Pride, Prejudice, and Lawyers (Pride & Prejudicial – Danica Dawn)

Pride & Prejudicial

Pride & Prejudicial, Danica Dawn
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Romance, Retellings, Jane Austen Fan Fiction
Length: 258 pages
Contains: underage drinking, language, references to date rape drugs, a drag show, suggestive content, and way too many movie star comparisons
My rating: 3 stars
For Liza Bennett, finding a husband is the last thing on her mind. Unfortunately for her, it is the very first thing on her mother’s.

This time, the failed matchmaking attempt just so happens to be with the richest, most arrogant, most handsome lawyer in the country, Will Darcy. Even worse, Liza has vowed to hate Will for all of eternity.

When Liza’s plans for her father’s law firm crumble, and her family’s legacy is threatened, it is Will Darcy who steps in to save the failing firm. More than numbers are analyzed as deals are struck and feelings are thrown into the mix.

Saving the family business is complicated when her heart is part of the bottom line.

WARNING: The following review contains very minor spoilers. Click here to read the review with hidden spoilers.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single woman in possession of a law degree, significant student debt, and a crippling fear of blind dates must be in want of a husband.
HAH! False.
For Liza Bennett that entire thought process was a hard pass, no thank you, and never going to happen. The real truth for Liza was this: a single woman with a law degree and a quarter of a million dollars in student loans could barely manage to find time for a proper pedicure, let alone date to find a husband.

This isn’t a terrible interpretation as far as P&P retellings go. There are some clever modernizations. Collins’ uncle, co-founder of Bennet & Collins, had stipulated in the by-laws all partners must be male, Catherine de Bourgh is a 12th District judge, Pemberley is the premier law school…Even though this is the second time I’ve seen it, I love the idea of Lizzy’s family as ambulance chasers. It’s such a great reason for Lady Catherine’s disdain.

Mrs. Bennet is a former beauty queen with a love for pageantry and her older sister is a widow living off her husband’s wealth, enjoying luxury, unnecessary plastic surgery, and the company of much younger, gorgeous men. Their background as self-supporting high schoolers after leaving their parents’ hippie commune gives more credence to Mrs. Bennet’s wedding fever and adds some depth to her character. I also appreciated the fact that Jane wasn’t just some doe-eyed sap oblivious to Caroline’s slights. I actually wasn’t a huge fan of Liza in this adaption though. There were times when she came across as uncharacteristically naive, entitled, and even whiny at times.

It was harder to enjoy the Liza/Darcy dynamic when I wasn’t fully sold on her as a character. Also, the many, many references to Darcy as pale (like a “well-manicured ghost”) wasn’t exactly a compelling argument for his attractiveness. The romance in general was kind of sappy. There are descriptions of “oddly arousing forearms” and compliments like “you look like a complete vixen!” As with other modern adaptations, the Hunsford proposal becomes an awkward mix of formal and colloquial that doesn’t work. The second confession scene (singing and dancing with 10 year olds? Really??) was a little cheesy.

The writing was a bit disappointing largely because of the lack of proper editing.

Not only were there formatting errors, but there were a ton of weird verb tenses and grammatical mistakes. It’s a little surprising that it came from a paralegal, to be honest, but how did they not get caught before getting cleared for publishing?

Other than that, the pacing felt a little off, the story felt a bit flat at times, and Collins and his parrots were strange and distracting, even if they were based off of a real life experience. There were some cameos from other Austen characters (Henry Crawford, Anne Elliot, Dr. Perry, and Pastor Elton’s wife) that were kind of fun, though. It’s a cute retelling, but nothing spectacular. and seriously, SO many editing errors.

Emma Woodhouse Meets HGTV (Austen Inspirations: Emma’s Match – Franky A. Brown)

Emma's Match (Austen Inspirations Book 3)

Emma’s Match, Franky A. Brown
Genre: Fiction, Romance, Contemporary, “Clean Romance,” Retellings, Jane Austen Fan Fiction
Length: 245 pages
Contains: brief allusions to alcoholism and mentions of gun use
My rating: 2 stars
Emma Wallace has a plan up her sleeve to save her struggling design business, but not a clue what do to about the man who has her heart.

Stealing a kiss from Will Knight years ago ended in an embarrassment she didn’t want to repeat. But when a popular new designer in town starts taking her clients and has eyes on Will, too, Emma decides it’s time to fight for what she wants. The perfectly irritating designer she wants to shove into a hole isn’t the only one who can be down-to-earth and likeable. After all, Emma’s never failed at anything…except walking the line between friendship and love. Crossing it again could mean losing Will’s friendship for good. 

WARNING: The following review contains minor spoilers. Click here to read the review with hidden spoilers.

“We’ve been friends our whole lives.”
She chuckles. “So why’d you kiss him?”
My cheeks burn and I pull my legs into my chest. “I…temporarily lost my mind. He’s…well, he’s a very attractive man…and it was dark in the middle of nowhere…I’m under a lot of stress.”
“Okay.” Yeah, she’s not convinced.
“I fell in love with him when I was seventeen. But that ended.”
“You just turned it off like a switch, huh?”
“He is solidly in the friend zone, I assure you. He has to stay there.”

I knew this was not going to be great, but I’m so desperate for some modern Emma that I’m still reading this disappointing series because there are only so many times you can watch the BBC miniseries. Which is how I ended up watching yet another author butcher dearest Emma.

This is actually the most faithful rendition of the trio, though it’s not like it had stiff competition. But while it was actually a somewhat decent representation of the original story, Brown missed the most important part.

Yet again we have a story where Emma is hopelessly in love with her best friend. Apparently Emma’s “girlish crush” led to a disastrous kiss that nearly ruined their friendship when she was a teenager, so she has to bury her feelings. In case you can’t tell, I am rolling my eyes so hard. I love the Emma/Knightley dynamic, but modern authors seem intent on ruining it by turning it into some fake unrequited love thing. The “crap-I-love-him” scene is the best because Emma spends the whole book thinking she’s little Miss Know It All and then she realizes she’s been so blind and it’s amazing.

So it’s annoying when authors decide to kick off their books with an Emma attracted to Knightey because it totally ruins the story. Like I get the unrequited love x childhood friends trope appeal, I really do, but if you want to write about that can you just make your own story and not pretend you’re modernizing Austen’s? Anyway, halfway through the book, they’re already kissing, so we’re robbed of the Emma Epiphany and get a stupid “miscommunication” plotline instead. It’s super tragic.

None of the characters were particularly interesting. Jillian Fairfax is way too cheery and perky. Emma is as self-deluded as ever but doesn’t really have the endearing goodness to make it tolerable. Knightley is…I don’t know, a generic love interest? He’s not really grumpy or critical and is actually kind of a pushover. It’s all so disappointing.

I have some other complaints, but I’m starting to feel like a broken record. Bad writing, cheesy plot, random female-bashing there’s no Frank Churchill, so we get a love triangle. I guess the one thing Austen Inspirations has going for it is consistency?

Sweet Tea and Anne Elliot (Austen Inspirations: None But You – Franky A. Brown)

None But You

None But You , Franky A. Brown
Genre: Fiction, Romance, Contemporary, “Clean Romance,” Retellings, Jane Austen Fan Fiction
Length: 238 pages
Contains: mild female bashing, too many love triangles, and references to Twilight
My rating: 1 star
Anna never expected to see Erick Walsworth again. Breaking off their engagement eight years ago was the worst decision of her life. But her bitter regret is nothing compared to pretending she’s not still in love with him. Especially while having to watch a perfect girl like Piper Ashley hang on his arm.

With circumstances throwing them together and a best friend insisting on playing matchmaker, Anna can’t escape the one question she fears most: What happens if she can’t convince her first love to give her a second chance?

WARNING: The following review contains minor spoilers. Click here to read the review with hidden spoilers.

You broke my heart, Anna Ellington. And I’m tempted to let you do it again, but that wouldn’t be good for either of us. I need some time to think.

My love for Persuasion may be new, but it is strong. After my first Austen Inspiration, I wasn’t expecting much from Franky Brown, but I’d had a long day and needed something chill that wouldn’t hurt my brain. I haven’t come across very many Persuasion retellings in my attempt to read all the modern Austen on Kindle Unlimited and wanted a break from P&P, so I thought I’d give None But You a shot. I will say that it wasn’t as bad as I thought it’d be and was a bit closer to its source material than Pride and Butterflies was, but that’s not exactly hard to do.

The writing is not great, stylistically or practically. The story starts out bombarding us with character names that nobody cares about yet, the story feels choppy, and the writing and a bit juvenile at times. Flashbacks are carelessly thrown in, the romance is cheesy and the attempts at humor are so corny they’re laughable. There was a clever lieutenant/captain joke that was a nod to Captain Wentworth, but Brown kept throwing it around and it got old really fast.

Also, I’m sorry, but “coy pond,” really? I get if Brown was in a rush, accidentally used autocorrect incorrectly, and/or genuinely doesn’t know how to spell “koi,” but how did that get past the editor and the publisher? Speaking of the editor, we have drop caps for each text message again. I’m really hoping it’s just because I read the Kindle edition on a non-Kindle device because I don’t understand why anyone would choose that format intentionally.

