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Monday, July 9, 2018

The City of Brass

Hold on to your reading caps, folks. I have now become thoroughly enamored of Adult Fantasy! No, not erotica or women’s adult fiction, but Adult FANTASY.

As we know, Fantasy Literature is set in imaginary universes; often, but not always, without any real-life locations, events, or people. Common in these imaginary worlds are magic, the supernatural, and magical creatures, without any scientific or macabre themes. Historically, most works of fantasy were/are written as novels but, since the 1960s, they have cornered a large market in films, television programs, graphic novels, video games, music, as well as art.

Some of the more popular fantasy creative works include Alice in Wonderland, The Hobbit, part of Tolkien’s Ring Series, the Harry Potter novels by J.K. Rowland, and The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. Written primary for children, but also enjoyed by adults, including myself But now, I have discovered fantasy, with adult, more mature themes and motifs, written specifically for adults.

The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty arrived in the Christmas package of books sent by Harper Voyager, an imprint of HarperCollins. Actually, intrigued by the synopsis in the publisher’s catalog, I had requested it. And while I looked forward to reading it, a few other books – including my own – got in the way. But when I found finding myself waylaid with a bad summer cold these past few weeks, I scanned my “to read” shelve, seeking something to distract my mind from the real world. So, I picked up the pristine hardback with the brilliant dustjacket and… Wouldn’t you know, within minutes of reading the first two chapters, I was swept away into a surreal world of almost immortal djinn warriors, magical beings, shapeshifters, and mythical creatures – both good and evil – of water, air, and earth.

Nahri, the main protagonist, is, basically, a con-artist. She does not believe in magic; now does she believe that she has any magical powers. Yet, as a con-artist of unsurpassed talent, with tricks, potions, and fake incantations, she convinces residents in a poverty-stricken neighbor of Cairo, that her “powers” are real. Although she is convinced they aren’t… Until, one fateful day during one of her “cons”, she conjures up Dara, a mysterious djinn warrior. He relates to her tales of Daevabad the mystical, magical City of Brass that lies beyond the vast, sun-scorched dessert. And to which, Dara painstakingly explains, Nahri is intricately, inimically, and inexplicably bound. He convinces her to take the dangerous journey with him to the city. The city that Nahri soon comes to realize, is her real home…  

Set in the late 1880s, this is a powerfully – and very well – written novel that thoroughly captures not only the imagination but holds the reader hostage in spell-binding suspense, court intrigues, and events unimaginable in our real world. Exactly what fantasy is all about. And Chakraborty is a master, er, mistress of the genre. She has a way with words, character development, and an uncanny ability to describe imaginary places in such a way that one often pauses to wonder if the places she writes about aren’t actually real. Except, delightfully, they are not. Royal sheiks who can conjure fire at the snap of their fingers; shapeshifting creatures who can morph into any form; halflings that perform magic; rings imbued with unnatural powers…

Now, a hallmark of fantasy – both for children and adults – is the allegorical couching of themes and motifs within delicately crafted plotlines. The City of Brass is no exception. Chakraborty pulls no punches when she describes relations between the tribes of Daeva, the Ifrit, and the Nahid and al Qahtani families. Political dissent. Bigotry and racism. Ethic/species supremacy and protesting mobs… All are blatant in this author’s fantasy world and are frighteningly all-too reminiscent of their blatant presence in our own real one. Which makes this seemingly escape read, at least for me, one of the most intriguing and eye-opening novels I’ve read in a while.

Creatures of all species, including humans, can be both kind and cruel. Sympathetic, loving, and still harbor murderous thoughts. Can still be good and evil. Regardless of whether they live in a fantasy world created by a talented author with a vivid imagination or dwell in the mundane recesses of our daily lives.

With a fast-paced denouement and a cliff-hanger ending that begs for a sequel, this is a great timeless novel. I am glad I had added it to last year’s Christmas list. And on this year’s, for sure, will be The Kingdom of Copper, the second in Chakraborty’s The Daevabad Trilogy.

I can’t wait. I am just “dying” to know if Dara’s iron ring set with a large emerald will really work…

Enjoy the read!

2:58 pm edt          Comments

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June J. McInerney, the host of this Literary Blog, is an author, poet, and librettist. Her currently published works include a novel, a book of spiritual inspirations, two volumes of poetry, stories for children (of all ages) and a variety of children's musicals. Her titles include:
Miss Elmira's Secret Treasure: A Novel of Phoenixville during the Early 1900s
Colonial Theatre: A Novel of Phoenixville during the Roarin' 20s 
Phoenix Hose, Hook & Ladder: A Novel of Phoenixville during World War I
Columbia Hotel: A Novel of Phoenixville during the Early 1900s
the Schuylkill Monster: A Novel of Phoenixville in 1978
The Prisoner's Portrait: A Novel of Phoenxville during World War II
Rainbow in the Sky
Meditations for New Members

Adventures of Oreigh Ogglefont
The Basset Chronicles.
Cats of Nine Tales
Spinach Water: A Collection of Poems
Exodus Ending: A Collection of More Spiritual Poems

We Three Kings

Beauty and the Beast


Noah's Rainbow

Peter, Wolf, and Red Riding Hood



Originally from the New York metropolitan area, June currently lives near Valley Forge Park in Pennsylvania with her constant and loving companions, FrankieBernard and Sebastian Cat. She is currently working on her sixth novel.

June's novels can be purchased at amazon.com, through Barnes and Noble,
at the Historical Society of the Phoenixville Area,
the Gateway Pharmacy in Phoenixvile, PA

For more information about her musicals, which are also available on amazon.com,