Review/Rant: The City of Brass

This book should be called “The City of Disappointment.”

I know, that sounds a bit harsh, but hear me out. I really wanted to like this book. Christ, I spent $12 on a goddamn Kindle copy, so I truly did want to enjoy it. Or at least get my money’s worth. And while I feel like I did get my money’s worth, I did not get much out of this book beyond that bare minimum level.

I first found this book on Amazon when I was just browsing for a new book (living that college life). The City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty popped up in the recommended section under a book I previously enjoyed (I forget which one). Upon glancing through the synopsis, I decided to buy the kindle e-book, as the library did not have The City of Brass in stock.

Synopsis from Amazon.com:

Nahri has never believed in magic. Certainly, she has power; on the streets of eighteenth-century Cairo, she’s a con woman of unsurpassed talent. But she knows better than anyone that the trades she uses to get by—palm readings, zars, and a mysterious gift for healing—are all tricks, both the means to the delightful end of swindling Ottoman nobles and a reliable way to survive.

But when Nahri accidentally summons Dara, an equally sly, darkly mysterious djinn warrior, to her side during one of her cons, she’s forced to reconsider her beliefs. For Dara tells Nahri an extraordinary tale: across hot, windswept sands teeming with creatures of fire and rivers where the mythical marid sleep, past ruins of once-magnificent human metropolises and mountains where the circling birds of prey are more than what they seem, lies Daevabad, the legendary city of brass—a city to which Nahri is irrevocably bound.

In Daevabad, within gilded brass walls laced with enchantments and behind the six gates of the six djinn tribes, old resentments run deep. And when Nahri decides to enter this world, her arrival threatens to ignite a war that has been simmering for centuries.

Spurning Dara’s warning of the treachery surrounding her, she embarks on a hesitant friendship with Alizayd, an idealistic prince who dreams of revolutionizing his father’s corrupt regime. All too soon, Nahri learns that true power is fierce and brutal. That magic cannot shield her from the dangerous web of court politics. That even the cleverest of schemes can have deadly consequences.

After all, there is a reason they say to be careful what you wish for . . .

Sounds intriguing, right? I thought so as well. I am always a sucker for stories reminiscent of Arabian Nights. The worlds and creatures are usually fascinating, and the setting provides tremendous room for world-builing and atmosphere. This setting was the best part of The City of Brass.

Plot: I don’t even know what to say for this section. Some parts of the story were outstanding, while some parts were the most unnecessary fluff I’ve ever read (I’m not joking; one hundred pages could have been shaved off without detriment). Without going into spoilers, I thoroughly enjoyed the first fifty or so pages of the book, but my interest slowly faded from there.

The introduction of eighteenth century Cairo was fantastic, and the intricate relationships of the different factions within Cairo at the time coud have written the entire book. Honestly, I wish Nahri just stayed in Cairo. Which is a damn shame, cause the world that Charkaborty builds in her book should have been fascinating. Different creatures like the Marid and Djinn (Sorry, Daeva) bring a fantastic, mystical atmosphere to the book. Unfortunately, the mythology behind the origins of the different djinn tribes and the historical motivations that fueled the conflict for most of the book were not fully explained. By the end of this over-five-hundred-page book, I was barely hanging on to who killed whom centuries ago, let alone feeling anything for the characters. Speaking of…

Characters:

Nahri: My biggest disappointment, by far. I absolutely LOVED Nahri when she was first introduced to the reader at the beginning of the book. She is a swindler, not letting any sense of false pride or sentiment stop her from acheiving her goals. She had a no-nonsense personality, clearly capable of handling herself.

As soon as she leaves Cairo, her character starts a downward spiral. She is manipulated by pretty much every single character in the book and whines. Good Lord, does she whine. The entirety of her training for healing is downright painful. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that characters are not supposed to be perfect, and frustration is a natural response. But I swear, this girl whines about how she can’t heal anyone (or do anything, for that matter) for a significatn chunk of the book, all the while her assistant does most of the work and takes most of the crap. I’m just so sad about how this character turned out.

