Review of “The City of Brass”

SUMMARY

Nahri is famed in her quadrant of the city for her talents with healing, when in actuality she’s a con-artist saving her money for real training in Istanbul, at least she was, until she accidentally summoned a Daeva warrior. Now he’s telling her that she’s a shafit, a mixed breed of human and djinn, specifically a Nahid, an extraordinary healer and the last of her kind, since they went extinct 20 years ago. Unable to escape his protection (and unwilling to escape her heritage), she agrees to follow him back to Daevabad, but it isn’t until she’s presented with a choice that she becomes unsure of her destiny.

Does she stay with Prince Ali of Daevabad who can finally show her heritage?

Or does she follow the Daeva warrior who has stolen her heart?

IMPRESSIONS

I liked this book. It had a complex world that Chakraborty had built, and it seemed really unique. I loved learning about Daevabad and its history along with Nahri, as well as following her explore her history, whether or not she was the child of a Nahid or the last of her kind that disappeared all those centuries ago. But, I really, really struggle with the ending. I have a hard time justifying it. It just kept seeming like it was desperate to be a Game of Thrones when that’s not at all what the story seemed to ask for.

Let me explain.

The two men that Nahri has fallen for includes the Daeva warrior Dara and Prince Ali of Daevabad, and where Dara’s is a natural affection, developed after traveling with him for so long, Ali’s is forced on behalf of his father, since they want to keep the Nahid family line back in the palace, where all Nahid’s traditionally belonged. But, then at the end, with both men desperate for her affection, Dara kills Ali, letting him fall into the lake. And here you expect him to die at the hand of the marid, but he climbs onto the boat, not exactly himself, and uses Suleiman’s seal to cut off Dara’s hand, the djinn’s access to the ring, where Dara then crumbles to ash. Now Ali’s banned from the court, not the man he once was, capable of being controlled by the Marid again, and Nahri has lost everyone.

Oh my gosh. Now the only character left is Nahri, and what kind of story is that?

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WRITING STYLE 4

Everything was mystical. There is plenty of vivid imagery in the story to give you an idea of where the characters are at, which especially important considering we get to witness the magical city of Daevabad, which was said to be abandoned by marid, and then repurposed for the djinn. And, what I especially like is the world-specific vocabulary, created to build the history between four creatures: of earth, water, air, and fire. But, don’t believe me. Take a look below. Actionreactionreflection (ARR).

Ali gazed around. He spotted a pair of tiny coffins across the room and turned away, his stomach souring. Regardless of how he felt about the fire worshippers, this was ghastly. Only the worse criminals were burned in their world, dirt and water said to be so contaminating to djinn remains that they concealed one’s soul from God’s judgement entirely. Ali wasn’t sure he believed that, but still, they were creatures of fire, and to fire they were supposed to return. Not to some dark, dank cave under a cursed lake.

Here, you can see how there is somewhat equitable balance of action-reaction-reflection, although at times, one becomes stronger than the other, the author favoring a swinging pendulum rather than a continuous balance. I will rag on the writing for a second though and say the vocabulary did become confusing at times. Like the mention of fire worshippers here. I couldn’t tell if this was a degrading word for Geziri or Daeva or djinn in general, especially since djinn were creatures of fire but the Geziri seemed to have a talent for fire?? Anyways, still liked the world building. Still liked the writing. Wasn’t poetic in nature, but it still had the nature of finely-tuned style.

PERSPECTIVE 5

Did you know this book has two main POV’s? Nahri, a healer and thief gifted with speaking in any tongue, considered to be the last Nahid alive of the Daeva djinn tribe. And Ali, the youngest prince of the Geziri royalty, who shows compassion for the shafit’s mistreatment in the city of Daevabad.

I can tell you at times, although I know the extensive history of Ali, I know barely anything of Nahri. Don’t get me wrong, on the scale of development, Ali is a 5. And, I know the whole purpose of not knowing Nahri is to discover her past, heritage, and full extent of her powers, but it’s almost annoying with the amount of hints placed throughout the novel that 1) Nahri is a shafit mixed with Nahid; 2) the next instant, she’s pureblood; 3) now, everyone is mistaking her for Manizheh; 4) but that can’t be because she must be the daughter of Manizheh, because the ages wouldn’t match; 5) and then at the end, the swear up and down she is Manizheh, which, how does that happen?!