Now on to the actual story, there are some aspects of Persuasion here, but they’re fairly minor. Anne Elliot is level-headed and sensible. Anne Ellington is petty and jealous and constantly needs to control her violent thoughts (a side effect of her competitive nature, maybe?). Her view of other women can be a bit catty at times, and her spastic physically ill reactions to Erick are a far cry from Anne’s unobtrusive nature around Wentworth. It’s also a bit of an Emma crossover/mashup which is 1) confusing because there’s an Emma retelling in the series?? and 2) a bit distracting especially when Emma becomes a bit of a hyperactive nutcase over the whole identity theft mystery. Again, I get that the romance in Persuasion might be a little too slow for modern audience, but having Anne and Erick kiss less than halfway through the book seems a little excessive. Because of that, we get a messy yo-yo relationship instead of slow burn. Everyone and their mom gets involved in their relationship causing the dumbest types of miscommunication and feeding their trust issues in the most frustrating ways possible. The love triangles are a mess, and parental backstory [they hate each other because her dad loved his mom reads like something out of an Asian drama. The note passing thing didn’t, which I assume was supposed to build up to the half-agony, half-hope scene didn’t really work for me. I just have hard time imaging two grown adults using a messenger (Emma) to pass notes like school children, especially when they text each other.

I can’t say I’m disappointed because I wasn’t expecting much, but I can’t say I’d recommend this either.

Secrets, Secrets are No Fun (Backstage Romance: Secrets of a Hollywood Matchmaker – Gigi Blume)

Secrets of a Hollywood Matchmaker (Backstage Romance #2)

Secrets of a Hollywood Matchmaker, Gigi Blume
Fiction, Romance, Contemporary, Retellings, JAFF
Length: 293 pages
Contains: some suggestive content and pop culture references
My rating:
3.5-4 stars
Find a match for the most eligible man in showbiz?
Challenge accepted.

Emma Woods is Hollywood’s brightest star, but she’s got more brewing behind the scenes than the movie musical she’s rehearsing. Determined to find the perfect soulmate for her new friend, she hasn’t any time to think about her own love life–even when director Jaxson Knightly occupies all her daydreams.

Will Emma find a happily ever after for everyone including herself?
Or will Jaxson remain in the friend-zone?

Secrets of a Hollywood Matchmaker is a zany, modern adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma.

WARNING: The following review contains spoilers. Click here to read the review with hidden spoilers.

Badly done, Gigi; badly done, indeed. I think I have a higher tolerance for bad P&P variations because they’re a dime a dozen, but you have to go on a quest just to find an Emma retelling, so I always have such high hopes when I find one. This was doubly disappointing because I actually enjoyed Love and Loathing, so my expectations for Secrets of a Hollywood Matchmaker despite its cheesy title and girly cover were great.

I don’t even know where to begin. Maybe with the random reminders we get of how Emma longs for #friendshipgoals that seemed thrown in and didn’t really fit in with the flow of the story? Or the cringe-worthy descriptions like “I took a deep breath. Because…legs” or “my ovaries went zing!” or “I was melting into a pool of sweet deliverance. Stars exploded, supernovas spun out of control. This was next level stuff”? Or the constant reminders that she has another book? (I mean, I enjoy a good Easter egg/cameo as much as the next person, but recreating the dialogue from the last chapter seems a little much…) Blume would throw Lizzie and Will (The Darcybeth, apparently,) in random scenes presumably for the entertainment of the readers, but the moments weren’t particularly cute or give any insight into their relationship. They were just…there.

The biggest travesty of the book, was how Emma and Knightley’s relationship was totally butchered. I won’t pretend to be as familiar with Emma as I am with Pride and Prejudice, but this seemed like a glaring mistake. Secrets of a Hollywood Matchmaker is less about progression from friendship to romantic love and more about lots of unresolved sexual tension. At one point, Emma has “a sly suspicion Jaxon kept finding excuses to snog,” and I think the same is true of Gigi Blume. From the start, both Emma and Jaxon are aware of their attraction to the other person and feel the need to describe it in the most nauseating way possible:

“I could play Emma’s love interest. Shameless, I know. But after all the times I had to call action and watch countless takes of love scenes of her with other actors, finally, I could be the one to take her in my arms. I could be the one to press my lips to hers. I could be the one to declare my affection to her through scripted dialogue. So what if it was only make believe? So what if we were only playing for the camera? I would have those moments forever imprinted on film instead of only my fantasies.”
“The timbre of his voice was deep and resonating like a thousand mountain of dwarves. I had a sudden desire to search for forgotten gold somewhere in Middle Earth.”
“And why did his teeth have to be so immaculate? And why was I fixating on his teeth like an enthusiastic dentist?”

And those are just a few examples I pulled from the first two chapters. When Knightly’s “come-hither eyes” were mentioned, I literally had to stop reading to go “ew ew ew.” It’s all a little too sappy for me, or as Gigi Blume would say, “cringe level: seven thousand”

Instead, they both try unsuccessfully to ignore their growing attraction to the other person (while looking for any and every excuse to snog) and play the victim of an unrequited love. Here is a shining example of when miscommunication used as a plot device and used poorly. From the book’s onset, they just can’t fight their feelings anymore, but don’t end up together for the most ridiculous reasons possible. The “obstacles” are self-inflicted and aren’t written with much believability. Knightly “conjures up a this false sense of propriety in his relationship with Emma,” and Emma is in a whole lot of denial, which I guess is a bit closer to canon, and tries to ignore how Knightly and hard lines of his chest. I didn’t think Knightly’s secret promise to Mrs. Woods to scare off any men in her daughter’s life was particularly compelling or necessary. One of the great things about the original is the gradual realization of each person’s feelings. Seriously, the “I love Knightley” moment is one of the best parts of Emma. Unfortunately, it doesn’t as much of an impact here, because she’s spent 28 chapters going on and on about how huggable Jaxon is and how he makes her feel like a fiery inferno is sending molten heat to every part of her body, Emma’s epiphany isn’t quite as powerful.

That isn’t to say this isn’t without its merits. Romance notwithstanding, I really enjoy seeing how Blume’s modern interpretation of Emma. Ms. Bates is the frazzled line producer who uses animal gifs and emoji to express her many emotions. Harriet is a Hollywood hopeful who graduated from the overpriced and relatively useless Goddard acting academy. Mrs. Woods is a health-nut with “chemical allergies” and always armed with a bag full of snake oil. Instead of framing Harriet’s portrait, Elton offers to record her singing the song Emma’s written. With no riddle to offer, he writes a single for the B side (titled Monarch of the Sea, of course). Instead of burning her Elton memorabilia, Harriet throws her modern trinkets into the ocean and permanently deletes the stalkerazzi pics from her camera roll. Box Hill becomes a roast session on the beach. It’s all so clever and creative it makes me even more disappointed with how the Emma/Knightly dynamic was handled.

Some final, random thoughts. Why are people tipping with quids in San Diego? Is comparing your love interest to a tiny mite under the surface of your skin supposed to be romantic? Lastly, there are mentions of a Morgan and Clay Tilney of the scorn-worthy Northanger Pictures and the up-and-coming Frerrars Brothers, so I’m guessing Northanger Abbey and Sense and Sensibility will be getting the Backstage Romances treatment in the near future, but where is the Persuasion love??

You can find the rest of my thoughts on the series (yes, I read the whole thing) by following my Backstage Romance tag.

What Is This Feeling? (Backstage Romance: Love and Loathing – Gigi Blume)

Love and Loathing (Backstage Romance #1)

Love and Loathing, Gigi Blume
Fiction, Romance, Contemporary, Retellings, JAFF
Length: 440 pages
Contains: some language, mentions of sexual assault and human trafficking, mentions of self-harm, alcohol use, innuendos, LGBT characters, some hashtags, brand name dropping, slight Caroline-bashing, and a pirate ship’s worth of musical references
My rating: 3.5-4 stars
A spunky chorus girl. A hotshot movie star. An unforgettable stage kiss.

Beth Bennet can’t keep her mind off of Will Darcy–but only because he’s infuriatingly arrogant just like every other Hollywood type she’s known. It’s definitely not because he’s drop-dead gorgeous. If she didn’t need this job so badly, their choreography would be more like stage combat—toe-curling kiss notwithstanding. And since she swore to loathe him for all eternity, falling for him would be an extreme inconvenience.

Will Darcy is only doing this musical as a favor to a friend, and he certainly could do without the distraction from the sassy and spirited Beth Bennet—even if she invades his daydreams like an over-zealous photo bomber.

As sparks fly, riotous drama ensues when they can no longer fight the attraction on and off stage. But when the curtain falls and the lights dim, is their on-stage romance more than just a fantastic performance?

Love and Loathing is a clean romantic comedy and a standalone in the Backstage Romance Book Series.

If you like enemies to lovers chemistry, witty banter, and giggle-inducing humor, you’ll love Gigi Blume’s hilarious retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Buy Love and Loathing today and enjoy the show.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a hotshot movie star must be off his rocker to do regional theater.

Okay, this is why you give books with generic covers and dumb-sounding premises a chance, because sometimes they’ll surprise you and actually be good.

Before I get to the actual review, I’ll preface this by saying I’m not a huge theater buff. I have soundtracks from some of the big musicals, but all I know about Pirates of Penzance comes from Act II, Scene I. Gigi Blume is uses her debut novel to prove to the world she is every bit the “hopeless musical theatre nerd” she claims to be and packs her book with enough musical references to make your head spin.

