Book Review: Broken Homes, Rivers of London Book 4, Ben Aaronovitch

Book Review: Broken Homes, Rivers of London Book 4, Ben Aaronovitch

Book Review: Broken Homes, Rivers of London Book 4, Ben Aaronovitch

Detective Peter Grant is becoming stronger in his magical powers, more confident in his detective work, but still is not allowed to drive DCI Nightingale’s jaguar around the streets of London. Nor is he very good at telling the future, like when a river goddess suggests she may start a flood, she may actually start a flood. Still, it was a small flood, insurance paid for most of it, and that really wasn’t his fault. Probably.

Broken Homes is the fourth book in what is quickly becoming one of my favorite series, The Rivers of London. Aaronovitch has quirky and likeable characters interacting in believable ways–that is, once you accept the premise that there is an entire magical London living among and amid the ordinary human residents. It makes sense that this magical London would have dedicated police officers who work to capture rogue wizards and witches, keep the peace between various magical factions, and above all prevent ordinary humans from realizing they are surrounded by magic.

Peter, Nightingale, Lesley, and the rest of the crew (including Toby the dog) are trying to solve multiple crimes when they realize that those crimes are related. We see the return of a witch they faced in a previous novel, but here they find out she is much more powerful than they had realized before. They also find clues that the “faceless man” is becoming active again, a powerful wizard who nearly killed Peter during their last encounter. Not even Nightingale is certain he can be beaten, which gives Peter and Lesley increased urgency in their training. When they are required to move into a building to investigate suspicious activity, that brings them face to face with their most challenging enemies.

Aaronovitch has built a terrific sandbox in this Rivers of London series, and invited all of us to play in it with him. Broken Homes is a fun and easy read. Well worth the time.

Also see

Book Review: Midnight Riot, Rivers of London Book 1, Ben Aaronovitch

Book Review: Moon Over Soho, Rivers of London Book 2, Ben Aaronovitch

Book Review: Whispers Underground, Rivers of London Book 3, Ben Aaronovitch

Book Review: Broken Homes, Rivers of London Book 4, Ben Aaronovitch

Book Review: Whispers Underground, Rivers of London Book 3, Ben Aaronovitch

Book Review: Whispers Underground, Rivers of London Book 3, Ben Aaronovitch

Whispers Under Ground (Rivers of London Book 3) by [Aaronovitch, Ben]

Book Review: Whispers Underground, Rivers of London Book 3, Ben Aaronovitch

Peter Grant got his start in the police department that handles magic by interviewing a ghost who witnessed a murder. So when a young girl who lives near his parent’s apartment says she has seen a ghost, he can’t really ignore her request to come investigate it. This is the first supernatural visit to London’s underground that DC Grant and DC Lesley May make. It won’t be the last.

 

Whispers Underground is the third installment in a terrific series, Rivers of London. Ben Aaronovitch uses a lot of humor and terrific characters to tell a magical story. After investigating the ghost young Abigail has found, they are called to investigate a murder, a young man stabbed by a piece of pottery. The pottery has traces of vestigium, the echo left by magic, an echo that only those trained in magic can usually sense. Grant and May are part of the Metropolitan Police Force’s department that handles magic and the supernatural, and they are now part of a high profile case.

 

The victim is an American art student, the son of a US senator. This means that the FBI has a vested interest in the case, and despite his quite junior status on the team the agent decides that Grant is the one she should focus on. Scotland Yard may have a division focusing on magic, but it doesn’t LIKE having that division, and especially doesn’t like admitting that they have that division…or even admitting that magic exists. They certainly don’t want to share that information with their friends across the pond. This makes things awkward for Grant. He is charged with investigating a crime involving magic, underneath the watchful observation of an FBI agent, without revealing that magic is involved or even that magic exists.

 

Good. Luck.

