REVIEW: The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty

The Daevabad Trilogy Book One; Young Adult

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♦BLURB♦

Step into The City of Brass, the spellbinding debut from S. A. Chakraborty—an imaginative alchemy of The Golem and the Jinni, The Grace of Kings, and Uprooted, in which the future of a magical Middle Eastern kingdom rests in the hands of a clever and defiant young con artist with miraculous healing gifts.

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, 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. For the warrior tells her 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 not 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, behind the six gates of the six djinn tribes, old resentments are simmering. And when Nahri decides to enter this world, she 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 . . .

 

♦4-STAR REVIEW♦

Rich and intricately plotted, The City of Brass was a fantastical journey into the world of djinn and magic. Filled with political intrigue and mounting tensions, the story followed Nahri in her quest to find her people upon learning she’s the last of her kind. With the help of a revered warrior, they travel across many lands to reach Daevabad, escaping death on the way, only to find out too late that this city of brass is far from safe for a girl of her kind.

Told in multiple perspectives, allowing a rare insight into both sides of the story, Chakraborty accomplished a slow, steady escalation of the story to its climax. Both lead and supporting characters were starkly vivid and necessary to the drive of the plot, each with difference purposes and endpoints. As the first in a trilogy, it was a densely-packed tale and won’t be a quick read, but it managed to have me craving the next page even during slower moments. Nahri’s journey throughout the story was tumultuous at best, but true to a young woman’s stubbornness and independence when thrown into this situation. Her struggle for identity forced her to split herself into two halves; one that couldn’t release her old self and one that tried desperately to fit in to an ill-fitting version of what was expected of her, and it was all too easy to see the two sides clash as the story developed. Though the romance is small and uncertain, I expect there to be more to come as I don’t believe this is a core focus at this point, but it leaves me very curious for where the author plans to take it. Even as full of a story as this was, there are still many questions to answer and plenty more story to tell.

The City of Brass had a distinct direction that will leave the reader craving more. Chakraborty easily kept the objective of each character’s path up in the air and there was an anxiousness felt upon turning the last page. A strong female lead, playing a political game and coming into her power, felt refreshing and altogether captivating. The only unfortunate thing is the expected wait for more of the story, but I’ll gladly accept it when I’m this curious to see where it’ll go.

 

♦ABOUT THE AUTHOR♦

Originally (and proudly!) from New Jersey, S. A. currently resides in Queens with her husband and daughter. When not buried in books about Mughal portraiture and Omani history, she enjoys hiking, knitting, and recreating unnecessarily complicated, medieval meals for her family. You can find her online most frequently at Twitter where she likes to ramble about history, politics, and Islamic art.

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TEASER & GIVEAWAY: Enchant by Micalea Smeltzer

The Enchanted Book One; Young Adult

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Mara Pryce never imagined that her life was anything but normal and then a strange gray-eyed young man appears at her graduation. When he vanishes without a trace, she’s convinced he’s a figment of her imagination. Then he appears again and shatters her whole world.

Mara is an enchanter, part of an ancient line of Wiccan power, and a war is raging—one of good and evil—between the Enchanted and the Iniquitous.

The Iniquitous want her dead and it’s Theodore’s job as her protector to keep her safe.

When Mara and Theodore arrive at a safe house, where Mara will remain hidden while learning about her powers, they find that the real threat might be a little closer to home than they want to believe.

 

♦TEASER♦

 

♦ABOUT THE AUTHOR♦

Micalea Smeltzer is a bestselling twenty-something author. She started scribbling stories before she even knew her alphabet. She currently resides in Virginia with her doggie side-kick Ollie.

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TOP REC & REVIEW: Autoboyography by Christina Lauren

Young Adult LGBT Romance

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Fangirl meets Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda in this funny and poignant coming-of-age novel from New York Times bestselling author Christina Lauren about two boys who fall in love in a writing class—one from a progressive family and the other from a conservative religious community.

Three years ago, Tanner Scott’s family relocated from California to Utah, a move that nudged the bisexual teen temporarily back into the closet. Now, with one semester of high school to go, and no obstacles between him and out-of-state college freedom, Tanner plans to coast through his remaining classes and clear out of Utah.

But when his best friend Autumn dares him to take Provo High’s prestigious Seminar—where honor roll students diligently toil to draft a book in a semester—Tanner can’t resist going against his better judgment and having a go, if only to prove to Autumn how silly the whole thing is. Writing a book in four months sounds simple. Four months is an eternity.

It turns out, Tanner is only partly right: four months is a long time. After all, it takes only one second for him to notice Sebastian Brother, the Mormon prodigy who sold his own Seminar novel the year before and who now mentors the class. And it takes less than a month for Tanner to fall completely in love with him.

 

♦6-STAR REVIEW♦

With an honest and unafraid portrayal of the obstacles a relationship can face when homosexuality and religion are the main components, Autoboyography excelled at capturing an inspiring coming-of-age love story. Top-notch writing and storytelling from this duo further allowed for this story and its characters to feel completely relatable, to open that door to show that anyone from any spectrum can find a piece of themselves in Tanner or Sebastian.

Its lack of bias or agenda and instead its true focus on these characters as real teens, real young men struggling with the pressures of sexuality, beliefs, societal pressures, and familial belonging, was a truly powerful element. In reading this story, it’s incredibly obvious that Christina Lauren took the time to accurately research and portray both a faith and sexual orientation that many readers will have no understanding of. With Tanner’s non-LDS status, his lack of knowledge and stereotypical beliefs of the Mormon faith will connect with many readers, but his journey to researching and understanding it on his own and through Sebastian was both very educational and key in understanding the main conflict of a relationship between the two.