I’ve read my fair share of modern Pride and Prejudice, and this is one of the betters ones I’ve come across so far. When I’d read the book summary, I was expecting another arrogant hunk version of Darcy, but here we get socially awkward, spastic Darcy. He’s not quite as shy as his namesake, but it’s so refreshing to read Darcy’s internal freak outs and bumbling attempts to act like a functioning human being around his crush. I mean, talk about #relatable.

In terms of plot, Love and Loathing stuck fairly close to canon while managing to offer an original and believable modern interpretation. The musical theater setting actually worked pretty well (minus the surprise duet which felt a little song-fic-y). In place of a sick Jane, we find the actors trapped in an underground vault of a costume room, and it somehow doesn’t feel trope-y. The Netherfield debate about accomplished women turns into an argument about triple threats, Darcy and Lizzie bicker about the need for small talk during lift practice, and it all just works. Collins as the “most spectacular mixture of drill sergeant and drama queen” of a choreographer and the Bennet-Lucas matriarchs’ one-upsmanship via annual/bi-annual family updates is gold.

The story is quirky and fun. My main complaint is that I don’t feel like Lizzie’s trust issues (stemming from baggage from an ex-, of course,) added much. Blume seems to have a good sense of humor, though there are a few instances when it feels like she’s trying a little bit too hard (“he was a haughty hottie,” really?). After a while, the deluge of musical theater and hipster-geek references start to reek of desperation (of the “I’m a cool mom” variety).

There are also some really cringe-worthy passages throughout. A leggy soprano, a Latin demigod carved from Quetazlcoati’s hot chocolate, a ninja trained to make women swoon with his brooding glower are just some of the descriptions we get for the lovely cast. Lizzie, inexplicably, is “a hot little pixie.” Love interests make Lizzie feel “gooey and soft” or like “an electric charge sparked and turned my innards into molten lava.” (There are a few more food analogies, but I’ll spare you). We also get some real gems including but not limited to:

“She squeezed Jane’s arm, snapping a selfie. ‘Hashtag Stanley Sisters.’ She posted the photo immediately with the addition of #piratebootycall.”
“my heart sped up just a little as he passed by me on the way to his seat. The molecules in my personal space were disrupted in the ripple he caused.”
“This underacting action star looked at me like a vegan would look like a plate full of raw meat.”
“I shrank into myself, flushed from the inferno he diffused from his infuriatingly brawny figure. His entire presence was imposing, invading my senses with whatever scent that was. It was unique to him and mingled provocatively with the minty freshness of his toothpaste. It was intoxicating and swoony.”

Blume also has a strange penchant for the word “twitterpated” (maybe it was the word of the day when she was writing?) and an unfortunate habit of using bowels to describe things. Also, what is with the pervasive use of “magnetism” to describe Lizzie/Darcy’s relationship? Is this part of a Jimmy Fallon challenge I don’t know about? Is it some kind of buzzword agents are looking for that signifies a P&P retelling worth reading? Is it a condition universally required before modern Austen stories can be published? (Maybe the requirement is written in the same place that dictates Fitz has to be gay).

Still, if you’re looking for a modern P&P retelling, you might want to give Love and Loathing a shot. Trust me, there’s much worse out there.

You can find the rest of my thoughts on the series (yes, I read the whole thing) by following my Backstage Romance tag.

Lights, Camera, Fall in Love (Backstage Romance: Confessions of a Hollywood Matchmaker – Gigi Blume)

Confessions of a Hollywood Matchmaker (Backstage Romance #0.5)

Confessions of a Hollywood Matchmaker, Gigi Blume
Fiction, Contemporary, Romance, Retellings, Spin-offs, Jane Austen Fan Fiction
Length: 107 pages
Contains: pop culture refrrences, brand name dropping,
My rating: 3 stars
Lights, camera, fall in love.

Hollywood’s sweetheart Emma Woods is perfectly content without a boyfriend, thank you very much. But what’s a girl to do when she’s a romantic at heart? Play Cupid, of course! She’ll do whatever it takes to set her makeup artist up on a date with the studio’s gorgeous set designer. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.

But when her swoony perma-friend Jaxson Knightly disapproves, her matchmaking scheme comes at a higher price than she’d bargained for. He may be the nicest man in showbiz, but he’s about to get downright icy if Emma can’t prove her antics won’t end in disaster. Again.
How can she win other people’s happily-ever-after without losing the friendship of the one man that matters most?
Confessions of a Hollywood Matchmaker is a contemporary Austen-Inspired romantic comedy and a prequel to the Backstage Romance Book Series.

Yes, I actually (temporarily) signed up for Gigi Blume’s email list for this. You can bet I unsubscribed as soon as I could.

I’ll let you in on a secret. I have a superpower. Not just any superpower like flying or x-ray vision. Pointless parlor tricks in my opinion. I use my skill set for a far more noble cause. I give people their happily ever after.
Call me a philanthropist of the heart. The Mother Teresa of matchmaking if you will-but with snazzier footwear. Emma Woods, actress by day, Cupid in stilettos by night. It was my selfless charity. every other actor in Hollywood had a charity. Some raised money for libraries or animal shelters. All worthy causes, yes. But me, I volunteered countless hours to bring lonely hearts together. And I was bloody good at it.

It should be a truth universally acknowledged that a market saturated with Pride and Prejudice variations must be in want of other Austen retellings…right? Somehow P&P gets all the love and, Emma and Persuasion are left by the wayside. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good P&P (if you’ve seen my recent reviews, IKYK), but I am always, always, always looking for modern Emma in my life.*

The opening paragraphs had me hooked, because if Emma Woodhouse lived in the 21st century, she would be a self-assured actress ready to bestow the gift of love to all the poor singles of Hollywood. Sadly, the rest of it didn’t quite live up to my expectations. It wasn’t a bad story per se–I’ve been burned by short stories touted as prequels or sequels or companion pieces before, and this was a surprisingly good one–it just wasn’t really Emma. I know this wasn’t meant to be a full retelling, despite a few nods to the original, but my main issue was the Emma-Knightley relationship. Their dynamic was cute, but Emma seemed a little too cognizant of Knightley’s attractiveness. She’s also weirdly obsessed with his teeth and annoyingly sappy. Like “I have a soft spot for hot cocoa, shortbread bickies, and fuzzy socks. And Jaxson’s smile was a fuzzy sock for my soul.” sappy. I don’t mean to be overly critical; it’s a pretty good short-story that actually pretty engaging and enjoyable. Here’s hoping the follow-up is even better and satisfies my modern-Emma craving.

*Also Persuasion, but we just met, so my struggle hasn’t been quite as long

You can find the rest of my thoughts on the series (yes, I read the whole thing) by following my Backstage Romance tag.

Magic, Storytelling, and Indian Myths (The Bookweaver’s Daughter – Malavika Kannan)

The Bookweaver's Daughter

The Bookweaver’s Daughter, Malavika Kannan
Fantasy, YA Fiction
Length: 250 pages
Contains: some language and mild violence
My rating: 2.5 stars
The Bookweaver’s Daughter is an #OwnVoices YA fantasy—a tale of magic, Indian lore, and radical female friendship, written by debut author, Malavika Kannan, when she was 17 year old. Malavika is an Indian-American novelist, feminist writer, and political activist raised in the suburbs of Central Florida and currently a freshman at Stanford University.

In the ancient Indian kingdom of Kasmira, stories don’t begin with “once upon a time.”

Instead, Kasmiris start a woman’s story with those who came before her: her parents, grandparents, ancestors. For fourteen-year-old Reya Kandhari, her story always starts the same: with the fabled line of Bookweavers, tracing centuries back to the lost Yogis—the mythical guardians of Kasmiri culture who created the world itself. As a result, Reya’s entire life has been shaped by words. Words of mystique and mythology. Words of magic that allow her father, the Bookweaver, to bring his stories to life. Words of power that make him the target of tyrants who will stop at nothing to destroy magic in Kasmira.

Living in disguise as a peasant in the fields, Reya’s sole focus is protecting the Bookweaver’s secret. But when her father is taken, Reya must flee deep into the jungle, alone with her best friend Nina and one ancient book. Grappling with Reya’s newfound magic, the two girls find themselves in the center of a war of liberation where magic reigns unchecked, and destiny takes a dark turn. As the stakes get higher, Reya realizes that her father’s legacy contains more power than she ever imagined. For Reya Kandhari is more than just a fugitive—she is a symbol of revolution. And that makes her a threat.

In a tale of magic, Indian lore, and radical female friendship, Reya must pass the final test: the Bookweaver’s daughter must weave her own destiny. The fate of Kasmira depends on it.

Another non-sponsored, non-incentivized review brought to you by NetGalley (and Tanglewood Publishers).

The Bookweaver’s Daughter comes out this September.

The Bookweaver once told me that when we die, we all leave something behind.

A cobbler leaves behind a legacy of warmly clad feet; a baker leaves behind memories of sated stomachs; a writer leaves behind a testament to our humanity.

I wanted so badly to love this. I mean, an #ownvoices book about storytelling and Indian folklore? Also, Prince Devendra was introduced fairly early on and was giving off major Zuko vibes which got me excited.

