readalong

Women in SFF Readalong: Week 1

I do love a read along, and this month I’m joining in with The Fantasy Hive as they read The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty. This was one that’s been on my list to read for a couple of years, and this was the perfect excuse to finally pick it up! Please be aware that the rest of the post will contain spoilers for chapters 1-6, so if you don’t want to know, don’t read on!

Welcome to Week 1 – what are our initial impressions?

The opening to The City of Brass is a lovely blend of the familiar and the mysterious. I feel that, for fantasy fans especially, a book starting with a thief or a con-artist is something they’ll have read a few times before, but that certainly doesn’t detract from our introduction to Nahri. She is witty and rebellious, yet there is an underlying care to her character that comes across in her actions and desires to be more. The setting, as well, is brilliantly original, and told with great detail. In fact, the story telling holds a lot of detail, and it makes everything vivid and exciting.

In these opening six chapters we’ve been introduced to two POV characters, Nahri and Ali. Do you have a favourite?

Difficult to say… I think at first I preferred Ali, because through him we get to see Daevabad and learn some of the political situation before Nahri does, but I’m enjoying Nahri and Dara’s dynamic, so I enjoy that about her chapters.

As for the characters themselves, Nahri feels a bit too convenient right now. I like her and appreciate her story but it seems weird that she has never questioned her healing and is adamant that magic does not exist despite the fact she can heal herself in moments. I know this is sort of addressed but it seems a bit of an easy out to me. Especially in the way that she is constantly looking out for where she might be from, and how deeply she’s involved with the theories of magic she uses to con people, I would have thought she’d have stumbled on something by now. Other than that I like her, and her moral complexity.

Ali is interesting too, and feels like a more mysterious character – I recognise some of his tropes but not enough to pin down exactly the kind of character he is yet. He’s got a lot of contrasting influences going on and I’m curious to see what happens to him.

Likewise, we’ve been introduced to two very different cities, Cairo and Daevabad. They couldn’t be more different… and yet, look deeper and there are plenty of similarities. Thoughts?

The cities are definitely both interesting! I love the description we get of the Grand Bazaar in Daevabad in Ali’s first chapter, and it definitely presents a contrast to Nahri’s descriptions of her alley and the places she goes past. It was so cool to read about all the little ways the people of Daevabad use magic, from locking up stalls with curses to keep them safe, to sending self-destructing messages… so so cool!

They are also both cities in turmoil, and it’s interesting to see the way this affects every little aspect of the lives in both cities. I think I’d like to spend a bit more time in Cairo, because we only got a glimpse of the world outside of Nahri’s alley before she’s whisked away, and I’d like to see the political complexities of a place constantly being conquered.

How do we feel about Suleiman’s seal and the ring? Was he right to limit the Daeva’s powers and split them into six different tribes? Do we have any theories on where we think the ring is now?

It’s definitely an interesting piece of magic, and it makes me want to know more about where Suleiman got this power. I always like a story with a vaster being or deity, and I’ll be curious to see if the God they keep referring to does exist. I definitely don’t agree with Suleiman’s actions, because I feel that any sort of drastic control of one group of people over another is never right, even if the daeva might have deserved it in that moment.

As for where the ring may be – there have been three rings mentioned so far in the story: Suleiman’s ring, Dara’s ring, and the ring of the Ottoman nobleman that Nahri swindles at the start. I can’t help but feel that this last one is significant, and could even be more than it appears. My current theory is that, if the ring becomes crucial to the plot, that’s where it’ll be in the end… I could be totally wrong but I feel like the mention is significant. It seems that the seal is still in Daevabad, with the king, if I read that correctly?

There are hints that Nahri is attracted to Dara, how do we feel about that?

Honestly I don’t blame her – I’d be into that. I do hope that the story won’t become too focused on the attraction though, and with Ali being the other point of view and Nahri making her way to his city, I sense the danger of a love triangle. I sincerely hope this doesn’t happen, but if it does I shall just sigh wearily and continue with the story. Dara is the classic mysterious bad boy in many ways, and I think it’s normal for characters to become attracted to one another when they spend so much time in close quarters together…

Nahri and Dara both grew up without their families, how do we feel this has shaped their characters?

With Nahri, you can tell she’s become entirely self sufficient to the point she doesn’t want to open up to anyone, and even though she seems casual about not knowing her family, the way she has been searching for people who speak her native tongue all her life is very telling.

With Dara it’s harder to tell, we still don’t know too much about him. I feel like he mentions his father once, when they’re in what I think is Turkey, and he’s definitely wistful. But with him it seems that whatever happen has made him much more bitter than Nahri.

Both are very unwilling to open up, and so I think it makes everything they do together much more tense – it’s the reason neither of them are very keen to go to Daevabad at first, because for Nahri it means possibly losing that sense of independence she’s developed, and for Dara it might mean confronting the reason he is who he is. It definitely means they understand one another well, though, or will come to as they open up a little.

Our first week of reading ended on quite a dramatic note. How did we feel about Anas’s death? How do you think Ali is going to make it count?

Anas’ death was brutal, and shows the way that the conflict between his people and the “pure bloods” is really complex. Anas seemed like a good man, but he definitely had plans to incite violence, but the way the king and the djinn treat his people is terrible. It’s definitely making me wonder how Ali will go forward, because he’s also conflicted about things – as he’s about to take on a bigger role of leadership in the city we’ll see how he deals with that. I also couldn’t fully grasp, from context, how Ali felt about the entire thing, because he is clearly betrayed by Anas’ lies to him, but he still seems to disagree with his father about the way the city is run, so for me this is all up in the air.

Finally, any favourite quotes?

‘Fog shrouded the great city of brass, obscuring it’s towering minarets of sandblasted glass and hammered metal and veiling its golden domes.’

The first description of Daevabad

So there we have it! I’ve seen many mixed reviews of this book over the years, but so far I can say I’m intrigued and am really enjoying the world building and the character interactions. If you’re joining this read along, or if you’ve read the book before, feel free to share your thoughts on the questions above, as I love to chat to others about what I’m reading!

6 thoughts on “Women in SFF Readalong: Week 1

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