Autoboyography read like a biopic of first-love with teenage awkwardness, exploration of self, and the pressures of society or religion to be like everyone else. Tanner felt far older than his age, confirming that hiding oneself in a crucial time of growth in ones’ life can force a maturity that wouldn’t possibly be there otherwise. But oh the big heart he had to opening himself up to the very real chance his feelings wouldn’t be returned was starkly vivid on the page. The supporting players were truly figures to emulate, all fully accepting and caring and the kind of cast that each teen in this world truly need surrounding them.

Christina Lauren tackled two sensitive subjects with grace and heart and, in their unique way of telling the story, made it very easy to instantly fall into it. Autoboyography told the tale of a messy, but brutally beautiful love story, and the ride as a reader in experiencing it was wonderfully exhilarating. This is storytelling at its best, at its most unputdownable, top-of-its-game best. Every parent, every teen, every adult needs to experience the sheer beauty behind the power of love and how strength comes from opening your heart rather than closing it off.

 

♦ABOUT THE AUTHOR♦

Christina Lauren is the combined pen name of long-time writing partners/besties/soulmates Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings. The #1 international bestselling coauthor duo writes both Young Adult and Adult Fiction, and together has produced fourteen New York Times bestselling novels. They are published in over 30 languages, have received multiple starred reviews from Kirkus Reviews and Library Journal, won both the Seal of Excellence and Book of the Year from RT Magazine, and have been featured in publications such as ForbesThe Washington PostTimeEntertainment WeeklyO Magazine and more. Their third YA novel, Autoboyography will be released in September, followed by a contemporary romance, Roomies in December.

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REVIEW: The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell

The Last Magician Book One; Young Adult

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Stop the Magician. Steal the book. Save the future.

In modern-day New York, magic is all but extinct. The remaining few who have an affinity for magic—the Mageus—live in the shadows, hiding who they are. Any Mageus who enters Manhattan becomes trapped by the Brink, a dark energy barrier that confines them to the island. Crossing it means losing their power—and often their lives.

Esta is a talented thief, and she’s been raised to steal magical artifacts from the sinister Order that created the Brink. With her innate ability to manipulate time, Esta can pilfer from the past, collecting these artifacts before the Order even realizes she’s there. And all of Esta’s training has been for one final job: traveling back to 1902 to steal an ancient book containing the secrets of the Order—and the Brink—before the Magician can destroy it and doom the Mageus to a hopeless future.

But Old New York is a dangerous world ruled by ruthless gangs and secret societies, a world where the very air crackles with magic. Nothing is as it seems, including the Magician himself. And for Esta to save her future, she may have to betray everyone in the past.

 

♦4-STAR REVIEW♦

A time-traveling historical with romance and the paranormal, The Last Magician is an intricately woven tale of adventure and danger. Set mostly in the early 1900s, Maxwell really set the scene of Old New York, a time of gangs and power seekers, but with the added flare of magic. One could almost see the costumes, feel the cigarette smoke clogging the air, and ache with the impossible struggle for survival in a divided city (a bit reminiscent of Gangs of New York).

With the twist of magic, Maxwell’s story takes readers deep into the struggle of the magic-having and the magic-less; the Mageus versus The Order, those without magic but feeling owed it or in eradicating it (or them) completely. Being tasked with travelling back in time to stop the Magician from stealing the book that could be the answer to saving magic and those with it for the future, her own time, Esta is wholly unprepared for the time she arrives in and all of its landmines. She’s alone, thrust in a time where nothing is remotely the same, and with characters that she has no idea how to read; her fear and lack of knowing how to complete her task without changing anything else in the future was palpable. And even with her affinity, Maxwell allowed her to feel unsure of herself and to struggle with finding who she was among a whole cast of characters (that were equally as diverse and palpable), qualities that likened her to the reader and made her visceral.

The parallel between the dividing of the people in this story mirrors greatly the division of race in the real world. With the Mageus being immigrants to New York, possessing of a quality that frightens those without it, I couldn’t help but see the direct references to our world. I have no idea if this was something the author meant to tie it to, and even if not, there are many interpretations that a reader could make with it. There was such strength, though, in risking that connection or powering into it with full intent, most especially in the easy way she wrote it. The passion Maxwell put into her characters, the issues, and the worldbuilding was beautifully done from start to finish, and it was unlike anything I had read before.

With a big story such as this, both in length and in worldbuilding, I wasn’t surprised to find it slow for some of the first half as it set the scene. Maxwell really rolled up her sleeves and dug in when making this an accurate and well-thought-out book that featured heavily in alchemy and magic. And, to me, it felt like much more than a Young Adult story in that the characters felt well beyond their years, expectant of those down-trodden times, and that it was so very detailed. The twists and turns were vast and quite frequent once the story got going, and I flew through the last half of the book in no time at all. The Last Magician was a unique and grand adventure, one that is just getting started. And I am desperate for the second half of this story.

 

♦ABOUT THE AUTHOR♦

Lisa Maxwell

Lisa Maxwell is the author of Sweet Unrest (2014), Gathering Deep (2015), and Unhooked (Simon Pulse, Feb. 2016). She’s worked as a bookseller, editor, and teacher. She has a PhD in English, and when she’s not writing books, she’s a professor at a local college. She lives near DC, where she spends her weekends taking all sorts of adventures with her family.

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