 

Aaronovitch continues his often hilarious storytelling style in this wonderful series. The humor is quite dry. In some ways this was the most “British” of the novels, with no efforts made to translate the British idioms into American ones for us colonists. For me that adds to the charm. I don’t mind looking up words that I don’t know. If I am going to read a book set in London, written by a writer living in London, I may as well experience the full effect. A trip to London is on my bucket list…but for now I will have to settle for the vicarious experience through fiction.

 

This series continues to delight. Through wit, compassion, and maybe a little magic, Aaronovitch gives us an urban fantasy that feels very real. His characters are wonderful, his setting is vivid, and his stories are imaginative. It’s hard to ask for anything more in a book.

Also see

Book Review: Midnight Riot, Rivers of London Book 1, Ben Aaronovitch

Book Review: Moon Over Soho, Rivers of London Book 2, Ben Aaronovitch

Whispers Under Ground (Rivers of London Book 3) by [Aaronovitch, Ben]

Book Review: Whispers Underground, Rivers of London Book 3, Ben Aaronovitch

Book Review: Moon Over Soho, Rivers of London Book 2, Ben Aaronovitch

Book Review: Moon Over Soho, Rivers of London Book 2, Ben Aaronovitch

Moon Over Soho (Rivers of London Book 2) by [Aaronovitch, Ben]

Fantasy: Moon Over Soho, Rivers of London Book 2, Ben Aaronovitch

 

“It’s a sad fact of modern life that if you drive long enough, sooner or later you must leave London behind.”

 

This may now be my favorite opening line to any novel I’ve ever read, and I’ve never been to London! In Moon Over Soho, Ben Aaronovitch continues the story of police detective and apprentice magician Peter Grant, a mixed-race human able to see ghosts. Grant uses his abilities to solve crimes involving magic. Aaronovitch uses his abilities to write fun and engaging stories that mix police procedurals with urban fantasy. I am not sure whether Aaronovitch or his character Peter Grant is truly the more magical.

 

Grant is pursuing leads surrounding the death of a jazz musician. The musician’s death normally would be attributed to natural causes, but there is a strange magical echo, called vestigium, surrounding the body. Most humans cannot sense vestigium, but the coroner can and when he does, he calls Grant and Grant’s boss, DCI Nightingale. Nightingale is still recovering from injuries received during a previous investigation, so the bulk of the detecting will be up to Grant. Grant also enlists aid from DS Lesley May, another detective who was injured during that same case.

 

Grant is also called in to consult with the Murder Team on a case where a man’s…manhood was removed and the victim left to bleed out. They suspect that the man was the victim of some kind of magical creature, one that had teeth in her…womanhood. Grant is pursuing two lines of inquiry, and he cannot help but wonder whether there is a link between these two crimes despite the very different causes of death.

 

Aaronovitch puts a lot of humor into the books. Grant sometimes struggles to learn magic, and to Nightingale’s frustration he sometimes puts spells together in ways that are less than optimal. This sometimes results in things catching on fire. Grant also has garnered an unfortunate reputation for causing property damage, a reputation only made worse by a stolen ambulance careening down London streets in a (successful) effort to save the son of a demigod. Still, his skills, instinct, and talent are all needed to solve the crimes and expose the killers and their motives.

 

Moon Over Soho builds on the solid foundation of the first book and gives greater insight to Peter Grant and Lesley May. It is a fun ride through London’s jazz scene, and does a nice job introducing new characters and setting up a larger arc for future novels. An excellent follow up in a series I am thoroughly enjoying.

Also see

Book Review: Midnight Riot, Rivers of London Book 1, Ben Aaronovitch

Moon Over Soho (Rivers of London Book 2) by [Aaronovitch, Ben]

Book Review: Moon Over Soho, Rivers of London Book 2, Ben Aaronovitch

Book Review: Akata Warrior, Nnedi Okorafor

Book Review: Akata Warrior, Nnedi Okorafor

Fantasy: Akata Warrior, Nnedi Okorafor

This sequel to Akata Witch has everything you want in a young adult fantasy. Compelling characters, exciting plot, brilliant writing, ferocious enemies, and a beautifully built world. Nnedi Okorafor is an amazing writer and Akata Warrior is a wonderful book.