Unfortunately, neither he nor the other characters have much of a character arc or any kind of development. Despite the promising premise, but the world building and characters needed to be fleshed out a lot more. This story actually had a lot of potential, but it just didn’t feel done. If this were a rough or early draft, it would’ve easily gotten a higher rating from me. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like there will be enough time between now and the expected publication date in September for the kind of heavy lifting that this book needs.

The pacing is a jerky, and Kannan isn’t able to establish any kind of flow. After the first half of the book, I thought I was in for a trilogy, but the last half was a whirlwind of action, drama, and (light) romance that left much to be desired. The ending, especially, felt rushed and unsatisfactory. I’m all for standalone fantasies-I think YA has developed an unnecessary obsession with series-but this is much too short of a book for what Kannan is trying to accomplish. This really should be the type of story that draws a reader in and makes him/her sit and stew in the world that’s been created, but in actuality, The Bookweaver’s Daughter can easily be read in an hour or two and then forgotten. It follows familiar themes and tropes in fantasy without building off of them in an original way, so the story feels shallow and flat. Again, the bare bones of the story are there, but it just suffers from a lack of polish. There are some sections of gorgeous writing that hint at what Kannan is capable of but bits of colloquialism slip in from time to time, disrupting the tone she’s trying to set.

This is a valiant effort. I mean, props to Kannan for getting a book published at 18. When I was 18, I was…reading a ton of YA. (I guess not much has changed). Unfortunately, Kannan didn’t capitalize on the world building or develop her characters much, and the story just feels like it’s lacking in terms of execution.

The Kingdom of Copper (The Daevabad Trilogy #2)

The Kingdom of Copper (The Daevabad Trilogy, #2)

Kingdom of Copper, S.A. Chakraborty
Fiction, Fantasy, Historical, Epic, Action & Adventure
Length: 625 pages
Contains: language, LGBT relationships, suggestive content, and violence
Summary: Nahri’s life changed forever the moment she accidentally summoned Dara, a formidable, mysterious djinn, during one of her schemes. Whisked from her home in Cairo, she was thrust into the dazzling royal court of Daevabad and quickly discovered she would need all her grifter instincts to survive there.

Now, with Daevabad entrenched in the dark aftermath of the battle that saw Dara slain at Prince Ali’s hand, Nahri must forge a new path for herself, without the protection of the guardian who stole her heart or the counsel of the prince she considered a friend. But even as she embraces her heritage and the power it holds, she knows she’s been trapped in a gilded cage, watched by a king who rules from the throne that once belonged to her familyand one misstep will doom her tribe.

Meanwhile, Ali has been exiled for daring to defy his father. Hunted by assassins, adrift on the unforgiving copper sands of his ancestral land, he is forced to rely on the frightening abilities the marid, the unpredictable water spirits, have gifted him. But in doing so, he threatens to unearth a terrible secret his family has long kept buried.

And as a new century approaches and the djinn gather within Daevabad’s towering brass walls for celebrations, a threat brews unseen in the desolate north. It’s a force that would bring a storm of fire straight to the city’s gates . . . and one that seeks the aid of a warrior trapped between worlds, torn between a violent duty he can never escape and a peace he fears he will never deserve.

In honor of Empire of Gold‘s release (finally), I give you the second installment of the Daevabad Trilogy recaps!

For more Daevabad info, check out my City of Brass recap or S. A. Chakraborty’s quick Daevabad world guide.

…and we’re back!

Remember how Ghassan kicked his little boy out of the kingdom and sent him into the Outlands? Well, assassins were after him within a month. He’s rescued from the desert by some Geziris, Lubayd and Aqisa. Apparently, he made a mini-oasis while he was passed out, so they want to keep him around.

Back in Daevabad, Nahri and Manizheh “celebrate” their wedding night by exchanging some terse civilities and not much else. Neither are particularly happy with the arrangement, but they’ll make the most of it.

Meanwhile, Dara enjoys a peaceful death with his sister until he’s rudely interrupted by a random woman and three ifrit. He’s been “freed” from Suleiman’s curse. He has unlimited magic but looks rather beastly. He also can’t go back into Daevabad because of it. Oh, and that woman who saved him? It’s Manizheh, Nahri’s not-so-dead mom. Surprise!

Alright, now that we’ve gotten the prologue out of the way and are all caught up, let’s get down to business. Navasatem is approaching and daeva are coming from all over because they wish to go to the festival. After all, it only happens once a century. In the middle of the hectic preparations, Nahri and Zaynab slip away and discover an old Nahid hospital where three former slaves–Issa, Eshaia, and Razu–have been hiding since Dara’s death. Like Dara, they have neither heartbeat nor signs of insanity. The discovery has helped Nahri find a new dream–she wants to restore the hospital to its former glory.

She shares her discovery with Nisreen who already knows all about the hospital and its awful history. It was the site of Zaydi’s first conquest. He led the Qahtanis and the shafit in the indiscriminate slaughter of healers and patients. The young and the old fell victim to zulfiqars and rumi fire, a tar-like substance created by humans that can burn Daevas. TL;DR – it’s a place best avoided. We also learn that Jamshid’s body resists Nahri’s healing and that the king is rounding up anyone who speaks out against his new taxes on Daevas.

Out in the middle of nowhere, Manizheh orders Dara to capture some Geziri soldiers. When he brings the hostages back to the camp, he finds Kaveh waiting. They are not happy to see each other, but they have to work together. They plan to attack during Navasatem and use the marid to get Dara into the city. He wants to involve Nahri in the planning, but he’s overruled.

Out in the other middle of nowhere, Ali has literally made a home of sorts with the Geziris in his oasis, Bir Nabat. Just as things are going swimmingly, Musa, a distant Ayaanle relative, appears bearing urgent news from the general–things in Daevabad are bad: crime is soaring, the Royal Guard can barely afford to feed its soldiers, let alone provision them with proper weapons, shafit are being sold on the block, and none of his immediate family members are coping with his excel well. (His mom’s started a trade war with the capital). Musa doesn’t take rejection well because when Ali refuses to join him on his journey to Daevabad, he sabotages the people’s well and flees, leaving his cursed salt behind. Literally. It’s cursed, so that only Ayaanle can handle it, and it’s a delivery meant for the king. So Ali’s forced to go back home or risk the wrath of his father (again). At least he’ll have Lubayd and Aqisa with him. Can somebody say, road trip??

Back to our lucky bird inside a gilded cage, Nahri catches a safit man stealing from her garden and learns there’s a doctor hiding in the city, treating patients. She manages to get a name and address — Subhashini Sen, the house with the red door on Sukariyya Street. She also spies on her husband and Jamshid arguing about politics and their relationship (or lack thereof). Awkward. Since they’re kinda bonding, Nahri decides to tell Muntadhir she’s got a dream. He quickly shoots it down saying tensions between the shafit and Daeva are too volatile for her to be thinking about working with them right now. Also because he dad just told him Ali’s coming home. 

Dara begins preparing the young Daeva warriors Manizheh scrounged up from who knows where. He forces Abu Sayf, the oldest Geziri hostage, to spar with his little soldiers. He and Manizheh go on a little trip to visit the ifrit. They don’t take Kaveh with them because Ghassan’s daddy tortured her brother to punish her and it taught her to keep secret boyfriends secret. Apparently the peris have left the clouds to sing their warnings on the wind. They say the marid have overstepped. That they broke the rules and are to be called to account—punished by the lesser being to whom they owe blood. They owe Dara a blood debt for killing him (not really sure how that works, but okay,) and it’s time to pay. The ifrit tells Dara to kill a human marid worshiper to anger the seapeople and lure them out from their hiding place. He’s supposedly the only one who can do it without fearing retribution from the marid because of the blood debt and everything. At this point we learning that there’s power in worship and the marid have lost most of their fangirls. We’re also reminded that the marid used to be friends with the Anahid and helped the build the city which I’m guessing will be important at some point. Anyway, the angry marid appear and make the dead human look like the puppet Ali was when he killed Dara (apparently that was a “mistake” and they broke the rules). There’s some vague talk about history before they finally talk business. The marid’s mysterious talk pricks at Dara’s conscience, but he gets over that because the Nahid must be obeyed. The marid will let Dara cross their lake and take down the Citadel tower, and the blood debt will be paid. Speaking of the lake, Ali crosses it and hears voices. They deliver the salt just in time to see shafits being sold. Ali offers up his zulfiqar as payment and announces to the whole world Prince Ali is back. A bunch of his daddy’s guards come to greet him. One secretly lets it slip that many of the Royal Guard are still loyal to him. His brother is less happy to see him,  but daddy sends him away. He gives Ali Dara’s dagger as a welcome home present and tells him to stay until Navasatem is over. He leaves him his zulfiqar, along with papers documenting the shafit sale. He goes to visit Nahri, giving her the dagger as a peace offering, but she’s still pissed. Her day goes from bad to worse when she tries to heal Jamshid and ends up in an argument with a drunken Muntadhir, leaving her feeling helpless and homesick. Ali, on the other hand, finally gets a genuine welcome home from his sister who takes him to see mother dearest. Queen Hatset is a scary lady, but at least she adopted the shafit family that keeps being sold and resold to the Qahtanis? She claims the Tanzeem conspiracy was the work of a cousin and that when she found out, it was off with his head. She lectures him about how to save the city and then realizes he has marid scars. He tells her the whole story, and she tells him her people only see these marks on corpses, so I guess he’s special. Hatset promises to help him hide his secret and find answers. After all, mother knows best. At his welcome home banquet, Ali gets poisoned. Nahri saves him, discovers Ali’s scars, and gets on Hastset’s good side. All in a day’s work. She and Ali have a little heart-to-heart. He tells her about his nightmare in the lake–including a vision of Dara returning into his true form.

