We all get reading slumps. Even those of us who live on books, who spend more on books than on food, who have lived a thousand lives through reading. It’s always innocuous. It hits when you least expect it.
It hit me in October. The whole month, I could only stomach a chapter of reading at a time. I fell behind on all of the books I should have been reading for Fictionist, for Fiction Forward, and for myself.
I had been granted access to an e-galley of City of Brass months ago, and I’d been looking forward to it ever since. It’s a book full of promise from a Muslim author with POC characters,* and the premise sounded intriguing. It had high praise already, from those lucky enough to snag review copies even earlier than I did.
But then my reading slump came. And I was already three books behind. But I thought to myself, why not? Why not be currently reading four books, if this one might kick-start things?
That was the best decision I could have made. Because I want to shout from the rooftops about how amazing this book is. Within the first page, I was already hooked, which was heartening considering my slump. By the next day I was on chapter six.
Chakraborty’s writing is immaculate. The characters are lovable, flawed, and interesting. The lore is unbelievably vivid and engrossing. The research she must have put into this book is astounding.
People underestimate the amount of research it takes to write fantasy. Most books are based on a lot of folklore or even world history, so even though there might be magic or fae or anything else fantastical, it takes a lot of research to do a good job. As a reader, you can easily tell the difference between those who researched and those who said “close enough.”
Plus, it’s amazingly refreshing to read about a story that isn’t set in Europe, as most fairytales and retellings are. It’s refreshing to get away from the whitewashing so prevalent in the publishing world, whether publishers and editors mean to push it or not. It’s refreshing to read a book and know that, somewhere, someone is happy that they’re being represented (and represented well).
— Sajda (@sajdao) November 5, 2017
The City of Brass starts off in 18th century Cairo, and the characters quickly progress far east, toward the Euphrates, to a city of djinn. If you’re uninitiated, a djinn is a spirit primarily found in Muslim tradition. They can take humanoid or animal forms and tend to have different powers. Chakraborty expands on all kinds of djinn myths and legends in COB, and it’s honestly delightful. I need more stories like this in my life. I want this book to go on forever.
If you like historical fantasy, or if you just like good writing, COB is for you. Give it a shot! An easy five stars from me.
Read The City of Brass on November 14! It seems the date may be somewhere in early 2018 for the UK, but no matter where you are you can order The City of Brass with free worldwide shipping from Book Depository, so no need to worry!
***Note: I was told by multiple people that The City of Brass is a Middle Eastern #ownvoies book, meaning the author is POC as well as the characters. This isn’t true, though it’s widely accepted online due to Chakraborty’s last name. It’s actually her married name, and while she is Muslim, she is also white. Here’s a short twitter thread from her on the subject:
I’ve seen my name popping up on this, and while I appreciate the love for my book, I just wanted to clarify that I’m actually white! 1/8 https://t.co/pOoRAAd3OJ
— Shannon/S.A. Chakraborty (@SAChakrabooks) November 6, 2017
It gives me mixed feelings to know that I was given misinformation about Chakraborty’s POC background. This book is awesome and Chakraborty is Muslim so it isn’t like she has no connection to the book’s history/legends. Chakraborty also received stereotypical pushback when she queried COB originally, which makes me wonder if it would have been even harder had she been a POC author. I hope the outcome would have been the same and that HarperCollins would have given her the same deal and be pushing the book just as hard.
I got back the rejections I expected, with the veiled comments about its “foreignness and confusing names" that I anticipated. 13
— Shannon/S.A. Chakraborty (@SAChakrabooks) September 14, 2017
So maybe I’m overthinking it. She has an agent that specifically looks for underrepresented voices, many still think she is POC and are supporting her, and her book is definitely breaking a couple of molds, no matter who wrote it. We might chat more about this, possibly with a guest, on Fiction Forward, so tune in! And no matter what you’re thinking about Chakraborty, read The City of Brass!