 

Sunny Nwazue is a free agent Leopard person, or as we Lambs might call her, a witch. Along with her friends Orlu, Chichi, and Sasha, she is studying the ways of Leopard people with a teacher for their group and with a mentor for each of them individually. She is also a student and soccer player for her local school, where non-magic Lambs attend, blissfully unaware of the Leopard people in their midst.

 

Balancing the need for absolute secrecy about the Leopard world with her personal and family life has always been challenging for Sunny. When her brother is attacked and his life is threatened, that challenge becomes too great to bear. Using magic to help her brother is acceptable, but when she reveals herself as the source of the retribution she finds herself in trouble (again) with the Leopard council. Her punishment starts a process that leaves her vulnerable in new ways to attack from their greatest enemy, an ancient foe who is trying to return to the human world.

 

It’s hard to say what I like best about Nnedi Okorafor’s work. Her world building is imaginative, overlaying a magical world on top of modern day Nigeria with all its wealth and poverty. Her characters are distinct and different, each with separate voices and individual strengths and weaknesses. Sunny herself grows and changes throughout the book. Humorous scenes and one-liners pop up when needed to keep the tone from getting too dark. Sunny is a free agent, which means that although she has magic her family does not. This leads to natural conflict and secrets between herself and her parents and her brothers. These secrets are handled by the author logically–which is to say, there is yelling and crying and silence and avoidance of uncomfortable subjects. Probably the way most families would handle it, good and bad and angry and sad and resigned and loving.

 

Okorafor’s Africa is neither the “dark continent” of mystery and megafauna and backwards tribes living in grass huts that previous generations of writers presented, nor the poverty and disease ridden slums of late night charity infomercials. Sunny’s family lived in the U.S. but chose to raise their children in Nigeria, thinking they would be safer and healthier there. Her friend Sasha is from Chicago. His parents made a similar decision, sending him to live with Orlu’s family. Sunny and her family live in a nice house with a fenced yard. They use the same types of appliances they used in New York. They go to school, they play sports, they have cell phones and computers and Internet access, they live in many respects as well as or better than they did in the U.S. Okorafor’s Nigeria has its problems: crime and corruption and poor roads and oil spills are among the issues she mentions in the book. But Sunny’s family lives an essentially middle class life similar to the lives they led in the U.S. They just happen to be doing it in Nigeria.

Also see Akata Witch  and the Binti series

Book Review: Akata Warrior, Nnedi Okorafor

Book Review: The Poppy War, RF Kuang

Book Review: The Poppy War, RF Kuang

The Poppy War: A Novel

Fantasy: The Poppy War, RF Kuang

Shortlisted by many as one of the best fantasy books of 2018, The Poppy War is a stellar debut novel that feels both familiar and brand new. In some ways there is familiar territory being covered: Runin, a poor orphan girl, studies hard to excel on the test granting admission to the top school in the country. While there, she is largely shunned and mocked for her poverty, her gender, her color, her accent, and her lack of a family. However, she discovers within herself access to a power greater than her classmates can comprehend, a power that allows her to become more than just a mere soldier, a power that can change the course of a war, a country, humanity itself.

 

Runin can become a shaman, a conduit of the gods. There is a cost, though. It may require she lose her very humanity. If the result is the salvation of her country, though, is that not worth it? What price should not be paid, what price is too high, if the enemy is at the gates?

 

RF Kuang’s novel is rich and nuanced. Runin is a very complex character, flawed and deep. Her drive to escape her childhood is so strong that she is willing to burn her skin with candles to stay awake and master the course of study. To study with the Lore Master at her school she is willing to carry a pig up and down a mountain daily (it builds physical strength, speed, and stamina) for the months it takes for the pig to reach maturity. Yet with this drive comes rashness and immaturity. She is nearly expelled for fighting a classmate. And later she comes close to killing that same classmate, pulling herself back only at the last moment.