Dara and Abu Sayf chat, and we get the vibes that something shady’s going on. Apparently Manizheh has been taking the captives blood and their relics. Dara is getting annoyed by all her secrets. The two men trade war stories tinged with regret.Nahri tricks Ali into taking her to the secret doctor who’s a shafit woman practicing human medicine. Nahri’s in awe and tries to recruit Subha to join her in restoring the hospital. She tells the two to get the king’s approval and some money and some plans before she’ll consider it. which makes sense because otherwise she and her family might, you know, die.

We learn that Ali’s secret poisoner was…drum roll, please…Jamshid! Apparently he found some of Manizheh’s old notes about poisons and was not happy Muntadhir was not happy with Ali’s return and here we are. Nisreen is the only one who’s discovered the truth and sends a message to Manizheh she’ll take the blame if Jamshid is discovered. The Nahid and Kaveh continue planning, leaving out they key details even though Dara is supposed to lead the charge or whatever. Ever the dutiful, honor-bound servant, he doesn’t ask too many questions even though all the alarm bells should be going off right now. He has a depressing chat with Kaveh about guilt and violence and love. Dara leaves thinking about the seemingly never-ending bloodshed and vows to end the war once and for all. At the Qahtani family breakfast, Ali and Nahri present their hospital proposal. Apparently one of the men there is an eccentric relative of Hatset (you know, that odd uncle who, well, maybe let’s let that pass). Their goal is to create a hospital-school combo. They manage to convince the king it’ll be a good show of support for the Daeva and the shafit. Everyone’s onboard except Muntadhir, but Nahri is beyond caring. They have a lot to do if they want to open by Navasatem, so she recruits an excited Jamshid as her first student, but Nisreen is not as excited. Nahri starts scoping out her hospital. Ali makes an allusion to a dark and tragic past before the massacre, but says Nahri is better off not knowing. That seems to be the theme for the book.

Dara decides they’ll stage their attack on the second night of Navasatem, hoping most of the city will be too hungover to respond. The Geziri must sense they’re running out of time because the Abu Sayf decides to try to stage a jailbreak. He manages to kill Mardoniye before he’s stopped. Manizheh calms the angry Afshins by letting in on her little experiments. She’s been trying to perfect the poison Jamshid’d found. It’s attracted to Geziri relics, grows upon consuming them, and kills its bearer. She uses Abu Sayf as an example and the men watch him die a painful death. It also kills the rest of the captives. Dara and Kaveh are a little weary of Manizheh’s ruthlessness, but the show must go on. The Grand Wazir leaves to get things ready back in the city, when Dara realizes the poisonous vapor has stretched as far as the eye can see. He goes to talk to his master who already knows. Apparently she’s been trying to find a way to contain it and make it less powerful, but they’re out of time and she still doesn’t have an answer. Oh well. She doesn’t seem too bothered by the fact that she’ll probably kill every Geziri in city by trying to kill their king. Angry, Dara tries to stop Kaveh from releasing the poisonous gas, but Manizheh blackmails him into staying. Also, Jamshid is her secret son, and Dara kinda, sorta almost killed him.

Ali and Lubayd go to shut down the shafit selling business and then find out it was run by Muntadhir’s cousin. Unfortunately, the awkward confrontation is also a public one. No warm fuzzies for these brothers. Muntadhir tries to drown his sorrows in alcohol, but nothing helps. Since he’s out of commission, his siblings go with Nahri to Daeva Quarters to present their plans to restoring the hospital. Jamshid helps Nahri convince the elders to support her new dream.

Ali and his mom go to visit crazy uncle Issa to pick his brain about the marid. The marid asked for his name so they could make a pact:

“If a marid accepts your sacrifice, you’re brought under its protection. And they’ll give you almost anything you could desire during your mortal life. But in the end? The acolyte owes their lifeblood. And the marid possess them to take it.” His eyes swept over Ali. “You don’t survive such a thing.”

Be careful what you wish for. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have much information about Ali’s newfound waterbending abilities. Hatset admits “a very slight affinity with water magic” runs in the family, but it usually goes away when the child reaches their teenage years, kind of a reverse puberty. Hatset promises to give Issa all the scrolls she can find in exchange for answers.

Ali then goes to bond with the other side of the family. Ghassan tells his oldest to hurry up and make some babies to secure the peace between the Geziri and the Daeva. Just when you think things couldn’t get any worse, a Daeva woman comes begging for help. She claims the shafit camped outside the hospital killed her husband. Ali suspects she’s in cahoots with Kaveh, but he’s overruled by the other two who tell him to leave it alone. He drags Nahri into the mess and the two go to the hospital where they find tents burned to the ground and bodies everywhere. Nahri and Subha heal the shafit. Ghassan punishes Ali for his disobedience by grounding him. He has to stay in the hospital to continue the work and can only communicate with Nahri using a messenger.

Emo Dara prepares for battle. He gives a rousing pep talk to the younguns even though he doesn’t really support the plan. (He doesn’t even have a girl worth fighting for anymore). He overuses his magic in his “mortal” form and tries to transform into his “true” state when…

The heat came … but it wasn’t fire that wrapped his limbs. It was an airy whisper of nothingness.
And then Dara was gone. Weightless. Formless, and yet more alive than he’d ever been. He could taste the buzz of an approaching storm on the air and savor the comforting heat from the campfires. The murmur of creatures unseen seemed to call to him, the world glimmering and moving with shadows and shapes and an utter wild freedom that urged him to fly …

He can fly, he can fly, he can fly, he can fly. It’s the best feeling ever. He wants to float away and never come back, but he remembers Manizheh’s threat and the need to protect Nahri in case the plan goes wrong and returns to earth. He learns that that is the daevas true original form. He has a chat with Vizaresh, the irfrit who enslaved him centuries ago, who hints that there’s more to their history than what’s commonly taught. Supposedly, Suleiman’s curse wasn’t just punishment for playing with the humans and the marid have their own version. He alludes to bargains and debts and marids jealous for worship, but Dara isn’t clever enough to put the pieces together. Dara broods some more and thinks about how he doesn’t belong in this world.

Our prince locked away in a tower hospital gets a surprise visit from an old Tanzeem leader. She tells him his father murdered shafit orphans while he was away. She tries to guilt him into telling everyone about the hospital’s secret past. Big Reveal™ time!

Once upon a time, the Nahid Council built a hospital where they experimented on shafit and created a poison. They put the poison on their Geziri soldier’s weapons and sent them on their merry way. What was this poison you ask? It killed shafit but not purebloods. The soldiers went home to their shafit-filled city and accidentally killed their family. The end.

Ali claims he’s tired of the neverending vengence, but the old lady says she’s simply come to warn him that there are rumors that a group of shafit–even more radical than the Tanzeem–are planning to attack during Navasatem. He tries to warn his dad who says he’ll tell the Qaid, but doesn’t comit to much else. Apparently father dearest is torn between declaring him heir to the throne and having him executed. Poor unfortunate soul. The solution he’s come up with is to send Ali back to Am Gezira after the festival where, after renouncing his titles and cutting ties with the Ayaanle, he can spend the rest of his days living the poor provincial life. It’s what he’s always wanted. Too bad Ali’s just learned his father is a tyrant who needs to be taken down. He decides it’s time to rest when he has a vision through the eyes of the marid. He sees daeva swarming a beach, led by Anahita, a so-called healer who stole the marid’s human worshippers. She’s somehow able to speak their language and has a star symbol burned into her cheek. She burns up their water and builds an island, commanding them to help build her city and forcing them to into a small lake. Apparently, Ali is seeing everything through the eyes of the god of the river of salt and gold. He wants to fight back but tentacles pull him back, telling him to hide and find a way to save the marid because they davea are coming back. Lubayd and Aqisa wake Ali up from his nightmare. Apparently, they’ve known about his little secret since they found him, but they’ve kept quiet because they’re not things to be discussed. Aw, frands.

Happy Navasatem! The big day is finally here. For the first time in forever, they’re opening up the hospital doors. She and Ali bond when he gifts her with a library office. He tells her about the threat (which the king conveniently forgot to mention) and about his impending banishment and his treasonous thoughts.

Ghassan tells him he’s planning to marry Zaynab off to a wealthy merchant who lives an ocean away. The news is a surprise to Muntadhir, too, but Ali can’t keep his big mouth shut and accidentally insults him too. He challenges Ali to an archery competition and publicly humiliates him. It’s more than he can bear, really, because as soon as they’re alone, they get into a fist fight. Their sister stops them before they can kill each other. The siblings argue about how to save the city when Ali suggests overthrowing the king. Unfortunately, Muntadhir tells them that’d require getting Suleiman’s seal which is in his heart.