I will still give it a 5 because all the characters are extensively developed, but somebody should make up their mind with Nahri by the second book because it’s more than frustrating. I will say this, though. I did appreciate the characters being introduced around the same time because I think it would have been more than awkward to learn about the royalty only until Nahri arrived in Daevabad, especially since that was maybe a little more than halfway into the novel.

ORIGINALITY 4

There are only a few stories that contain the legends of genies that I know of: 1) Aladdin (I think borrowed from Arabian Nights?), 2) Ill Wind by Rachel Caine, and 3) I dream of Jeannie—an old sitcom I think my mother told me about once. I’m sure there’s spatterings here and there that I’ve seen once or twice, because I recognize a few more things when I peruse my Wikipedia search for genie, which always calls out the use as a mention or label, but never an in-depth or high profile character, so I would like to think this is rather a unique book.

The additional motifs aren’t necessarily unique: political unrest, discovery of self, slavery, etc. But, I think with this nice genie spin on these old motifs, it puts a nice new color on the story of the genie in the lamp.

THEME 4

Okay. This is an old theme: Self-discovery, and it’s more than obvious. Girl who recognizes that she doesn’t fit in is set on a life-changing discovery to learn of her abilities, culture, and family? Of course it’s self-discovery. Is it enough to keep me hooked?

Yes. It wasn’t a have-to-finish-in-one-night book, but it was still a I-couldn’t-stay-away book. I thinked it helped not only having Nahri’s theme of self-discovery but Ali’s theme of justice or revolution with helping the shafit find equality within the city. I think I would’ve gotten bored if those two themes weren’t mixed because Nahri’s starts slow in the beginning.

 

Chakraborty, S.A. The City of Brass. New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2017. Print.

 

Background

4 elemental creatures:

Humans – earth

Daeva/djinn – fire

Peri – air

Marid – water

6 daeva tribes—once Suleiman split the djinn into 6

Turkaristanis – China

Agnivanshi – India, filled with illusionists

Geziri – Arabia, filled with fire worshippers

Ayaanle – Egypt, filled with coastal scholars and tradesmen

Sahrayn – Morocco

Devastana – Persia

Nahid – healer Daevas, extinct

Afshin – warrior daevas, extinct

Review of “Ninth City Burning”

SUMMARY

Valentine’s day is the darkest day in human history—the day when the alien invaders  attacked. No one knows who they are or where they came from, but when they came to Earth, half its cities was destroyed in a matter of minutes, and the only ones to survive were revenni and fontani, two types of people who could exert some sort of control over thelemity, the unique material that Romeo used to commit mass murder.

Five hundred years later and the war is still raging. There are settlements producing supplies for the armies. There are cities training our soldiers. Then, there’s the front line, hidden behind so many veils and portals, that time’s dilation has made the front’s war pass in only a few years, where in reality for those back home, decades and centuries have passed. For a long time, this delicate balance was held. It seemed like we were holding the front, even moving it back, except, strategies are about to shift, and Valentine is about to bring the war home.

Introducing the characters Torro, Jax, Naomi, Rae, and Kizabel.

Torro, a young man within Settlement 225, who lives in disbelief of the war.

Jax, a young fontaini in training, trying to find the courage to defend Ninth City.

Naomi, a nomad surviving outside of the colonies in the face of dangerous raiders.

Rae, doing anything within her power to to protect her younger sister, Naomi.

And Kizabel, a scientist trying to invent better weapons before Valentine can outpace them in the war altogether.

Together the five of them will try to save the Earth before it’s too late.

IMPRESSIONS

I liked it. It’s not one easily remembered, but it’s easily recalled with a reminder. This is a story that I read not so much for the action but for the story that evolved over the course over the novel. While reading, I felt similar to a man called Torro, perhaps a minor character when considering he was a man from the colonies that didn’t have any powers like the rest of them. But, I think it was the ultimate perspective since it allowed me as the reader to learn of the war at the same time as he was. But here I am gushing about the book, and you haven’t even gotten a chance to see what I’m going on about!

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WRITING STYLE 5

What I like about the writing style is how much thought has gone into creating this world. There’s a whole vocabulary created to support this new element added to the mixture with Earth—thelemity, and I love being able to explore how it works with the characters. Check out the passage below for an example. ActionReactionReflection.

