The second installment of Chakraborty’s stunningly rendered Middle Eastern fantasy trilogy (The City of Brass, 2017), which can absolutely be read independently of the first book.
The setting is Daevabad, a legendary Eastern city protected by impervious magical brass walls and ruled by King Ghassan, whose Geziri ancestors overthrew the Daevas and captured Suleiman’s seal, which tempers magic. To this bubbling pot of tensions, the powerful djinn warrior Dara conveyed young Daeva healer Nahri; in the process they developed feelings for one another. Five years later, Nahri has much to ponder. During the tumultuous events with which the previous book culminated, Ghassan’s younger son, Ali, whom Nahri considered a friend, killed Dara and defied his father, an act for which he was exiled—a euphemism for "condemned to death." Ghassan forced Nahri to marry Ali’s elder brother, Muntadhir; the union is childless thanks to potions Nahri secretly consumes, yet, oddly despite those five years of marriage, the couple seem to know very little about each other. She chafes under the restrictions imposed by the increasingly cruel and arbitrary Ghassan, who’s threatened to slaughter the city’s Daevas unless she cooperates. So she doesn’t know that Ali, with his djinn’s ability to survive in the desert and magic conferred by the fearsome water-spirits known as the marid, still lives, nor that Dara has been summoned back to life and now is embroiled in a conspiracy to overthrow the Geziri and reclaim the city for the Daeva. Against the city’s richly immersive backdrop of suppressed and often contentious racial, familial, magical, and religious alliances and divides—although Chakraborty tends to forget how bewildering these can be, even with the helpful glossary—the conflicts, ambitions, schemes, and treacheries build powerfully toward what’s rapidly becoming the author’s trademark: a truly shattering conclusion.
As good or better than its predecessor: promise impressively fulfilled.