Nahri is being paraded around dressed as Anahid when shafit men attack using guns and bottles of Rumi fire. Jamshid’s back gets burned badly and magically heals before their eyes. Nahri uses her magic to summon sand to put out the Rumi fire. Nisreen dies before she can tell Nahri something. Ali tries to comfort her, but she sends him away so he goes to the Citadel. The Qaid is gone, but the soldiers tell Ali he’s troubled by the king’s orders to destroy the shafit neighborhood even though the shafit behind the attack were found dead. He stages a mini-mutiny (there are only like three soldiers who aren’t loyal to him) and commands the rest of the guards to keep the peace.

Kaveh rushes to find his son and Nahri because “Muntadhir collapsed,” but they’re stopped by the Qaid and royal soldiers who have orders to take Nahri and Kaveh in chains and bring Jamshid with the soldiers.

Ali is faring much better and manages to get a Geziri to sing his song — Ghassan al Qahtani asks that you abide the slaughter of our shafit kin / Zaydi al Qahtani asks you to stop it. Before he can celebrate his victory in the Citadel, the lake turns into a giant monster.

Ghassan’s discovered Kaveh faked the shafit attack on the Daeva man and accuses Nahri of encouraging Ali’s coup. That’s when he decides to spill the big secret–he’s known about Manizheh’s secret son all along. Apparently the seal helps him see a shadow of Suleiman’s mark on every Nahid. Surprise! He’s using Jamshid as leverage to try to get his father to confess he’d faked the camp attack and armed the shafit who attacked the parade and his sister as Ali bait. Since they’re running out of time, Kaveh releases the poison and kills Ghassan. Long live the king.

Muntadhir comes to save his wife, but it’s too little too late. Nahri manages to push him out of the way and convinces him to take out his relic before the poison kills him too. They run away from Kaveh in case he tries to kill them too and go off to look for Muntadhir’s siblings, warn the other Geziri, and find Jamshid. It’s gonna be a long night. They manage to find Zaynab and Aqisa and give them a cliffnotes update. They’re going to go warn more Geziri (apparently Aqisa has been giving Zaynab secret fighting lessons), and the royal couple decides to go back for the seal.

For the second time, Ali wakes up in the middle of the lake during a climatic scene. This time there are ghouls flying around and bodies everywhere. He rounds up what’s left of the soldiers and gives a rousing speech before they set off into battle. Ali uses his magical water powers to help him fight through the attackers. He sees an ifrit murder Lubayd, and then runs into Dara. Reunited and it feels so good.

Dara finds out Ali killed dozens of his best men and loses control, revealing his true form. Before another Qahtani can be killed, Vizaresh convinces Dara to take the path of vegence and is about to make Ali a slave when Dara comes to his senses. Unfortunately, that’s also when Nahri and Muntadhir come to save the day. (They were actually coming for his father’s heart so the seal could form into a ring and trap Muntadhir in the city forever, but they find this happy little scene instead). Nahri attacks Dara, thinking it’s an ifrit trick, until he manages to convince her it’s really him. It’s a terribly awkward reunion.

“The things they say about you are true, aren’t they?” she asked, her voice thick with rising dread. “About Qui-zi? About the war?”
She wasn’t sure what she expected: denial, shame, perhaps overly righteous anger. But the flicker of resentment that flared in his eyes—that took her by surprise.
“Of course they are true,” he said tonelessly. He touched the mark on his brow, a grim salute. “I am the weapon the Nahids made me. Nothing more, nothing less, and apparently for all of eternity.”
With his usual poor timing, Ali chose that moment to speak. “Oh, yes,” he croaked from where he sat on the floor, leaning heavily against his brother. His gray eyes were wild with grief, standing out starkly against his blood-covered face. “You poor, pitiful murdering—”
Muntadhir clapped a hand over Ali’s mouth, but it was too late.

It’s too late because the marid take control of his body again. Dara uses his magic to stop Nahri from interfering, and there’s going to be a big fire-and-water showdown. Muntadhir throws himself between the battle to save his brother and gets hit by a zulfiqar and Nahri uses her magic to stop Dara from killing anyone else. Muntadhir sends his wife and brother to get the seal and distracts Dara with some arrows.

While they’re busy fighting over who should wear the ring/take Suleiman’s seal, Ali and Nahri are interrupted by Manizheh who’s like “surprise! I’m your mom!” She then begins torturing Ali for information on the seal. She claims Nahri is a shafit, and the seal’ll kill her if she tries to take it even though Suleiman was a human. Nahri uses her old con artist skills to pull a bait and switch on her mom, frees Ali, jams the ring onto his finger, and pulls him into the lake with her. (Apparently the marid are gone now).

Also, the Daeva can’t conjure up fire, Muntadhir’s wound stops leaking poison, the sky is falling, and Daevabad has no more magic anymore.

The end!

Just kidding, there’s an end credits scene.

Nahri and Ali wake up in Cario, and now we all have to wait until we can get our hands on book 3.

Heavily or totally inspired by the words of S.A. Chakraborty

The Daevabad Trilogy World


Want more Daevabad Trilogy stuff? Check out my City of Brass and Kingdom of Copper recaps!


Beings of Fire

DAEVA: The ancient term for all fire elementals before the djinn rebellion, as well as the name of the tribe residing in Daevastana, of which Dara and Nahri are both part. Once shapeshifters who lived for millennia, the Daeva had their magical abilities sharply curbed by the prophet Suleiman as a punishment for harming humanity.

DJINN: A human word for ‘daeva.’ After Zaydi al Qahtani’s rebellion, all his followers, and eventually all daevas, began using this term for their race

IFRIT: The original daevas who defied Suleiman and were stripped of their abilities. Sworn enemies of the Nahid family, the ifrit revenge themselves by enslaving other djinn to cause chaos among humanity.

SIMURGH: Scaled firebirds that the djinn are fond of racing.

ZAHHAK: A large, flying, fire-breathing lizard-like beast.

Beings of Water

MARID: Extremely powerful water elementals. Near mythical to the djinn, the marid haven’t been seen in centuries, though it’s rumored the lake surrounding Daevabad was once theirs.

Beings of Air

PERI: Air elementals. More powerful than the djinn—and far more secretive—the peri keep resolutely to themselves.

RUKH: Enormous predatory firebirds that the peri can use for hunting.

SHEDU: Mythical winged lions, an emblem of the Nahid family.

Beings of Earth

GHOULS: The reanimated, cannibalistic corpses of humans who have made deals with the ifrit.

ISHTAS: A small, scaled creature obsessed with organization and footwear.

KARKADANN: A magical beast similar to an enormous rhinoceros with a horn as long as a man.

NASNAS: A venomous creature resembling a bisected human that prowls the desrts of Am Gezira and whose bite causes flesh to wither away.


DIVASTI: The language of the Daeva tribe.

DJINNISTANI: Daevabad’s common tongue, a merchant creole the djinn and shafit use to speak to those outside their tribe.

GEZIRIYYA: The language of the Geziri tribe, which only members of their tribe can speak and understand.

General Terminology

ABAYA: A loose, floor-length, full-sleeved dress worn by women.

ADHAN: The Islamic call to prayer.

AFSHIN: The name of the Daeva warrior family who once served the Nahid Council. Also used as a title.

AKHI: Gerzi for “my brother,” an endearment.

BAGA NAHID: The proper title for male healers of the Nahid family.

BAGA NAHIDA: The proper title for female healers of the Nahid family.

CHADOR: An open cloak made form a semicircular cut of fabric, draped over the head and worn by Daeva women.

DIRHAM/DINAR: A type of currency used in Egypt.

DISHDASHA: A floor-length man’s robe, popular among the Geziri.

EMIR: The crown prince and esignated heir to the Qahtani throne.

Fajr: The dawn hour/dawn prayer.

GALABIYYA: A traditional Egyptian garment, essentially a floor-length robe.

GHUTRA: A male headdress.

HAMMAM: A bathhouse.

ISHA: The late evening hour/evening prayer.

MAGHRIB: The sunset hour/sunset prayer.

MIDAN: A plaza/city square.

MIHRAB: A wall niche indicating the direction of prayer.

MUHTASIB: A market inspector.

NAVASATEM: A holiday held once a century to celebrate another generation of freedom from Suleiman’s servitude. Originally a Daeva festival, Navastem is a beloved tradition in Daevabad, attracting djinn from all over the world to take part in weeks of festivals, parades, and competitions.

QAID: The head of the Royal Guard, essentially the top military official in the djinn army

RAKAT: A unit of prayer.

SHAFIT: Peope with mixed djinn and human blood.

SHAYLA: A type of women’s headscarf.

SHEIKH: A religious educator/leader.

SULEIMAN’S SEAL: The seal ring Suleiman once used to control the djinn, given to the Nahids and later stolen by the Qahtanis. The bearer of Suleiman’s ring can nullify any magic.

TALWAR: An Agnivanshi sword.

TANZEEM: A grassroots fundamentalist group in Daevabad dedicated to fighting for shafit rights and religious reform.

UKHTI: “My sister.”

ULEMA: A legal body of religious scholars.

WAZIR: A government minister.

ZAR: A traditional ceremony meant to deal with djinn possession.

ZUHR: The noon hour/noon prayer.

ZULFIQAR: The forked copper blades of the Geziri tribe; when inflamed, their poisonour edges destroy even Nahid flesh, making them among the deadliest weapons in teh world.



