead of dreaming up someone in my head. I should have gone into casting or something for these movies.
What watching the show does is allow me to visualize what may have been more difficult without. I’m able to see who exactly is Pierre and Andrei and Natasha and all the others. I can see them in my head and when I read the book I can use that to help shape the story. When I go to the book later on, I’ll be able to read with those characters in mind and be able to visualize the nuances of their emotions and reactions.
I’m also able to visualize the story. You may think that this will spoil a novel for me, but it doesn’t. When a book is as popularized to make a movie, I feel like the spoilers are gone. You already know what’s going to happen or you can read about them online. But the visualization of the story allows me to follow along and understand the bigger events that happen.
Of course you’re not going to get the whole book in the show. If anything, the shows and movies provide a bone structure for you to go back and read the book and fill in the muscle and the tissue. A movie without the book isn’t the same as the movie with the book. You get to a battle scene with its gore and guns and fighting and for some reason these scenes have always been really tough for me to envision in my head. Instead, I get this battle scene played out for me and I can go back later and fill in the gaps I missed about that scene.
The last added bonus of watching the movie before reading the book is that you’re never disappointed. I’ve read books before watching the movie and felt the upset of it not being true to the film. I’ve seen movies that were even better than the book and that annoys me to no end as well. Watching the movie before the book sets me up for good reading with well-crafted scenes and if the adaptation is really good, it can really blow the book out of the water (but that’s a post for another time).
Y’all probably hate me now because I do this weird method of watching the adaptation before reading the book, but for some reason it’s worked for me. I’ve been able to really enjoy some of my favorite classics because I was able to watch them played out like this. It’s also great when the people who made the movie put in the extra work to make it incredible. With an adaptation like War and Peace, there’s a lot of ground to cover in more than just three hours. I mean, look at what happened with the Lord of the Rings movies.