Dara: My second biggest disappointment. I read “sly” and “darkly mysterious” in the synopsis, and thought I was going to get something completely different than what I got. And that would be fine, if this character had a single purpose for the story. I swear that this character could have been removed from the book entirely with very few problems. His backstory is poorly explained to the point that I did not even understand what his personality was to begin with. At first he seemed dark and brooding, the goes to apologetic and a little sweet, to emotionally twisted, back to sweet, then ends up (SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!!) (YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED) kidnapping Nahri while threatening to kill her friend if she did not leave with him. Just because he did not agree with who she was marrying. WTF? And this is the main love interest? The worst part: Nahri still loves him and freaking protects him. WTF. This is not even the half of it, but I don’t feel like dealing with this bullshit. (End of spoilers).

Ali: This is the second POV for this book and ended up doing a reverse-Nahri (the technical term, of course). I started off wondering if I could just skip his chapters, but I ended up liking him the most out of the main cast. That is not saying much, but it is something. Ali goes from a rather timid youth to a more engaging young man, willing to even stand up to his father. One thing I did not understand was why the characters in the book addressed him as a “zealot” or “radical”. I could understand this in the first few POV chapters, but he quickly adapts his tune. I was surprised by how I grew to like Ali’s character, despite my initial grumblings.

Ghassan: I could not figure this character out. Maybe that’s a sign he was written well, but I am not sure. Ghassan, the king of Daevabad, oscillates from benevolence to kind of evil. He manipulates both of his sons constantly, purely to acheive his goals. While these goals have their merits, some of his actions are fairly despicable. This is not a bad thing, character-wise, but it makes it very difficult to feel anything towards him during the climax of the book. I didn’t love him, but I didn’t hate him. Take from that what you will.

Muntadhir: Like his father, I had difficulty untangling Muntadhir’s motivations. The son of Ghassan, brother of Ali, and emir of Daevabad, Muntadhir spends most of his days relaxing with women and drinks. He is jealous of Ali yet manipulates him quite thoroughly for most of the book. Overall, he was okay. At least he was consistent.

  • One thing I noticed, especially in regards to Ali and his family, is that none of them were necessarily the antagonist. All three of them, the king included, had their own ways of accomplishing what they believed to be right. For that, I can forgive the character faults, as the sentiment and complexity was there. I just wished that Nahri and Dara had followed suit without the annoyance factor.

Writing: This is probably the strongest part of the book. The author, Chakraborty, clearly knows what she is doing. I cannot even imagine the amount of research that this book must have needed. Even considering the faults with The City of Brass, the environment and setting always felt solid. I just wish the two main characters and the plot could’ve been cleaned up, because those three elements are the main things clogging up this book. Ughhhhh! This book could have been amazing!

Cover: Do I even need to say anything?

brass

The cover is beautiful, intriguing, and an apt indicator of the book’s contents. Gorgeous!

Score: 

 

I don’t know if the problem was me or if the problem was the book. I applaud S. A. Chakraborty for tackling such a challenging subject matter, one that is very relevant and present in today’s society. However, it was all I could do to finish this book.

Score: 4.2

I will likely give the next book a shot, as this was the author’s debut, but I won’t hold my breath.

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Review: The Watchers

When I first read The Watchers by Lynnie Purcell, I really, really liked it. I liked the story, the characters, and the writing style. Upon rereading it a year or two ago, I still liked it, but less so. And after rereading it again (I went through a little bit of a rereading phase), I found it to be remarkably decent. Yep, just decent, barely above par. I actually think it is a bit of a rip off of Twilight, which already drops it off of the ‘nice’ list. Its only saving grace is that it does the whole idea a bit better, with a bit of a twist that kept me from vomiting.