Surrounded by water and caught behind the thick band of humanity in the Fertile Crescent, the djinn of Am Gezira awoke from Suleiman’s curse to a far different world than their fireblooded cousins. Retreating to the depths of the Empty Quarter, to the dying cities of the Nabateans and to the forbidding mountains of southern Arabia, the Geziri eventually learned to share the hardships of the land with their human neighbors, becoming fierce protectors of the shafit in the process. From this country of wandering poets and zulfiqar-wielding warriors came Zaydi al Qahtani, the rebel-turned-king who would seize Daevabad and Suleiman’s seal from the Nahid family in a war that remade the magical world.


Nestled between the rushing headwaters of the Nile River and the salty coast of Bet il Tiamat lies Ta Ntry, the fabled homeland of the mighty Ayaanle tribe. Rich in gold and salt—and far enough from Daevbad that its deadly politics are more game than risk, the Ayaanle are a people to envy. But behind their gleaming coral mansions and sophisticated salons lurks a history they’ve begun to forget…one that binds them in blood to their Geziri neighbors.


Stretching from the Sea of Pearls across the plains of Persia and the mountains of gold-rich Bactria is mighty Daevastana—and just past its Gozan River lies Daevabad, the hidden city of brass. The ancient seat of the Nahid Council—the famed family of healers who once ruled the magical world—Daevastana is a coveted land, its civilization drawn from the ancient cities of Ur and Susa and the nomadic horsemen of the Saka. A proud people, the Daevas claimed the original name of the djinn race as their own…a slight that the other tribes never forget.


Sprawling form the shores of the Maghreb across the vast depths of the Sahara Desert is Qart Sahar—a land of fables and adventure even to the djinn. An enterprising people not particularly enamored of being ruled by foreigners, the Sahrayn know the mysteries of their country better than any—the still lush rivers that flow in caves deep below the sand dunes and the ancient citadels of human civilizations lost to time and touched by forgotten magic. Skilled sailors, the Sahrayn travel upon ships of conjured smoke and sewn cord over sand and sea alike.


Stretching from the brick bones of old Harappa through the rich plains of the Deccan and misty marshes of the Sundarbans lies Agnivansha. Blessedly lush in every resource that could be dreamed—and separated from their far more volatile neighbors by wide rivers and soaring mountains—Agnivansha is a peaceful land famed for its artisans and jewels…and its savvy in staying out of Daevabad’s tumultuous politics.


East of Daevabad, twisting through the peaks of Karakorum Mountains and the vast sands of the Gobi is Tukharistan. Trade is its lifeblood, and in the ruins of forgotten Silk Road kingdoms, the Tukharistanis make their homes. They travel unseen in caravans of smoke and silk along the corridors marked by humans millennia ago, carrying with them things of myth: golden apples that cure any disease, jade keys that open world unseen, and perfumes that smell of paradise.



Daevabad is currently ruled by the Qahtani family, descendants of Zaydi al Qahtani, the Geziri warrior who led a rebellion to overthrow the Nahid Council and establish equality for the shafit centuries ago.

GHASSAN AL QAHTANI, king of the magical realm, defender of the faith.

MUNTADHIR, Ghassan’s eldest son from his Geziri first wife, the king’s designated successor.

HATSET, Ghassan’s Ayaanle second wife and queen, hailing fomr a powerful family in Ta Ntry.

ZAYNAB, Ghassan’s and Hatset’s daughter, princess of Daevabad

ALIZAYD, the king’s youngest son, banished to Am Gezira for treason

Their Court and Royal Guard

WAJED, Qaid and leader of the djinn army

ABU NUWAS, a Geziri officer

KAVEH E-PRAMUKH, the Daeva grand wazir

JAMSHID, his son and close confidant of Emir Muntadhir

ABUL DAWANIK, a trade envoy from Ta Ntry

ABU SAYF, an old soldier and scout in the Royal Guard

AQISA and LUBAYD, warriors and trackers from Bir Nabat, a village in Am Gezira


The original rulers of Daevabad and descendants of Anahid, the Nahids were a family of extraordinary magical healers hailing from the Daeva tribe.

ANAHID, Suleiman’s chosen and the original founder of Daevabad

RUSTAM, one of the last Nahid healers and a skilled botanist, murdered by the ifrit

MANIZHEH, Rustam’s sister and one of the most powerful Nahid healers in centuries, murdered by the ifrit

NAHRI, her daughter of uncertain parentage, left abandoned as a young child in the human land of Egypt

Their Supporters

DARAYAVAHOUSH, the last descendant of the Afshins, a Daeva military caste family that served at the right hand of the Nahid Council, and known as the Scourge of Qui-zi for his violent acts during the war and later revolt against Zaydi al Qahtani

KARTIR, a Daeva high priest

NISREEN, Manizheh and Rustam’s former assistant and Nahri’s current mentor



People of mixed human and djinn heritage forced to live in Daevabad, their rights sharply curtailed.

SHEIKH ANAS, former leader of the Tanzeem and Ali’s mentor, executed by the king for treason

SISTER FATUMAI, Tanzeem leader who oversaw the group’s orphanage and charitable services

SUBHASHINI and PARIMAL SEN, shafit physicians


Daevas who refused to submit to Suleiman thousands of years ago and were subsequently cursed; the mortal enemies of the Nahids.

AESHMA, their leader

VIZARESH, the ifit who first came for Nahri in Cairo

QANDISHA, the irit who enslaved and murdered Dara


Reviled and persecuted after Dara’s rampage and death at Prince Alizayd’s hand, only three former enslaved djinn remain in Daevbad, freed and resurrected by Nahid healers years ago.

RAZU, a gambler from Tukharistan

ELASHIA, an artist from Qart Sahar

ISSA, a scholar and historian from Ta Ntry

Literally everything is taken from the inserts in City of Brass and Kingdom of Copper. I just wanted an easily searchable version. Please don’t sue me, I can’t afford it.

City of Brass (The Daevabad Trilogy, #1)

The City of Brass (The Daevabad Trilogy, #1)City of Brass, S.A. Chakraborty
Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Historical, Epic, Action & Adventure
Length: 526 pages
language, suggestive content, violence, LGBT relationships, references to mass murder
Summary: 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.

But when Nahri accidentally summons an equally sly, darkly mysterious djinn warrior to her side during one of her cons, she’s forced to accept that the magical world she thought only existed in childhood stories is real. For the warrior tells her a new 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 hawks are not what they seem, lies Daevabad, the legendary city of brass, a city to which Nahri is irrevocably bound.

In that city, behind 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 be careful what you wish for…

Throwback to the time I was trying to catch up on my summaries and fell down this rabbit hole instead. I pretty much typed this up as soon as I finished the book because I didn’t want to get it mixed up with Kingdom of Copper, but WordPress decided to hate me and kept deleting chunks of text/screwing up the formatting which made updating this post a ginormous pain.

BUT in honor of Empire of Gold‘s recent release, I’ve decided to power through and send this off into the world.

Also, this recap ended up being way longer than I expected, but in my defense, I wasn’t sure what would be important and the book was 526 pages long…

We meet our heroine Nahri in the streets of Cairo. She’s a relatively unremarkable girl, though her bright eyes and sharp face usually spurred a second glance. And it was that second glance, the one that revealed a line of midnight hair and uncommonly black eyes–unnaturally black eyes, she’d heard it said. She’s certainly not beautiful—especially because she’s too starved and dirty to be attractive (I don’t buy that). She’s riffraff, street-rat, alone, and struggling to get by. She has no husband, no family, and ain’t no spring chicken, if you know what I mean. She’s pitied and/or disdained by those around her, which is saying something when you live in the slums. Indeed, it’s a hard-knocked life for little orphan Nahri.

But don’t feel too bad for her, she’s gifted. She’s a skilled healer who can sense what’s going on in people’ bodies (she can literally see cancer) and has a knack for languages including her secret mother tongue nobody else has ever heard of. She doesn’t even know the name for it, but, for whatever reason, she knows how to speak it. However, because of her spinsterhood, it’s hard to get by, so she cons clients for money or gifts or “lost” things that can be blamed on a forgetful wife or a quick-fingered servant. It’s a decent life, but she wants more. You see, way down deep inside she’s got a dream. She wants adventure in the great wide somewhere…preferably Istanbul where there are tutors and physicians to learn from, but beggars can’t be choosers.

She has one friend. Yaqub, and old Jewish pharmacist, who you’d think would be important but we’ll never see again. Even though they’re kind of in cahoots, he disapproves of her cons–of her whole lifestyle, really—but especially her cons. Especially the ones that involve leading zars, rituals meant to make peace with djinn. She holds her own (fake) extremely abbreviated versions after spying on a number of them and shrugs off Yaqub’s warnings because it’s good money and because “there’s no magic, no djinn, no spirits waiting to eat us up.” Can you say famous last words? You don’t even need to read the book summary to know girl’s about to eat her words.

Anyway, she prances off to zar to do her thing, using a cute child to hold her donations basket because she’s cunning and clever like that. The afflicted girl’s name is Baseema. Her mind is alive but broken. Nahri can’t heal her; the best she can do is temporarily sooth her…and put on a good show in the progress–she won’t get paid otherwise. So she lies through her teeth, dances around, and sings the songs she’s carefully memorized. The crowd seems responsive, so she decides to up the ante and starts singing in her native tongue, a language that’s unusual and eerie. Perfect for the zar. She translates a zar song beseeching a warrior of the djinn to join them.