If I can see Charles in my mijmere, it means I’m in trouble. Charles will be in his own mijmere, walking along his road, but he’s here, too, because his mijmere is bashing up against mine. That’s how fontani fight one another: by crashing their mijmeri against each other until one of them breaks. Charles says it’s like a wrestling match between different realities. Whoever wins gets to control the whole world. My mijmere must be weakening, or else Charles wouldn’t be able to just hang around like that. (295)

Looking above, you can see the delicate balance of action-reaction-reflection, or ARR. Not always necessarily in that order, but I love how everything’s equally balanced, and found with the same paragraph. Another thing I like is the varying sentence lengths. The writing style was definitely a plus for this book. I’m going to sit with a 5.

THEME 5

Using the excerpt above, you can see one of the primary driving forces of this book, the slow release of explanation as to how this story works. Specifically, the paragraph from above explains how fontani fight, how Jax will protect his city, and yet it’s on page 295, about 55% through the novel. The whole book continues in this manner. You learn there’s a war, but from Torro’s perspective, we don’t know if it’s true or not. From Jax’s perspective, we learn there’s a war, and we know it to be true, but he’s hoping he’ll never see it come home. And from Naomi and Rae’s perspective, we learn what it takes to willfully join the war: To defend those you love. Our knowledge of the war evolves over the course of this novel, and it’s what drove me to continue as each character learns about another facet of it. It’s probably the only thing that can argue why war is necessary.

PERSPECTIVE 4

There are so many characters in this book! Well, not in the world-building sort of sense, rather, the number of perspectives we’re left watching behind. There’s Jax, Naomi, Rae, Kizabel, Torro, Vinneas, and Imway. And what was important about having so many is that 1) it gives me perspective in each way the war affects all the different communities on Earth, especially since it has evolved since the war and 2) it shows me all the people who played a hand in successfully driving back Valentine in order to buy the Earth more time before defeat. Because this novel isn’t about winning, it’s about the survival in a war against an alien race that no one knows anything about, lest of all how to predict them.

If the reverse had been true, and this novel was written from a single perspective, I would’ve never learned about Earth as it was now; I would’ve never learned about all who play a hand in winning the war; I would’ve never learned about the massive inequalities that the cities have established in order to build/support an army that can barely hold back the onslaught of Romeo and his Valentines.

That being said, even though Black completely rounded all all the personalities in his novel, I wonder if they all had their background developed as well as they should. For instance, even though Naomi and Rae are well fleshed out, being relatives whose  journey took them from the start outside the colonies, to being brought within the settlement, to being transported to the Ninth City, and to finally being used in battle, other characters we don’t know so much about. Like Jax. Besides being a fontani in the Ninth City training, who is he? Who was his family? What is his background? I don’t know much, and the little given away in the beginning, it doesn’t tell me anything.

ORIGINALITY 2.5

There’s probably a million science fiction books about an alien invasion. I can even name multiple movies off the top of my head: Independence Day, War of the Worlds (which started out as a book), and then I can name multiple books: Ender’s Game, The 5th Wave, The Host… So I feel like I can say with some confidence that this is a well-established motif. So what makes this one stand out?

I’m not sure. It’s not about a war won, like with Independence Day, and it’s not about a war lost, like with The Host. We’re thrown in the midst of a battle like with The 5th Wave, and even at the end of the novel, it doesn’t look like there’s an end in sight. So again, what makes this one special?

I can say the multiple perspectives. I can say the powers that come from thelemity. But other than that, the motifs appear similar. There’s wars in space. There’s the use of portals and time dilation. There’s the invention of weapons in order to put themselves ahead. Besides the unique multiple perspectives, it seems like another drop in the water, although the unique portrayal of fontani and a new element deserves some applause.

 

Black, Patrick. Ninth City Burning. New York, NY: ACE, 2016. Print.

Review of “Sea Witches”

SUMMARY

Ever since Evie’s best friend Anna drowned, Evie has felt guilty. She was the one who drove her best friend to swim at sea. “I’ll race you to the sandbar,” she had said, except neither had made it, and when rescues were called, Evie was the only one to survive. Thank you Prince Erik. He was her savior, her friend, and life would’ve been misery even if hadn’t given her a new will to live, at least, that’s what he thought until a new girl comes to town.  Meet Annemette. Out of confidence, Annemette tells Evie she’s a mermaid with only three days to make the prince fall in love, and when she looks so much like Evie’s dead best friend, how can Evie say no?