 

When her country is invaded by their long-term enemy, Runin is drafted to serve in the defense forces. She sees how ruthless the invaders are toward both enemy soldiers and civilians, and she starts to come to grips with her own powers. And as both the atrocities increase and the country begins to fall, the questions of right and wrong become more muddled. The god she can access is a god of fire and a god of revenge. How much fire is she willing to unleash? How far is she willing to take her revenge? The rules of war are different when you are fighting with a god’s agenda. That agenda may overlap with human desires, but they should never be mistaken as being the same.

 

Reinterpreting portions of 20th Century Chinese and Japanese history, The Poppy War is both a fantasy and an alternate history that has some resonance with other coming-of-age books but is also unique and distinctly Asian in its telling. It is a powerful and thoughtful book, and a great start to what looks to be an excellent series.

The Poppy War: A Novel

Book Review: The Poppy War, RF Kuang

Book Review: Jade City, Fonda Lee

Book Review: Jade City, Fonda Lee

Fantasy: Jade City, Fonda Lee

Co-Winner, 2018 World Fantasy Award

Finalist for both the Nebula and Locus Awards

 

Jade City is what foreigners call Jonloon. It’s an apt name. Dominated by clans of Green Bones, the city is the center of trade in biogenetic jade, a mineral which allows some people to have extraordinary powers–and gives others a terrible addiction that leads to a painful death.

 

The Mountain and the No Peak clans are the two dominant clans in Jonloon. For many years there has been an uneasy truce between the clans, sharing the city and the jade mining and trade. That truce is coming to an end and open warfare is impacting the entire city. And no family is more affected by this change than the Kaul family, leaders of the No Peak clan.

 

Fonda Lee has written a masterpiece in Jade City. She has built an extraordinary world, a world which has both Asian and western resonance but which also stands on its own as a unique creation. Over the course of almost 500 pages she paints a city with a political dynamic that intentionally reminds readers of the mafia, an economy that is dependent on a single natural resource, a culture that is unique to itself (albeit with undeniable Asian influence), a religion that supports and defends the power of jade, and a family that is fiercely loyal to each other and to their clan.

 

The Kaul family is a dynasty. Their grandfather created the No Peak clan and led it to victory in war decades earlier. Grandson and eldest brother Lan now leads the clan, supported by his military leader and brother Hilo. Sister Shae wanted to chart a different course for her life, so she left her jade behind and moved to another country. She is now back, but is still trying to live her life away from the demands of being a Kaul. And cousin Anden is just finishing his education, trying to determine what the course of his life will be.

 

Jade City is a long book, but it needs every page. Lee allows the work to breathe and to build, introducing each character fully, developing them deeply, allowing them to take their place in turn at the center of the narrative. Lan is wise and cautious, but is forced to make a decision with consequences that change the entire direction of the book and his family. Hilo is brash and violent, but capable of passionate love for others and utterly loyal to those he loves. Shae thinks she can escape her family, but when they need her she rushes to them and embraces her role wholeheartedly. These siblings love deeply, fight bitterly, and display emotions that are consistent and true to their characters. I hated to see the final page turn to the acknowledgments.

 

Central to the book is the idea of jade. Jade is not just a precious gem. It has certain properties that change people. When they wear or touch jade, both physical and psychic powers are unlocked. They can increase their speed, strength, and stamina. They can sense emotions, deflect moving objects (and move stationary objects), and even stop the hearts of unwary opponents. For those lucky enough to be born with the ability to handle jade, this power allows them to dominate in society. Others have a sensitivity to it that gives them some of the power, but in more of an addictive fashion. These unfortunates will, when exposed to jade, experience power. They will also be consumed with lust for that power and, in time, the jade will poison their bodies and they will die a horrible death. A rare few are completely immune to jade. “Stone eyes” can touch jade without experiencing either the positive or negative consequences felt by others. And, recently, a drug called “shine” has developed which gives people some of the power of jade without actually having the gem. This new drug has destabilized the balance of power between the clans, and the delicate truce between them is devolving into open warfare.

