The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi by S A Chakraborty

My Five Word TL:DR Review: I loved it.  Loved.  It.

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The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi is, to put it simply, wonderful.  Now go and pick up a copy and be happy (pretty please).  What are you waiting for?  Seriously, this is the sort of book that gave me that glowing feeling that I experienced as a youngster reading a fantasy adventure for the first time, feeling that amazing feeling of excitement and awe and wondering if there are more books like this out there, then sneaking under the covers at night to continue reading by torchlight. It’s just so enjoyable.  I loved the characters, I loved the story and frankly, I want more.  And more.  And, I’m not trying to say that this is a book aimed at a young market (just to be clear) more making the point of that lovely happy feeling that it gave me and that made me feel reminiscent – like, who wouldn’t want to go back and experience that feeling all over again?  Well, this book gave me that feeling and it made me smile.

So, plot.  What do you get when you have a notorious lady pirate, retired into obscurity and hoping to live a quiet life before she’s bribed/cajoled and outright blackmailed into returning to the high seas to find a young female abducted from a wealthy family?  Well you get sea monsters, mysteries, crazy characters, demons, much more, and so much downright entertaining fun that it should be illegal.

Firstly, the characters.  I loved Amina, she’s a great character to read.  I love her thought processes, she’s brave, she loves her family and clearly she is equally loved by those around her because her most trusty crewmates also join her on this dangerous quest – and they’re also really easy to get along with.  Can I say, and I don’t know whether I’m supposed to even enjoy the rogue demon – but I did enjoy the rogue demon.  Even the baddie was over the top bad – in a way that fit the story perfectly.  Colour me happy.

The writing is superb. I gobbled this up like a hungry teenager.  I couldn’t put it down.  The pacing is spot on.  The attention to detail and backstory flow really well

The setting, well, this is simply the icing on the cake.  Clearly this is well researched (not to mention loved) and this comes across.  I’m certainly not an expert on anything contained here but the culture and history are so well interwoven into the story and make the story come to life.  And this is all managed with a remarkably light touch and surprising ease that I’m sure belies the actual reality.

Overall, I have no criticisms for this.  I enjoyed it so much, witty banter, high stakes, high seas shenanigans, skullduggery, family, found family, family you hoped not to find, sea monsters, sorcery and so much more.  I’m hoping for quite a few more of these and I won’t deny that I wouldn’t be averse to the demon making an appearance again. Just saying.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion freely given.

My rating 5 of 5 stars


The City of Brass (The Daevabad Trilogy #1) by S.A. Chakraborty

city ofI completed City of Brass a couple of weeks ago and with a couple of minor issues I would say that it worked out as quite an amazing read.  I certainly wouldn’t have guessed this to be a debut novel.  The world building is sumptuous, it oozes with details providing a rich and colourful vision for the mind to feast on at the same time as bringing to mind tales of the Arabian Nights with all the magic that those entail.

We start the story by making the acquaintance of Nahri.  In her twenties Nahri lives a double life on the streets of 18th century Cairo.  By day she is a healer and the small glimmer of magic that she hides gives her a genuine ability in this field.  She can see a person’s illness although she can’t always make them well.  By night she practices slight of hand relieving the wealthy Ottoman nobles of their precious baubles.  She also takes part in cleansing ceremonies, ridding people of their demons, or ifrits, as they are known.  At one such ceremony Nahri unwittingly calls forth a djinn warrior, or daeva warrior – as is the preferred term.  Dara is the most notorious and fearsome warrior in Daevabad history.  Recognising that Nahri may herself have mixed blood the safest course is to take her to the magical city of Daevabad, her only protection against the ifrits that will now hunt Nahri to her death.

The story then follows the two as they travel rough terrain, constantly pursued by evil as they try to reach the protection of the legendary City of Brass.   Of course, on arrival, don’t expect all their troubles to disappear.  The City of Brass is far from idyllic.  Ruled by something of a tyrant, King Ghassan, fear and oppression are the main order of the day.  The six pure blood tribes keep those with mixed blood firmly under the heel.  Shafits – as mixed bloods are rather derogatorily called –  are treated terribly and it seems that rebellion is brewing.  On top of this Ghassan himself treads a precarious line keeping the ambitious nobles in check.  Bring into the mix a warrior with a very troubled past and a potential Daeva with blood in her veins from a line of healers who have long been thought to have been killed off and you can imagine the machinations that are afoot.

To the characters.  Strangely enough Nahri and Dara are not the only key characters.  Prince Alizayd (Ali) is one of the main roles here and has his own POV chapters.  Ali is the younger brother of Muntadhir.  The two have different roles and expectations.  Muntadhir will become ruler of Daevabad.  Ali has been raised and trained with the expectation of becoming his brother’s protector.  As such he will not marry, his devotion being reserved to the safety of the king.  Ali plays an intriguing role and his chapters are interesting to read.  He’s conflicted, the ill treatment of the mixed blood population doesn’t sit well with his religious beliefs and he wants to help – although his attempts to do so are a little ill misguided and serve to highlight his own naivety.

In terms of criticisms.  I confess that my main expectation was that there would be instalove and I dare say that the description of a young girl, with secret magic, being led across the desert to a legendary city, had a few eyes rolling with that very thought, but, I’m happy to say that wasn’t the case.  Nahri and Dara do indeed develop a relationship but it’s much more realistically paced and measured and takes time to develop.  However, the pacing of the story itself does suffer from a lull during the middle of the book. It fairly bolts out of the stalls with an intriguing introduction with smooth and impressive writing but then it seemed to lose focus a little.  Fortunately this blip is only during the middle section and wasn’t enough to deter me – in a way, I couldn’t help thinking that this lack of momentum was a reflection of the time Nahri spent in the palace.  The realisation never quite lived up to her expectations and she seemed to be at something of a loss herself and this seemed to come out in the story.   My other little niggle was in relation to Dara.  I liked his character but, did he come across as an experienced warrior who has lived many years?  Not really.  In his interactions with Nahri he read a lot closer to her own age – it didn’t make me dislike him any but he didn’t have that weary indifference that you would expect from somebody who has been round the block a few hundred times.

All in all, little criticisms aside, this was an entertaining, well written and fairly engrossing tale.  It has a wealth of magical elements thrown in and is a beautifully written story.  The ending is very dramatic and leaves something of a jaw dropping set up for the next book which I will definitely be picking up.

I received a copy through Edelweiss courtesy of the publishers for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.


Waiting on Wednesday: The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that was created by Breaking the Spine.  Every Wednesday we get to highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  My book this week is : The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty
thecityofbrassStep into The City of Brass, the spellbinding debut from S. A. Chakraborty—an imaginative alchemy of The Golem and the Jinni, The Grace of Kings, and One Thousand and One Nights, in which the future of a magical Middle Eastern kingdom rests in the hands of a clever and defiant young con artist with miraculous healing gifts

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.

Due to be published: November 2017