Summary:

Sixteen-year-old Clare has spent her life traveling from town to town, never knowing a home, content to live from city to city. So, when her mom decides to drag Clare back to her hometown, Clare is skeptical. But, it is there, she learns the power of home, the meaning of the secret she has kept since birth, and the future of her role in a world far from normal.

Okay, girl moving to a small, backwater town? Check. Secret society kept from the world? Check. Hot guy that doesn’t like her at first, that has a secret? Check. Main character falls in love with the one person whose mind they cannot read? Check. Girl feels that she doesn’t fit in, thinks that the world is just unfair? Check. Young adult book is a go, everyone, young adult book is a go.

Plot: This is the part I have the most grievances with. Holy shit, I thought we had seen the last of Twilight. Is it even relevant anymore? I don’t know, but that is exactly what this book is. The main character, Clare, can hear thoughts. She can hear every person’s thoughts, her mother’s included. However, when she moves back to her mother’s old hometown, she encounter’s Daniel, who somehow can make her not hear all the thoughts around her. Clare is a half-angel, as her father was an angel who ran off when she was little. There is an ongoing war between two sides, and both sides attempt to conscript half-angels to their side.

I don’t want to give away more details for fear of spoilers, but I can safely say that it is almost a fan fiction of Twilight. I did like how Clare at least had some personality to add to the mix and some of the side characters were memorable. Besides that, there is little to recommend here.

Characters: One of the stronger points of the book, the character cast was actually pretty good.

Clare: Clare was pretty cool. I like that she had tattoos and piercings and other neat stuff to distinguish herself. I also like how she was almost a deep thinker, as she contemplated abstract concepts. This really added to the internal dialogue Clare had with the reader. While not the best main character I have seen, she most certainly is not the worst.

Daniel: I have mixed feelings about Daniel. On one hand, I appreciate that he is deeper and smarter than other love interests, and definitely more human. But, I think my main problem with Daniel is that some of his actions I find annoying. For example, Clare says she has a tattoo, and explains that the only way someone would see it would be by accident. So, after falling in a pool, Clare goes home to change with him. So, while she is changing, he walks in just to see if he can find her tattoo. Now,  I understand why this was put in, but WTF Daniel? You don’t just walk into your sort-of-girlfriend-not-quite-yet’s room while you know she is changing. How about a little respect? I thought he was alright, but not exactly what I was looking for.

Alex: She was a pretty good character in the book, but still somehow generic. I like how she was almost a school counselor, but as a student. It set her apart from other ‘best friend’ characters. Alas, there is little else different. That being said, she did her job as the outsider for people to explain things to as exposition and as a friend for Clare, who lacked any at the beginning of the book.

Writing Style: The best way to describe the writing is: good. Yep. Just good. There is nothing bad that I did not like about the writing style, but nothing really stood out, either. As such, the writing accomplished its task without major problems or major amazingness.

Cover: I do, actually, like the cover. It is colorful and mysterious; it really sells the book. The only problem I have with the cover is that it is kind of misleading. This book does contain special powers, but I would not go so far as to say it has magic in it. The cover heavily implies that it will have magic in it, which it does not. This aside, I did like the cover.

the watchers

Final thoughts: This book review is rather short, isn’t it? Yeah, I would say so, mostly because this book has little to talk about. It was average, enjoyable to read, but little by way of sustenance.

Score:

5.5

 

Review: Danica

When you go on Amazon.com and look at potential books, did you know that you can find books that are completely free? If you filter the search for prices lowest to greatest, books appear that are priced $0.00. As you can imagine, I have hit this up some many times. About 80% of the books on my Kindle were free!

I read Danica a while back and completely forgot about it! When I ‘purchased’ it a couple years ago, it was free. Damn. There is nothing I love more than getting a bargain. And that is exactly what this book is. Without further ado, here is the summary:

Gretsche’s world gets turned around at the discovery of werewolves. While trying to fight them to get her friends back, she makes an even more shocking discovery about herself and her own supernatural abilities.