Nahri begins her training and fails miserably. She is sad. She finds Ali reading up on slaves (i.e. trying to study Dara). He don’t got a lot to say, but there’s something about him. They geek out over the same things and make a deal–he’ll teach her to read if she teaches him Arabic. They’re also both secretly using each other for information, so it’s the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Dara comes home and spar with Ali. There are plenty of insults and ego to go around. More allusions to the past are made. It’s all very mysterious. In his anger, Dara is able to make the Geziri trident light up and magically throws tons of weapons at the prince. Both these things should be impossible for him. (Is this why the peris and marid want him? I doubt it’s just for his maddening good looks) They have a final male bonding moment because we’re obviously building up to something big:

He picked up Ali’s zulfiqar and tossed it over; surprised, Ali caught it with his good hand. “Thank you for the lesson, but sadly, the weapon did not live up to its fearsome reputation.”
Ali sheathed his zulfiqar, offended on its behalf. “Sorry to disappoint you,” he said sarcastically.
“I didn’t say I was disappointed.” Darayavahoush ran his hand over a war ax protruding from one of the stone columns. “Your charming and cultured brother, your pragmatic father . . . I was starting to wonder what happened to the Qahtanis I knew . . . starting to fear my memories of the zulfiqar-wielding fanatics who destroyed my world were wrong.” He eyed Ali. “Thank you for this reminder.”
“I . . .” Ali was lost for words, suddenly fearing he’d done far worse than reveal his father’s plans regarding Nahri. “You misunderstand me.”
“Not at all.” The Afshin gave him another sharp smile. “I was also once a young warrior from the ruling tribe. It’s a privileged position. Such utter confidence in the rightness of your people, such unwavering belief in your faith.” His smile faded; he sounded wistful. Regretful. “Enjoy it.”
“I am nothing like you,” Ali shot back. “I would never do the things you did.”
The Afshin pulled open the door. “Pray you’re never asked to, Zaydi.”

Ali teaches her how to summon fire, and she’s excited because she can finally use some magic. They also bond more.

Rashid confronts Ali for not helping the shafit more. He warns the prince to make a choice–the Tanzeem or the royal family. He can’t keep trying to appease both.

Nahri goes on a ceremonial visit to the Daevan Quarters. Since they’ll be safe from the Qahtanis’ spies, Dara promises to tell her the dirty little secret that is his past. She’s taken to a secret room where dozen of slave relics are kept. She and Dara get in a fight because he suggests she marry Jamshid instead of Muntadhir. She’s pissed because she’s not some prize to be won and how dare he stand around and decide her future, especially when she wants her future to be with him. He would also like that but he’s kinda dead and can’t give her children which is important apparently since she’s the last of the Nahids. Jasmid is an upstanding Daevan from a noble family, so he gets to be lucky bachelor #2.

Remember Hanno? The shapeshifter? He comes back and tries to assassinate Ali, but Jamshid manages to save him. Ali’s worried about the shafit getting punished and tells him to get rid of the body. He goes to Nahri for a secret healing session. What he doesn’t realize is that the little thief sucks at magical healing and her “infirmary” is just another way for the king to mock her. She somehow manages to treat him, and magic water seems to pour out of his wounds to help heal him. She also smells salt water and realizes he’s super thirsty. How mysterious… Oh, did I mention he also likes to swim even though fire creatures supposedly hate water? I’m telling you, this man is giving off major Return to the Sea vibes.

Nahri decides to marry Muntadhir and goes to the king like “I’ve come to bargain,” cause she might be getting hitched but she wants some money and training time and stuff.

Speaking of the king-to-be, Muntadhir confronts Ali because he and his mom’s family (they’re half-brothers) are both known supporters of the shafit who are amassing weapons. He’s paranoid his baby bro’s gonna try to overthrow him, especially since Ali the Zulfiqar Prodigy would easily get the army to back him. It kind of puts a damper on their whole Boy’s Night Out at the local brothel, I mean courtesan house. (They’re classy princes after all). For some reason Dara is there too. After a ridiculous amount of testosterone and insults, Dara finds out Nahri has been using her impending nupitals to negotiate on his behalf and gets pissed when Muntadhir starts implying Ali and Nahri have been spending a lot of time together. Dara starts (unintentionally?) reading the wishes of the people around him. When he looks between Jamshid and Muntadhir and says, “now that’s an interesting—”

Poor, clueless Ali jumps between the two before a fight can break out and catches the end of his brother’s fist.

Dara makes use of the chaos and goes to convince Nahri to run away with him. Apparently they have allies outside of Daevabad. They’re interrupted by Ali who comes for healing after the fight. Unfortunately, jealous Dara decides to attack, and the fight causes a commotion. They need to run now. Nahri doesn’t want to leave because as much she loves Dara, she also loves healing. He makes the decision for her by taking Ali hostage. When she watches Dara do some crazy magic with his glowy ring, Nahri realizes he has lots of secrets.

Unfortunately, Ali’s full of secrets too. He’s betrayed them and has them surrounded by a boatload of soldiers. Nahri offers to do anything if they just let Dara free. Her wish somehow causes his ring to glow even more and he turns into some kind of crazed killing machine. Jamshid protects Muntadhir and gets fatally wounded in the process. Ali gets shot through and thrown overboard. Dara comes to his senses and just as Nahri’s about to convince him to run away with her, Ali reappears. Apparently Dara should’ve gone for the head because the prince comes out like a soaking sponge, covered in tentacles, and speaking some strange language. He uses Sulemian’s seal which is carved into his cheek and kills Dara.

Flashback time! Ali hears voices in the lake and is shown horrible visions of his loved ones dying. All it wants from him is his voice name. He’s gonna die, so why not? He gives it, and they take over his entire body. When he wakes up, he has no memory of what happened. (What is it with these people and amnesia?)

The Qahtani men tells him what he missed while he was sleeping and also let him in on the family secret: the marid helped their great ancestors take the city from the Daevans. Apparently the Ayaanle (Ali’s mom’s tribe) had an alliance with the water people but “paid a terrible price for doing so,” so they should never be betrayed. Ali gets emotional when he hears their final truth bomb: they think Ali was possess by a marid. He has a lot of feelings, and water starts falling from everywhere. It almost accidnetally kills Muntadhir. Opps? He’s already mad because Jamshid is dying, and he’s now extra worried Ali will take his throne. He tells their dad about Ali’s involvement with the Tanzeem. Ghassan decides to “exile” his youngest aka setting him out into the world so assassins can kill him. (Apparently his family has a lot of enemies). Even though he believes Ali’s innocent, he thinks the boy’s soft heart and beliefs make him the prime target for the Ayaanle’s scheming for the throne, so it’s off to the wildnerness he goes.

Meanwhile, Nahri’s mourning Dara and going a little crazy. Nisreen tells her she’s got to pull herself together. Not only does it disturb her to see Nahri like this, looking so down in the dumps, but every Daeva in town needs her. The king has removed his protection and there’s a mob tyring to kill them all.

Ghassan summons her to bargain. He wants peace again and still thinks a marriage between Nahri and Muntadhir is the best solution. To convince her, he decides it’s time for the Big RevealTM and for us to learn about Dara’s secret past:

Once upon a time, there was a city named Qui-zi. Humans, daeva and sahfit all lived together in harmony. Everything changed when Zaydi al Qahtani rebelled and took the Ayaanle along for the ride. The Nahids sent Dara to attack Qui-zi as a reminder to all the tribes of what would happen if they mixed with the humans. He destroyed the city, brutally murdering its inhabitants, and became forever known as the Scourge of Qui-zi.

TL;DR — he’s a bad, bad man that the Qahtani hate.

Ghassan states his terms: Nahri must denounce Dara, marry Muntadhir, and never say anything about Ali and the marid. If she does, he’ll make her people hate her by revealing her shafit status and spread some propaganda about a love triangle between Ali, Nahri, and Dara being the cause of his death.

She doesn’t have much of a choice, so she gives her fake speech, but the Daevas make a show unity. Ghassan is not happy.

The end!

Just kidding, there’s an end credits scene.


A desperate Kaveh wants to save Jamshid by releasing the secret magic tattoo that’s apparently hiding his secret Nahid healing powers, but Nisreen stops him. Apparently Ghassan won’t let him be healed until they give up the name of the Daeva responsible for the riots and they found some random man to sacrifice himself so Jamshid can be saved.

Also, Nisreen has Dara’s ring. They’re not to tell Nahri in case they get caught. You see, they’ve got a plan…

Kaveh was tired of bowing to the Qahtanis.
A small flicker of defiance bloomed in his chest, the first he’d felt in a long time. His next question came out in a desperate whisper. “If I can get the ring to her . . . do you really think she can bring him back?”
Nisreen gazed at Jamshid. Her eyes were filled with the type of quiet awe most Daevas felt in the presence of one of their Nahids. “Yes,” she said firmly. Reverently. “I think Manizheh can do anything.”


To learn more about the world of the Daevabad Trilogy, check out this helpful glossary (thank you, S.A. Chakraborty) or my Kingdom of Copper recap.

Heavily or totally inspired by the words of S.A. Chakraborty.

As with Hidden Mickeys, the reward for spotting hidden Disney references is simply the satisfaction of a job well done.