 

Jade City is a beautifully written, powerful book that is worth the investment to read and appreciate. I am very excited about the sequel, expected in May 2019. There are still many challenges awaiting the Kaul family and the No Peak clan, and I am eager to see how they handle them.

Book Review: Jade City, Fonda Lee

Book Review: Roses and Rot, Kat Howard

Book Review: Roses and Rot, Kat Howard

Fantasy: Roses and Rot, Kat Howard

Imogen and Marin are sisters. Both are also artists with some regard in their fields: Imogen as an author, Marin as a dancer. The Melete artists’ retreat is recruiting talent to come and spend most of a year in residence, working on their art with the help of a world-class mentor and the separation from the busyness of the world. What Melete doesn’t tell you up front is that it is run by the Fae, and there is an opportunity at the end of the residency, an opportunity to have all your dreams come true.

 

What price would you pay to make all your dreams come true? Would you give up seven years of your life?

 

Would you betray your sister?

 

Would you die?

 

Roses and Rot is a different kind of fairy tale, one which examines the price paid for getting your wishes fulfilled. These prices are different from person to person, and it is not always the person getting their dreams fulfilled who has to pay that price. Could a child recover if she were born in Fae country then had to leave? What cost do the Fae extract for their largesse? Is an artist solely judged by her art, or is she more than just an artist? And throughout the book, though not directly tied to the fairy tale, what role does a mother’s love or lack thereof play in a person’s life?

 

In this book, when a Fae makes flowers appear, two smells come with the flowers: roses and rot. Without delving into spoilers, the book makes the point again and again: blessings from the Fae come with beauty and wealth and magic, but they come at a high cost as well. Not everyone wants to pay that cost. Not everyone is able to pay that cost. And some people are desperate to pay the cost and receive the blessing, even if the Fae are unwilling to accept the bargain. That itself is a price for the Fae’s “gift,” but one paid by others.

 

Kat Howard is, in the words of Neal Gaiman, “a remarkable young writer.” Roses and Rot is her first novel, published in 2016. (We reviewed her second novel, An Unkindness of Magicians, last year.) I most certainly do not disagree with Neal Gaiman, nor do I think I could word praise any better than he does. Roses and Rot is a marvelous novel, particularly as a debut, and Kat Howard is indeed “a remarkable young writer.”

Book Review: Roses and Rot, Kat Howard

Book Review: Uprooted, Naomi Novik

Book Review: Uprooted, Naomi Novik

Fantasy: Uprooted, Naomi Novik

Winner of the Nebula Award

Finalist for Hugo Award

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY NPR | BuzzFeed | Tor.com | BookPage | Library Journal | Publishers Weekly

 

“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes…” begins Naomi Novik’s reimagining of an old fairy tale. Their Dragon is the lord of the valley, who collects tribute annually in the form of goods and gold. He is a wizard, who repays his people by keeping the Woods at bay and protecting them against other harmful magic. Once every ten years, though, he collects tribute of a different sort. A seventeen-year-old girl comes to live with him. She stays in his tower for ten years, then is returned to her parents. She never stays, though, not for longer than a few weeks. She goes, usually to the city, where she may marry or pursue a career, but never returns to the valley.

 

The girls say he never touches them. Never harms them. Never uses them for anything other than basic cooking. Still, few people if any ever move away from the valley. They feel a rootedness, a connection to the land and to their homes. This makes these girls stand out. None of them stay. Not a single one.

