Growing up I loved fantasy books. They often leaned towards the historical side of fiction, but give me a book about Guinevere, unicorns, wrinkles in time, heroines and crowns and I was a happy reader.
The older I got, the less I read fantasy. I hit the big names: Robert Jordan, Terry Goodkind and of course the-writer-we-all-love-to-hate -because -he -won’t- finish -the- book- George RR Martin. Women and girls are of course were often written as the stereotypical female: Strong, but still needing saving, or in the case of Martin, sexual objects to use as plot points. I love fantasy, but it was hard to see myself in the pages of these books.
And why did all these stories take place in made up lands that all sounded like Europe? And religions that were basically Catholicism on steroids.
Then I discovered NK Jemison and SA Chakraborty. There are strong women in these books, acting in ways that I recognize and don’t feel demeaning. Now I want to find more authors like them, because these authors remind me that the fantasy genre can be inclusive of all orientations, genders, races, ethnicities, and religion.
I was lucky to receive an ARC of Chakraborty’s second installment of the Daevabad Trilogy, The Kingdom of Copper. Since I hadn’t read the first, I scoured my local library system and drove to pick up an available copy of The City of Brass, at a library two inner ring suburbs over. I promptly read it and then handed it to my husband, who read it. I still can’t convince my oldest to read it, but she won’t read anything I hand her.
Chakraborty doesn’t just deliver on setting, she immerses you in a culture that tells you folklore that your parents weren’t familiar with. Who wouldn’t want to know more about djinn and daevas?
This is what we need in all genres. Exploration of story told through non-european/western eyes. The story was richer for me because it was rooted in a culture and a faith I am not as familiar with. The story is about djinns, yes, but it also explores the intricacies of a faith that is similar to Islam and a culture that is distinctly Arabic and non-western.
Yes, we know the Grimm’s fairy tales, or the knights of the round table, or Robin Hood and his merry men. What we miss is the plethora of tales that don’t take place in the the forests of Europe.
This book took me outside my comfort zone, while also transporting me to a world I didn’t know I missed.
If you, like me, need a book to reignite your love of the fantasy genre that doesn’t portray violence against women, check out the Daevabad Trilogy by SA Chakraborty.
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