Review: The Kingdom of Copper

Review: The Kingdom of Copper

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Years after the aftermath of The City of Brass, Nahri continues her power struggle with the King of Daevabad as she forges her own path without the guidance of her closest friends. Slowly, she begins to embrace her lost heritage, but one misstep can doom her tribe forever. Meanwhile, Ali, far from home in exile, continues to live on, defying his father’s orders. Hunted by assassins, he is forced to rely on his own new abilities, but a long-kept secret of his family is causing devastating effects. As the djinns begin to celebrate the new century, a brand new force threatens to topple Daevaebad’s strong brass standing.

I stand by this statement now: the Kingdom of Copper is the best book of the trilogy. To say a lot happens is an understatement. Five years after Ali is exiled and Dara is presumed dead to all, Nahri is left mostly on her own, now married to Ali’s older brother, Muntadhir, and despite all her bargaining for her dowry, she is still trapped under the thumb of the Al-Qahtani family. My biggest fear for Kingdom was the possibility it could fall victim to becoming the bridge book. But building upon the already mindboggling web of events and rules of the Daevabad universe, Kingdom outshines its predecessor by a mile and a half.

The rich and intricate history that Chakraborty has created is SO mind-blowingly good. Each book is this story is quite a hefty read, but you feel the impact. The djinn have long existed before Nahri’s time, and it shows. Their power struggles, wrongdoings and mistakes, the history is felt through every page. I truly felt for Nahri, who was raised in the human realm, because I felt overwhelmed by the detail laid out on every page. The magic system, myths, history and culture, has evident importance to the story and nothing is mention for no reason, everything has a meaning and impact on every character’s life.

Now we go onto our cast of characters, where do you even begin? Nahri has grown up a lot since Brass. I felt like in the first book; she was a little too backed up into a corner, given little to no information about her past so her struggles can come across as quite frustrating to readers. But in Kingdom, she is in better control of her life, despite the restriction. My heart soared when she discovered the abandoned hospital and slowly watching her plan to rebuild and create a space where the djinn and shafit (half-human/djinn offsprings) alike can have access to medical care. But no one willing to help her achieve such plans. Then comes Ali, our castaway prince, who begrudgingly returns to his family. He thrives a lot out of the comfort of his royal court, and it’s a shame we didn’t see more of their world outside of Daevabad. I think Kingdom consolidated Ali as my favourite character of the series. His pious disregard to the dark side of the court business made him quite a different character to Nahri, who is continuously using her con-artist skills to her benefit. Kingdom also shines a stronger light on the Al-Qahtani siblings, especially Muntadhir, Ali’s hot-headed older brother who is now married to Nahri. The two have resigned themselves to a loveless marriage of convenience, but the pair have an excellent working relationship. While they don’t see each other as trustworthy partners, they aren’t enemies either. They realise they’re both in miserable circumstances and they have to work together in order to get through it all. I came to really love Muntadhir in this book. And finally, Dara. I wasn’t too sure on his character in the first book but, just like Muntadhir, I come to understand and appreciate him here. You feel for him as he tries to do what is best, but he has no choice but to make unethical choices, guided by another. Ghassan and Manizeh are given so much more depth than the predecessor book.

Overall, I absolutely recommend the Daevabad series. Chakraborty returns to her sweeping universe with an absolute bang, giving us a compelling sequel that takes you on a wild, magical journey. What I loved the most about Kingdom was the characterisation of everyone, hero and villain alike. With raised tensions and higher stakes, this fantasy series ranks very high on my list.


GOODREADS AMAZONAUTHOR


Resources on the Black Lives Matter movement, and what you can do to support basic human rights:
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Resources for UK citizens:
https://blm.crd.co/ (Specifically aimed towards UK & Ireland citizens)
– Black Lives Matter UK (https://blacklivesmatter.com/)
– Show Racism The Red Card (https://www.theredcard.org/)
– Runnymede (https://www.runnymedetrust.org/)
– Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust (https://www.stephenlawrence.org.uk/ab…)

Book Review: The City of Brass *Updated*

Book Review: The City of Brass *Updated*

* I initially received an ARC of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in 2018. This is an updated review. 