Yeah. That’s the actual summary. Full of f***ing detail, I know. Gosh darn it Amazon! You can do better! I wrote up my own damn summary because I am so completely pissed with this summary. I know that point is to not give away the plot, but I want more.

Here is my summary:

Nineteen year old Gretsche lives a normal life as a want-to-be party girl, alongside her friends Brent and Haley. After a night of partying goes horribly wrong, Gretsche is dragged into a world of werewolves and vampires where she must learn to decipher friend from foe. In order to save her friends, Gretsche has to learn to master herself before she can overcome her enemies.

The funny thing is that NO ONE is talking about this book. Good Lord, when I looked up the title and author, I got stats about Danica Patrick the race car driver! Needless to say, I went into this book with little expectations and little information. What I found was a lot better than I thought it was going to be.

Plot: Vampires and werewolves. Unless you have been living under a rock for the last ten years, you know of all the books that have come out about vampires and werewolves, with Twilight being the front runner of the supernatural storm. However, the author does take a new twist on this aging rhetoric which refreshes the concept a bit. Underneath it all, however, it is still the same old, same old. There are some twists and turns that I liked, but the plot was ultimately predictable. Notice I did not say bad. This book was super enjoyable and I ate it up, despite the less than outstanding content.

Characters: This is the strongest part of the book. There are some very interesting characters in this book.

Gretsche: She is the best thing about this book. She is funny, brave, smart, badass, and a really good friend. A main character must always two the line between individuality and generality, seeing as though the reader must be able to relate to the character. Gretsche is a perfect balance of the two, and I completely backed her from beginning to end.

Brent (Bear): As a character, Brent is slightly above average. I liked how funny he was during his interactions with Gretsche and his relationship with her. Other than that, nothing else stands out.

Jason: This is one conflicted character alright. Shrouded in mystery until the end of the book, Gretsche (and ultimately the reader) has no idea if he is a friend or an enemy. I was not sure how I felt about him until I mulled him over after finishing the book. And so, I can safely say that I thought he was well developed and intriguing and I wish to see more of him in a later book ( which hopefully is writen soon).

Dimitri: I can’t go into much detail about Dimitri here, since I would hit upon some serious spoiler territory. However, I can say that Dimitri is the second reason (after Gretsche, of course) to read this book. He is witty, moody, and just engaging in general.

Haley: Haley was pretty cool. Haley was Gretsche’s friend. And yeah. That’s about it.

Preston (Gretsche’s dad): He is an awesome Dad. He supports Gretsche through everything and is one of the nicest father figures I have read in literature. However, sometimes I question the realism of this. There is no way, after hearing about attacks throughout the city, and the attack of a friend, a father would willingly let his child go around to bars willy nilly where other victims had been attacked. It would be one thing if he was some aloof, asshole dad, but from the book he clearly wants the best for his daughter. Besides this nitpick, I liked Gretsche’s dad.

Writing Style: This is probably the weakest link with this book. While not terrible, the writing was kind of ‘jumpy’, meaning some scenes were incredibly detailed and some scenes were completely glossed over. This is only natural, in any book, but it did not work out so well here. This book would have seriously benefitted from an increased length; another fifty pages would have allowed some of the scenes to be fleshed out. However, the writing did improve over the course of the book, so I am looking forward to the next book (whenever it comes out). Besides that, there is nothing really to note. Overall, the writing was passable.

Cover: For some reason, there are two covers; one is pretty cool and one is decent.

danica 1

This cover is pretty good, I guess, but I like the other cover a lot better. Here is the other cover:

danica

Now that’s kinda badass. It has swirly shit on it, red for blood, and really interesting graphics. I love it 🙂

Final Thoughts: 

While not a masterpiece, Danica certainly deserves more notice from readers and critics alike. Christ, if Twilight made it big, why don’t more people know of this book? I don’t know. I’m just some cynical teenager.

Score:

7.4

If possible, I recommend that you pick up this book somewhere. Hey, I managed to get it for free! This book is definitely worth your time, if not your money.