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

I was intrigued. This wasn’t the typical little mermaid story line, and it was quite similar to my own that I’ve experimented with. Introducing the sea witch, except this time, she lives out of the water, specifically through Evie. And, the little mermaid isn’t as nice as everyone dreams her to be, she’s as mean as a siren. Besides the originality in the story-line remake, I’m a little more than disappointed with the end. It seemed to struggle to contain itself with the Disney Little Mermaid story line, and it came off more desperate than natural. With that being said, there’s not really a happy ending, and for a YA paranormal (possible romance?), it was more than a little depressing.

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WRITING STYLE 2.5

This book reads very simple, which could be a characteristic of the typical YA books  these days, or it could be the fact that the writing hasn’t been developed to fully portray characters. Take a look at the paragraph below. What do you think? Already highlighted for Action Reaction Reflection.

A peal of thunder rips through the sky, loud enough to kill the words and anger on Nik’s lips. All four of us tense and wrench around in the direction of the sound, to the northeast. A cloud so big and black it appears like night with no end is heavy on the horizon. Just like on Nik’s birthday, this storm has come out of nowhere—so sudden it’s strange. / But it’s a storm, and the three of us know exactly what to do. (242)

So when I think it about it, it has the basic structure to develop characters: Equally developed action-reaction-reflection. So why do I still not like it?

When comparing it to the rubric above, it hits me. What type of sentences are used above? Standard sentences with a simple subject and verb. No compounds, no fragments. There’s not a lot of variation. There’s no highly extravagant word choices that help paint a detailed picture, and I think what’s missing. Where’s the art in this writing? To me it seems to be missing. Which leaves me with two options: Do I score it at a 4 for equally weighed ARR? Or, do I score it as a 1 for only one of three features? I’ll average it. Because, what else does a math teacher do?

PERSPECTIVE 5

Who is Evie? She’s the girl who nearly died, whose best friend did die, and whose mother scarified herself in order to save her daughter. This is obviously a well thought out, a well-developed history. This is a girl who has a family; she has friends. She has likes; she has dislikes. She is someone who believes she can never have the prince, so she falls for his cousin. She steals her grandmother’s spell books because she believes nobody is willing to teach her. She is someone who will believe the first mermaid she comes across is a friend, even when everyone else tries to sow the doubt that something else evil is at play. She has a strong personality, won’t admit when she’s wrong, all in belief that she can make it better, that magic can make it right.

Because everything about this character has been thought through, the perspective seems strong with this one, even if I don’t agree with everything the character did.

ORIGINALITY 3

You should’ve known when you picked up the book that it was going to a Little Mermaid remake.

Everyone knows what happens in the end

A mermaid, a prince, a true love’s kiss

It was written inside the front cover. But with it, you also expect a level of originality because as it’s also stated, our typical little mermaid is not working on her own to win the love of the prince; here, she has the help of her friend, Evie. Besides this singular deviation, our author Henning adds a second—the sea witch isn’t here to impede the mermaid’s journey; she never steal’s the girl’s voice. Here, the witch is Evie, and she’s here to help. I appreciate the differences because it puts a fresh spin on the tale, and makes it a relief rather an exhaustion to read. I would’ve given the story a 4, especially since the final betrayal comes from a friend rather than the prince, but due to the awkward finale, where Evie the witch evolves into a 8-tentacled sea witch, which feels forced in order to match the Disney story, I’m going to down grade to a 3.

THEME 5

If I were to peg this story with a theme, I’d give it three.

  1. Don’t believe everything you see.
  2. Everything comes with a price.
  3. Betrayal always comes from those you’re closest to.

This story is so complex, and for as much as I rag on it, it really was a quick read. I loved being able to read both sides of the story: Evie and Anna’s. It also helped me develop feelings toward why Evie was being completely stupid for believing this mermaid at first glance, as it claimed she was Evie’s friend—-even though she looked like her dead best friend. Because people who come back from the dead always have good intentions at heart. #sarcasm

I enjoyed reading how Evie learned to better control her magic, finally understanding that her magic in the beginning was wrong, that everything comes with a price, and in this case, when she had demanded magic to bring her friend back from the dead, she had been stupid. At the end, she finally saw the truth when it stared her in the face, and she came to realize that the best intentions are when you are selfless, in this case, when she was ready to make the ultimate sacrifice, even when it was herself.

Henning, Sarah. Sea Witch. New York, NY: Katherine Tegen Books, 2018. Print.