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Daevabad, a magical city that is split between six djinn tribes, is not the place Nahri expected herself to run to after accidentally summoning a daeva warrior. Suddenly her skill to magically heal and deduce other’s medical issues almost makes sense in these magical lands. Her only companion is the daeva warrior whose past is just as cloudy as her own. But when she meets Prince Ali, the youngest royal in the city of Daevabad, their battle for political power intertwines as they struggle to protect the ones they love. 

When I first read The City of Brass, I wasn’t too hot on it, originally. I had initially read this beast of a book during an awful reading slump which I genuinely believe impacted my opinion because I re-read this book back in March of 2020, and my mind was blown. I can’t believe how different my reading experience was this time. It was like I was reading a completely different book. I don’t think I’ve ever changed a rating so drastically before. (from 3 stars to 5 stars!)

I’m reading my old review of COB, and I want to LAUGH at past Zaheerah. Because everything I said in the original review, I am the complete opposite now. In the initial review, I’m very lukewarm towards our central trio (Nahri, Dara and Ali) but now? I freaking adore them. Nahri’s street smart wit, Dara’s mysterious presence and Ali’s infuriating yet endearing attitude. The familial relationship between Ali, his father and his two older siblings was of greatest interest to me. He is our insider to the Daevabad world and culture, so serious as he finds himself working with the very people his father despises in his fight against his world’s injustice. While Nahri navigates a world unknown, Ali is struggling to face his privilege while also balancing his love for his country and his family. But they both realise not everything is as black and white as they thought. 

The world-building was the best part of the novel. That opinion has not changed since 2018. It’s just so intricate and intensely detailed that it’s a wonder how the author managed to cram so much detail in every page without feeling overpowered as a reader. The cultural detail from the people to their clothes and customs. I imagined it all so well, the sprawling city of Daevabad. (This review was written before the announcement of the Netflix show so yes I am so excited to see the book come to life – Netflix, don’t mess this up.) The character-driven storytelling is so addictive; you genuinely don’t want to let this story go. 

Overall, re-reading The City of Brass was a brilliant decision. The City of Brass is full-on and a great foundational start to an excellent series. Most of this book is readers being introduced to the vast world and its people, and I can see most readers being put off by the sheer size. But Chakraborty is a brilliant action writer, her infusion of hard-hitting fight scenes with enchanting characters makes this a vibrant and thrilling fantasy world. I definitely recommend this story of a young healer, a djinn with a dark past, and a prince who wants to do his city justice.


GOODREADS | THE BOOK DEPOSITORY | AUTHOR


Resources on the Black Lives Matter movement, and what you can do to support basic human rights:
https://blacklivesmatters.carrd.co

Resources for UK citizens:
https://blm.crd.co/ (Specifically aimed towards UK & Ireland citizens)
– Black Lives Matter UK (https://blacklivesmatter.com/)
– Show Racism The Red Card (https://www.theredcard.org/)
– Runnymede (https://www.runnymedetrust.org/)
– Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust (https://www.stephenlawrence.org.uk/ab…)

Review: All-American Muslim Girl

Review: All-American Muslim Girl

Rating: 3 out of 5.

After diffusing what could have been an unfortunate situation on the plane with her father, Allie Abraham begins to question her own position as a Muslim girl. With her Circassian features and non-practising parents, Allie has grown up keeping her Islamic heritage to herself. But she’s done hiding and wants to embrace her faith, but with the growing Islamophobia in her small town, and hiding her interest in Islam away from her father, Allie is caught between two worlds and must figure her place within it.

I came across this book quite a while ago, and I’ve been sitting on this review for quite sometime. And that was due to the fact that I was analysing this book as part of my third-year dissertation in university. Now that dissertation is done and completed, I finally feel confident to write this review. This book has popped up quite a lot within the online communities I am in and the reaction is quite polarising. Some absolutely love this book, while the other despise it and to weigh in my own perspective, I found myself quite in the middle in terms of reaction. I did have high expectations since a lot of reviewers whose content I enjoy spoke very positively about this book, but the book didn’t exactly exceed or fail to meet them.