 

Kasia has always been the one who would be selected. She is pretty, talented, a good cook and seamstress. She is smart and witty and of the exact age to be chosen. Her best friend, Agnieszka, will be sorry to see her go. But Agnieszka is clumsy and average looking and has no obvious talents. Everyone knows that the magician always takes either the prettiest or the most talented girl, and Kasia is both of those things.

 

Until Agnieszka is chosen.

 

The reasons for choosing Agnieszka become clear as the story progresses, and her story moves from the tower to the capital city then back to the valley again. The Dragon and Agnieszka must work together to fight the growing evil of the Woods, an ancient evil that is seeking more power and more land and threatens the home that Agnieszka loves so dearly.

 

Novik is a remarkable story teller, and I finished her book (435 pages) in a single Saturday marathon read. Agnieszka is a bold and fierce heroine, smart and determined and loyal. She knows her own mind and is willing to claim what she wants. The story is rich and nuanced and stirring, filled with magic and action and romance and everything a fantasy should have. It even has a prince in it, though he is anything but charming!

 

One thing I love is the way Agnieszka changes those around her. Enemies become friends, or at least stop being enemies, when she is able to impact them. The Dragon’s feelings for the Valley, the people, and Agnieszka herself evolve through the story. Several others change sides because of the pure mindedness of Agnieszka. She may not think much of herself, but she has a way of changing hearts and minds that has much less to do with magic and much more to do with her character.

 

Uprooted is a special novel, and Naomi Novik is a gifted writer.

Book Review: Uprooted, Naomi Novik

Book Review: Every Heart a Doorway, Seanan McGuire

Book Review: Every Heart a Doorway, Book One in the Wayward Children series, Seanan McGuire

Fantasy: Every Heart a Doorway, Book One in the Wayward Children series, Seanan McGuire

Winner: 2017 Hugo Award

Winner: 2017 Alex Award

Winner: 2017 Locus Award

Winner: 2016 Nebula Award

Nominated: 2017 World Fantasy Award

 

Nancy is new to Eleanor West’s school. Her parents heard this was the perfect place, maybe the only place, that could help her. Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children took children like Nancy, helped children like Nancy, children who had disappeared from this world then reappeared with strange, unbelievable stories of other worlds, of places they went to where they felt at home and were understood and belonged. Ms. West listened to the concerns of these parents and grandparents and loved ones and assured them. We’ve had great success with such children, she said. We know you want your happy and well-adjusted child back to normal, she told them. We can help, she said.

 

It was all a lie. But parents and grandparents and loved ones needed to hear the lie, believe the lie, believe that their child who returned in the flesh would one day return to her or his “right” mind. So they dropped off their Kades or their Jills or their Christophers or their Nancys and drove home, looking forward to the day when their child would forget all that nonsense and truly come home.

 

Ms. West, though, knew the truth. The children she kept were not delusional. They had traveled to other worlds. They had found home, their true home, and then somehow were wrenched from that true home for their hearts and returned to a world where they did not, could not, never would fit in. The only help she could give them was to help them come to terms with their situation. Perhaps they could go back to those other worlds someday. Most couldn’t. Until they could, or until they were ready to deal with this world, they had a home with Ms. West. Their parents could not, would not, understand or accept the truth. Few ever would, or could. But Ms. West could and did. For she had also traveled, she also knew there was a world that fit her perfectly, and until she could return to that world permanently she would do everything she could to provide at least one safe, true place for other travelers to stay.

 

Seanan McGuire’s Every Heart a Doorway has won an amazing number of awards, probably because it recognizes the longing in so many hearts for a place to belong. The old Christian song, “This world is not my home, I’m just a-passin’ through,” expresses an ache felt by many hearts in and out of churches. There has got to be more, there has got to be a place. Somewhere, someone understands ME, knows exactly who I am, sees me, the real me. In a world full of differences, full of people who march to their own tunes, we still live lives of “quiet desperation,” alone and aware that we are alone. We meet and mingle and mate and still fail to truly connect with others. And we hope, though hope dims a bit each year, that somewhere we will stumble through a door into a world where we actually fit in.

