This historical fantasy (544 pages) was published in November of 2017 by Harper Voyager. The book takes you to 18th-century Cairo. David read The City of Brass and loved it; it wouldn't be on our site if he didn't recommend it.
In this rich fantasy world, the streets of 18th-century Cairo are populated by djinn — shape-shifting creatures made of fire and air — nobles of all stripes, and our heroine Nahri, an orphan rogue with a remarkable gift for healing. And oh, yeah, the fate of a magical Middle Eastern kingdom might rest in her tricky hands.
One day, while walking past the necropolis, a.k.a., the City of the Dead, in Cairo after performing a healing ritual, Nahri meets Dara. Or, more accurately, Dara — a djinn with green eyes and perfumed with smoke — suddenly appears in a flash of light. Then he bellows, ‘Suleiman’s eye! I will kill whoever called me here!’
And that’s when the ghouls attack.
Fear not if you’re not up on your monsters because 1) ghouls are humanoid creatures that hang out in graveyards and eat human flesh, and 2) author S.A. Chakraborty does a nice job weaving the need-to-know details into the narrative.
From the ghoul attack, it’s nonstop action as Nahri navigates a world of enchantment, djinn tribes, and long, long history. There are shape-shifters, black and white magic, giant flying monsters, djinns who are sometimes loyal and sometimes not; flying carpets; and a magical city with brass walls, hidden from human eyes.
It’s an enthralling adventure with high stakes and surprisingly relevant political underpinnings. There are oppressed half-djinns, the pureblood nobility who detest them, a prince yearning for equality for all, and the damage that tribalism does, especially to the most vulnerable.
This is the author’s debut novel and the first in a trilogy that continues with The Kingdom of Copper and The Empire of Gold. If you want to get lost in a fantastical world along with a charming, trouble-making heroine, this is the adventure for you.
‘You’re some kind of thief, then?’
‘That’s a very narrow-minded way of looking at it. I prefer to think of myself as a merchant of delicate tasks.’ — S. A. Chakraborty
Strong Sense of Place is a website and podcast dedicated to literary travel and books we love. Reading good books increases empathy. Empathy is good for all of us and the amazing world we inhabit.
Strong Sense of Place is a listener-supported podcast. If you like the work we do, you can help make it happen by joining our Patreon! That'll unlock bonus content for you, too — including Mel's secret book reviews and Dave's behind-the-scenes notes for the latest Two Truths and a Lie.
This is a weekly email. If you'd like a quick alert whenever we update our blog, subscribe here.
We'll share enough detail to help you decide if a book is for you, but we'll never ruin plot twists or give away the ending.
This 30-page Reading Atlas takes you around the world with dozens of excellent books and gorgeous travel photos. Get your free copy when you subscribe to our newsletter.
Content on this site is ©2023 by Smudge Publishing, unless otherwise noted. Peace be with you, person who reads the small type.