To start off positive, I really enjoyed the perspective we got from Allie, which is rooted in the author’s own experience. Her “reddish-blond hair, pale skin, hazel eyes” makes Allie feel like a “traitor dripping in white privilege.” No one thinks she’s Muslim because she doesn’t fit the popular stereotype. And she’s very much aware of the privilege while the rest of her family faces overt Islamophobia. But then again, to Allie, she’s “barely Muslim”. Upon arrival of her new school, her new friendship group has her questioning and speaking up a lot. She decides she wants to learn more about her faith and culture that has often left her disconnected from her family. Allie expresses her disappointment that she is unable to speak Arabic to her grandmother because her father refuses to teach her. So she reaches out to the other Muslims in her school community and finds herself joining a Qur’an class with other Muslim girls. Here is where I enjoy the novel the most, I really appreciated the way Allie and the other Muslim girls communicated with each other. It wasn’t always nice but it was refreshing to see different perspectives and to see an active discussion between these girls and their interpretation of faith. “Everyone’s on their own journey, at their own pace.” The final moments of the book were so heart-warming and truly my favourite part of the novel. I just felt a little underwhelmed by most of what came before it all.

One thing I found rather odd was that the story uses the discovery of Jack’s father as a sort of plot twist but within all the summaries online, it is told told outright to the readers who his father is which sort of defeat the purpose of setting it up as a shocking point in the story. No hate to the story, just an odd choice for whoever wrote the book’s blurb. Jack Henderson is our love interest. I didn’t find him particularly interesting as first, but I felt really bad for him because Allie talks about his father, an alt-right leader, a lot and makes him feel bad for having a pretty shitty dad. He’s very much aware of it, and it causes him quite a lot of distress, to the point where he has a full on panic attack after they have dinner. He does eventually stand up to his father, but the way Allie is so harsh on him felt a little unfair. Allie is right to argue that not speaking up is equal to upholding terrible values, and in most situations, she had a legitimate point, but she came across as being way too unfair to Wells. Especially since she discusses a lot about nobody realising she’s a Muslim and how she benefits from white privilege which makes her “safe for bigots”. Maybe it was my fault for assuming she would extend the same branch to Wells too. Considering their relationship is a major aspect in the novel, I didn’t feel for them, nor rooted for them to stay together. There was just a lack of communication that had me wanting to ask Allie why would she even continue dating Wells after learning his father’s identity. Also, this book also brings up many complex issues in terms of religion and I don’t think it really offered great advice. While I loved the introduction of Allie and her Qur’an circle, I feel like this book begins a discussion that it doesn’t want to continue. Like mentioning different things without pondering on it for a moment more.

Overall, All-American Muslim was okay, but I felt like it could’ve been more. I’m not writing off this story completely because it is based off the author’s own experiences and I am in no way invalidating that. I felt quite emotional involved and it’s a great perspective to share. There were parts that really resonated with me but so much of the book was very unfavourable that I couldn’t find myself fully invested in this story. 


GOODREADS AMAZONAUTHOR


Resources on the Black Lives Matter movement, and what you can do to support basic human rights:
https://blacklivesmatters.carrd.co

Resources for UK citizens:
https://blm.crd.co/ (Specifically aimed towards UK & Ireland citizens)
– Black Lives Matter UK (https://blacklivesmatter.com/)
– Show Racism The Red Card (https://www.theredcard.org/)
– Runnymede (https://www.runnymedetrust.org/)
– Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust (https://www.stephenlawrence.org.uk/ab…)

Review: Other Words for Home

Review: Other Words for Home

“Americans love labels. They help them know what to expect. Sometimes, though, I think labels stop them from thinking.”

Jude is only twelve-years-old when she leaves Syria to live to live with her uncle’s family in the US. Being the only student who looks like her, she begins to discover that she isn’t seen as a normal girl like her peers. Told in verse, Other Words for Home follows her journey to understanding her new label of “Middle Eastern” while also finding herself.

I adored this book. Jude is the sweetest protagonist and her story was so inspiring and relatable. Growing up, Jude was obsessed with movies and becoming a star, so she is obviously surprised when she must move away from her coastal home when it descends into a civil war. Along with her pregnant mother, she must leave her family, father and brother, behind, and comes face-to-face with the life she had thought she knew from the movies.

