Women in SFF Readalong: Week 3

I have been quiet on the blog… I’m back to being full time at work and my reading and writing have taken a backseat until I figure out how to balance my time properly, but I am still loving the Fantasy Hive‘s readalong of The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty! We’re on week three now, which means only one more section left to tackle, and this week left me with a lot of questions… Dara and Nahri are in Daevabad at last, and things are definitely complicated… If you haven’t already, you can read my posts for Week One and Week Two, but now let’s look at this week’s questions – please be advised there will be spoilers up until chapter 22.

This week’s reading opened with a bang! The king has been stirring up trouble that culminated in an attempt to sack the Daeva quarter, with his guards arriving just in time. Authors often say that SFF allows us to confront issues in our own world – what did we make of the racial tensions between the shafit, the daeva, and the djinn, and what parallels can be drawn with our own world?

The tensions in Daevabad have been really interesting, and what I’ve appreciated a lot about this book is the way that the racial and social tensions are not straightforward. There is no black and white, no one side that is pure and blameless, just as in the real world. Chakraborty has written people (or djinn, I guess) that feel real, and make decisions that reflect that. Though the daeva are wrong in segregating and degrading the shafit, the way the shafit respond just furthers the tension, which is pretty realistic. The king is a horrible man for taking advantage of both these sides, but again that definitely reflects the actions of a man in power who wants to keep opposing groups from realising that their oppression probably comes from him. Off with his head!

Chapter 16 and Nahri’s introduction to the King brought plenty of twists and revelations. How did you think this was going to go down? What do you make of Nahri’s curse? Do you have any theories about Nahri’s mother?

Right well whatever I expected, it wasn’t this. I don’t know if I fully believe that Nahri is cursed and actually a pureblood made to look like a shafit, but the king’s reaction was very quick if he wasn’t expect Nahri… unless he actually was, somehow, and orchestrated the scene. What I did find very interesting is the hints at the history of Nahri’s mother, and the way the King talks about her seems to imply that he was romantically interested in her, but that they didn’t have a relationship. I definitely didn’t expect any Nahid to be received so warmly by the ruling family, as I thought that they’d been rivals and had fought one another, but that may be me not understanding? But then again Beth mentions this in her reaction, so maybe we’re just all confused…

As for her mother, I do think she may be alive somehow? Though that would be very cruel of her, unless she doesn’t know where Nahri is. We shall see!

Do we believe the King will treat Nahri fairly, as though she is one of the family if the king gets his wish and she marries Mutandhir?

Hmm… not sure what the King’s end goal is. If it’s just to incorporate her into the family and get her to cooperate while she’s still “innocent” and doesn’t know enough politics, then maybe he will be happy as long as she complies. But he could have further plans, and I definitely don’t trust hi, though I don’t think Mutandhir is complicit (yet).

Can we just take a moment to appreciate Chakraborty’s worldbuilding? Was there anything in particular this week that struck you?

I really liked the descriptions of the city as Nahri and Dara entered it, with the gates being described and all the little magics that pop up, seeing again the contrast between the human world and Daevabad, just like when Ali describes the bazaar in his first chapter. I also was fascinated -and horrified- by the way the shafit were executed for their little uprising. Don’t get me wrong, it was terrible to imagine, but it’s such a unique bit of worldbuilding that I can’t help but applause Chakraborty for it.

Dara warns Nahri how dangerous Ali is and Ali warns Nahri how dangerous Dara is. Who do we believe is the biggest threat between the two? Would either of them actually intentionally harm Nahri?

I don’t think either of them would intentionally hard Nahir. Dara might do something impulsive and reckless, and put her in harm’s way/hurt her emotionally without meaning to, and Ali might get involved in one of his father’s schemes and harm Nahri without realising until it’s too late. I think the biggest threat right now is Dara… from Ali I don’t get a sense that he’s dangerous – although he’s lethal in battle and he’s very intelligent, so he could be an unreliable narrator and be a much worse person than we think, hah! But somehow I don’t see that happening, and I sense the structure of the love triangle falling into place. Right now, I’m not sure who I’d cheer for, actually… thruple? (I joke, but that sparring scene between Dara and Ali in any other context would be hella gay and the perfect start of an enemies to lovers arc, soooo…..)

Be careful what you wish for
Nahri has always wished to be trained by the greatest healers. Now she is given free reign to heal, and given training and access to the equipment she needs to do so, it all seems too much. What do we make of Nahri’s crisis of self this week?

It’s actually a little frustrating that we see so little of her training, because it is something we know she’s been dreaming of since her very first chapter, and with magical medicine and healing I would love to know how it works! I’m sceptical of her teacher (I’ve forgotten her name now, apologies) and some elements seem to just be convenient plotting, so her crisis of self does come out of the blue a bit, for me. I can’t help but feel that her healing, despite being the main reason she’s in the palace, is just something to keep her busy when the book is looking at other characters, so I’m not fully convinced by it, but would love to see more.

Ali helps Nahri unlock her magical powers this week, and although so far we’ve only seen her conjure a flame, how powerful do you predict Nahri will be? Do you think she’ll be equal to Dara, or more powerful?

She’s definitely going to be powerful! She’s the MC! Apart from that, though, I wasn’t expecting her to have powers other than healing so it’s exciting to see that develop! But Dara’s powers seem to be at an all time high, so she’ll have a long way to go before she can match him, I think. I do wonder what’s happening with him, because it’s hinted at a few times… when he first gets to Daevabad and brings the statues to life, he starts to say that he didn’t mean to go that far, and Ali thinks Dara shouldn’t have been able to conjure all those weapons during their fight, so that’s interesting and I am eager to find out what’s behind it. Ali and Nahri’s moment did bring about my favourite quote of this section, though:

‘He tried to offer a casual shrug, as if teaching potentially deadly skills to his ancestral enemy was something he did all the time—and not, as it now suddenly dawned upon him, a thing that should have been considered more carefully.’

This week ends with Dara and Nahri having a heated argument. Whose side are you on? Should Nahri consider the continuation of her ancient Nahid bloodline or should she follow her heart?

Well, her ancient bloodline definitely didn’t consider her when they left her in Cairo (yes I know it’s more complicated than that, but Nahri has lived her whole life wanting to fit in somewhere and people are already making this new place a nightmare for her). I think it’s something that Nahri should come to a decision about over time, but I understand that the situation of the politics means that each faction wants to stake their claim on her and her future children, but there’s something about the assumption she will marry a man and have children that isn’t great…

I know Dara is trying to make what seems an inevitable situation better from his perspective, and I do think he’s looking out for Nahri, but he’s going about it the wrong way and he definitely hasn’t thought things through from her perspective.

2 thoughts on “Women in SFF Readalong: Week 3”

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