 

Soon after Nancy arrives, her roommate is found dead, hands removed at the wrist. More murders ensue, each grisly and each with very specific body parts removed. Some of the removals were done post mortem, but others were done while the victim was still alive, adding to the horror of the act. And as the bodies mount, so do the questions. Who? Why? Who would be next? And not incidentally, how could this place of haven survive becoming a serial killer’s hunting ground?

 

Every Heart a Doorway is not a long book, but it is deep. For anyone who sometimes (or usually) feels lost in this world, this is a book that says, “You are not alone.” That may be the most powerful gift any book can give.

Book Review: Every Heart a Doorway, Book One in the Wayward Children series, Seanan McGuire

Book Review: The Kingdom of Copper, S.A. Chakraborty

Book Review: The Kingdom of Copper, The Daevebad Trilogy Book 2, S.A. Chakraborty

Fantasy: The Kingdom of Copper, The Daevebad Trilogy, Book 2, S.A. Chakraborty

 

S.A. Chakraborty’s debut novel, The City of Brass, was one of the most highly honored fantasy novels of 2017. Her 2019 sequel, The Kingdom of Copper, continues the epic story of the healer Nahri, the djinn Dara, and the prince Ali.

 

Set five years after the events of the first novel, Nahri is enduring her forced marriage to Ali’s brother and continuing to learn the healing arts. Her magical abilities are growing, allowing her to heal more complex problems, but her political acumen still is lacking when it comes to dealing with challenges in the court. Still, she is the Banu Nahida, a title which not only reflects her healing ability but also carries religious and political leadership within her tribe. This makes her both a potential ally and a potential threat to the king.

 

Ali escaped assassination and is living quietly in an oasis in the desert with the people who rescued him. He has recovered from his physical injuries but is coming to terms with new powers he did not have before: the ability to find water and the ability to breathe underwater. This connection to water is extremely helpful to the desert tribe that saved him, but would be very challenging to the city where his father rules. He has reconciled himself to never returning home. Others, though, have made different plans for him.

 

And Dara. Dara was killed by Ali during their final battle in the first book. But djinn can be hard to kill permanently–after all, Dara had killed Ali first during that battle and Ali refused to stay dead. Dara is brought back to life to serve the Banu Nahida…but not Nahri. There is another Banu Nahida with a claim in Daevebad, and this one is no potential ally to the king.

 

Chakraborty’s novels are rich and deep and sweeping. She creates a beautifully layered Arabian world, one where the human world and the world of the djinn occasionally intersect but are typically separated, almost like an overlay on a map. Her characters are schemers and dreamers and scholars and warriors. Religion is both crucial and ignored, with some characters motivated by zealotry while others acknowledge divinity only for public show.

 

Although the books are set in the Islamic world of about 120 years ago, they are set in the djinn version of it with little (in this book virtually no) contact between the two. Only descendants of the magical tribes can enter this world. Some of these are partially human, but no fully human person can see or enter the world. This gives the author great freedom to imagine a world that is more like the world of Aladdin than the world of European colonialism. She uses that imaginative license fully, giving us extraordinary palaces built on the abject poverty and misery of slums. Poor and oppressed people living in squalor often face harsh punishments for the decisions of the rich, even decisions that are meant to help those poor and oppressed people. Powerful people enjoy the status quo and are committed to maintaining it at any cost.

 

Chakraborty is giving fantasy readers a rich and epic series. Although it is described as a trilogy, I would be sorry to see it end with the next book. I am developing one of those strange relationships with this series: I am excited for the next book to come out, but I am dreading it because it is supposed to be the last one of the series. Still, I am a richer person for having walked through the streets of Daevebad for however long the series lasts.

Book Review: The Kingdom of Copper, The Daevebad Trilogy, Book 2, S.A. Chakraborty