Her life in the states is new but straining. Her cousin Sarah makes no effort to help, her aunt tries her best, and her new peers see her as something different. She reminds herself of her brother’s goodbye message. “Be brave.” Slowly, she grows to enjoy her new classes and even makes new friends in her ESL classes where they all bond over their experiences of coming to the states. Much to her cousins’ dismay, she even auditions for the school musical. Jude is such an insightful narrator; her confidence, her insecurities and her confusion all come through in the pages.

Other Words tackles tough to talk about topics like Islamophobia and Anti-Muslim rhetoric. The way it manifests in Jude’s life is so subtle and real, like Jude realising how people actions towards her suddenly shift when she begins to wear the hijab. The book takes on the idea that not all Muslims shares the same experience, and this is just Jude’s story. There was something comforting reading about a young Muslim girl experiencing her spirituality on her terms. You don’t get that often. Her fear and confusion were portrayed so well, something that I experienced a lot as a Muslim kid growing up which makes this book a lot more special.

Overall, Other Words for Home is a story of becoming and belonging and what it means to be yourself in a society that would rather see otherwise. A middle-grade read that tackles topics like war, refugees and prejudice, a definite recommendation for younger children and older teens.


GOODREADS | AMAZON | AUTHOR

Review: Crier’s War

Review: Crier’s War

Years ago, the Kingdom of Rabu came under the control of the Automae after the war almost decimated the land. Now, humanity lives under their controlling and violent thumb. Ayla, a human servant, finds herself unexpectedly rising in her rank where she plots to kill the sovereign king’s daughter, Lady Crier. Crier is Made to be perfect, without a single flaw, ready to carry her father’s legacy. However, her recent betrothal sees her spot slipping right from under her, and meeting Ayla creates tension that can start a war, but can they rise above it and stop before it goes too far?

A couple of months ago, I saw the prettiest book cover reveal I had ever seen and, with no shame, decided that I had to read this book. When I took a look at the description and saw it was an F/F sci-fi/fantasy novel about automation? A double whammy. I had brought myself up to hype Crier’s War and counted down the says to its release. There’s a lot to love about Ayla and Crier’s story, much of it I loved, but I did find it a quite directionless a lot of time, which was disappointing, to say the least.

This isn’t an original set up but what made this story stand out was how Varela utilises the concept of automation ruling over humanity. Set in an alternate future where alchemy has crafted the Automae who now rule the land. Humanity created them when their Queen was unable to have children, but they quickly rose up against their creators. The core of this book is mainly about what it means to be human, is it free will or the fact we have blood running through us that makes us so? I found it interested how the author uses this story to discuss oppression, privilege and appropriation. Was I expecting it? No. Did I like it? Very much so.

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Review: Girls of Storm and Shadow

Review: Girls of Storm and Shadow

*I received a copy from the publisher via Netgalley in return for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book.*

After failing to kill the Demon King, Lei and Wren barely escaped with their lives. But this isn’t the end of their journey, unaware their plot failed, the duo must travel the kingdom to gain support from clans from all corners of the world. But a heavy bounty on Lei’s head makes this even more difficult and when tensions begin to make Lei doubt what she knows, can she succeed in her quest or will the dark magic finish the war before its even begun?

After finishing Girls of Paper and Fire, I eagerly anticipated the release of Storm and Shadow. And I can say that I’m not disappointed, although I was a little underwhelmed. But I still found it a solid read.

I won’t lie, Lei, despite being our main protagonist, was not the star of the show for me. Lei and Wren are joined by others, some familiar, some new. Despite how fractured it all becomes at the end, I truly loved the moments of everyone banding together in their journey. I thought the brashness of Bo and Nitta would be off-putting, but their sibling banter was hilarious and I had come to love their sibling relationship a lot. Merrin got my attention the most, his anger and frustration with everything going on around them was admirable. My heart broke a lot during a pivotal moment in this book. Lei and Wren go through a lot in this. Wren, in particular, shocked me quite a bit. I won’t say too much, but I’m glad Ngan utilised Wren’s past a lot more in this book, a shocking revelation made a lot of sense and really amped up my excitement for whatever comes next in the finale.

Continue reading “Review: Girls of Storm and Shadow”