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plantedbypiggies

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  • The City of Brass

  • A Novel
  • By: S. A. Chakraborty
  • Narrated by: Soneela Nankani
  • Length: 19 hrs and 36 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,134
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,056
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,053

Nahri has never believed in magic. Certainly she has power; on the streets of 18th-century Cairo, she's a con woman of unsurpassed talent. But she knows better than anyone that the trade she uses to get by - palm readings, zars, healings - are all tricks, sleights of hand, learned skills, a means to the delightful end of swindling Ottoman nobles and a reliable way to survive. But when Nahri accidentally summons an equally sly, darkly mysterious djinn warrior to her side during one of her cons, she's forced to question all she believes.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Narrator ruined the charaters for me

  • By Jacquelyn S. De Phillips on 01-01-18

The City of Brass

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 01-14-19

Nahri is a young, street smart con artist living in Cairo. The Ottoman and French Empires are contesting the land, meaning that there are all sorts of marks for her fortune telling business.

But Nahri has other skills, too. She has a knack for healing the sick. If she hears any language, she can understand and speak it. Her own native tongue, Divasti, is completely different from anything else others speak.

While participating in a Zar exorcism ceremony, Nahri decides to use Divasti to add some exotic flair. Little does she know that it will get the attention of a daeva and a ifrit. Plunged into a world that she previously thought was myth, Nahri has to navigate her place in the new world.

Overall, this was a fun book to read. I've had it near the top of my queue since April, but felt the time was right just a few weeks ago. I took it with me to a major convention, PAX Unplugged. I found the story engaging enough that I was stealing time before gaming sessions to enjoy it! It certainly made standing in the registration lines a lot more bearable.

Nahri is a well-rounded character, as are the supporting cast. But the setting is definitely the highlight of the book. It's fun to read a story that takes its cues from Islamic culture. Chakraborty does a great job of making the world details come to life. Because the general public lacks a lot of knowledge, the book has to do a lot of world-building, so the pacing can be a bit slower at times. But for seasoned fantasy readers, that's not an impediment. Many would see it as a feature rather than a bug. For those looking for more consolidated detail, there is a glossary at the back of the book.

If I were to compare City of Brass to another book, the choice that comes to mind is Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Nahri and Harry share some interesting parallels. They're both young, destitute people with special abilities. They're both orphans, and they both have an unlikely mentor (although Hagrid and Dara have very different personalities). The similarities are superficial, granted, but there's enough parallels that it really piqued my interest.

Honestly, I think that's a sign that S.A. Chakraborty was trying to grow her writing chops. City of Brass is a debut novel, and a rather ambitious one at that. Plotting isn't an easy task to learn, so keeping the plot familiar acts as training wheels while the author is learning. If the plot were at the same level for further volumes, I'd grade harder.

As it is, though, City of Brass is an entertaining read with a vivid setting and solid plot. The characters are fairly likeable overall, with solid motivations and intentions. I'm really looking forward to the next book of the series, The Kingdom of Copper. That'll be released next January.

  • The Healer’s War

  • By: Elizabeth Ann Scarborough
  • Narrated by: Robin Miles
  • Length: 13 hrs and 21 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 22
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 19
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 19

McCulley, a young and inexperienced nurse tossed into a stressful and chaotic situation, is having a difficult time reconciling her duty to help and heal with the indifference and overt racism of some of her colleagues and with the horrendously damaged soldiers and Vietnamese civilians whom she encounters during her service at the China Beach medical facilities. She is unexpectedly helped by the mysterious and inexplicable properties of an amulet....

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • An importnat book that resonates today

  • By plantedbypiggies on 08-06-18

An importnat book that resonates today

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-06-18

I thought the book did a good job of humanizing war. While working in the hospital, Kitty divides her time before treating American soldiers and Vietnamese civilians. Scarborough worked hard to make the Vietnamese characters seem real, well-rounded people.

Later, during the jungle portion of the story, Scarborough shows how the ordinary people are trapped. In order to just survive, they have to keep both sides of the conflict happy. It's not an easy job, and it takes a huge toll.

I liked the magic The magical talisman doesn't help Kitty "win;" she doesn't gain some kind of power that allows her to overcome her challenges. Rather, it helps her see what lies underneath the surface of those around her.

The first-person narrative of the book is vital -- if it were told in third person, the story would not have been quite as effective. Also, as a woman, Kitty didn't have to go to Vietnam. She could have found plenty of work in an American hospital. But she took a commission voluntarily because she wanted to help. I think the book would have had a much less vibrant perspective if it were through the lens of a drafted serviceman or even a male nurse.

I think this is an important book, particularly because it shows the personal effect of battle on people. It thinks about who is involved -- the "good guys," the "bad guys," and the people just caught in the middle. It also ends well, showing Kitty struggling with PTSD and finding a way out.

It's especially important because the genre tends to glorify war to a certain extent. I wish there were more stories like this. I'd recommend this for people who are looking for a different kind of look at the violence people inflict.

Additionally, the narration of this book was pitch-perfect. I'd love to here more fantasy titles from Robin Miles.