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Gigei

S.A. Chakraborty: Daevabad Trilogy (The City of Brass, The Kingdom of Copper, The Empire of Gold)

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15 hours ago, Gaston de Foix said:

Is that right? You have sunbirds in India which are very similar.  

Hummingbirds are native only to the Americas, and haven't been successfully imported to other locales, unlike something like the population of Mandarin ducks in England.  So it sticks out in a funny way, because otherwise she's being so scrupulous about her mythological and other referents.

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4 hours ago, Little Valkyrie said:

Hummingbirds are native only to the Americas, and haven't been successfully imported to other locales, unlike something like the population of Mandarin ducks in England.  So it sticks out in a funny way, because otherwise she's being so scrupulous about her mythological and other referents.

Weren't they magical constructs though?

Quote

Tiny jade hummingbirds glittered as they sang and swooped between delicate copper feeders, their song mingling with the strumming of lutes.

AFAIK, real hummingbirds wouldn't glitter but I'm not a naturalist so...

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2 hours ago, Gigei said:

Weren't they magical constructs though?

AFAIK, real hummingbirds wouldn't glitter but I'm not a naturalist so...

I think you are right.  Not because hummingbirds can't be described as glittering but because jade as a material and color implies artifice. 

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On 8/3/2020 at 7:15 PM, Galactus said:

One of the weird things I found with the series is that it was set at such a specific and dramatic timeframe... That ended up not mattering.

Yea, I was very disappointed when their visit to Egypt turned out to be both brief and completely disconnected from the historical setting. And then a pistol that could fire more than once without recharging made it's appearance, too! I mean, this is like, 1807? For that matter, is it even feasible for one from that era to fire iron bullets with any accuracy?

Anyway, to start with, what I had issue with, is the whole hypocritical and manipulative attitude the narrative has towards shafit. Revelation that the djinn are normally invisible when among the mortals gives a very dark connotation to how they come to be. Even the Gezhiri tribe that Ali was living with didn't show themselves to humans, so it seems that their shafit members were acquired in a seriously problematic manner. But at least they didn't abandon their half-blood offspring to the very limited mercy of  human society. Nahri's own experiences demonstrate that due to their strange appearance (and hers is closer to stock human than many of the others would have been) and their powers, the shafit and their mothers/parents, if they are of the second generation are likely to be persecuted  by humans, if not outright killed. And yes, this makes it inevitable that some of them would eventually use their powers against the humans and draw attention to themselves. Nahri herself has done so. So, the Nahid position that siring shafit (because 99% of them come from male djinn) and abandoning them in the mortal world is evil and might lead to a Suleiman-like backlash actually makes sense. However, this stance treated by the story like it is baseless and narrow-minded.

Of course, their ire should have been directed at the misbehaving (rapist) djinn, rather than shafit themselves, and the Nahid objections to and mistreatment of the shafit well integrated into djinn society can't be either excused or justified, even before it culminated in the attempted genocide.

But still, the view of  non-daevas on  shafit  vascillates at the speed of the plot. At one hand, they are OK with shafit being enslaved and oppressed, even casually killed on occasion, -  on the other, "wouldn't somebody think of the shafit!" is  used as a mark of them being morally superior/on the side of right when it is convenient. Daevas, for all their faults, are at least consistent in that they don't rape mortals to produce shafit in the first place.

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Posted (edited)
19 hours ago, Gigei said:

Weren't they magical constructs though?

AFAIK, real hummingbirds wouldn't glitter but I'm not a naturalist so...

Real hummingbirds, at least the male ones, are incredibly shiny.  One of the ones where I live, the black-chinned, the male has a purple throat patch only visible from the right angle, so it really does appear as a flash of color.

Again, it's just something that hops out at me because she's being so scrupulous with locale and mythic fauna otherwise.  Valente did the same thing in one of the Prester John books, which are set in a very particular fantastical "India" (of the medieval Christian imagination), but she also had a 17th century monk speaking Akkadian, soooo.

Edited by Little Valkyrie

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5 hours ago, Little Valkyrie said:

Real hummingbirds, at least the male ones, are incredibly shiny.  One of the ones where I live, the black-chinned, the male has a purple throat patch only visible from the right angle, so it really does appear as a flash of color.

Oh, I think I might like them if they are shiny. I bet hummingbirds are tiny and cute. Never seen one.

Yes, I do think it's just a small thing though.

20 hours ago, Maia said:

Yea, I was very disappointed when their visit to Egypt turned out to be both brief and completely disconnected from the historical setting. And then a pistol that could fire more than once without recharging made it's appearance, too! I mean, this is like, 1807? For that matter, is it even feasible for one from that era to fire iron bullets with any accuracy?

Anyway, to start with, what I had issue with, is the whole hypocritical and manipulative attitude the narrative has towards shafit.

When I read the first book I thought that the human world would play a bigger part in the series but by the third book I knew it wasn't going to happen.

The djinn's attitude towards shafit is definitely problematic.

Regarding the djinn raping the humans: 

That probably did happen a few times since some djinn are HUGE jerks. However, we did see an alternative explanation via the marid example who made human-marid children. It's apparently possible for them to offer a bargain like "I'll grant a wish, you do the deed and bear my child" deal. I mean, it's easy for djinn to conjure up stuff and they are fabulously wealthy. Granting a simple wish like "I wanna be rich!" or "Kill my enemy!" would be easy for them.

We don't actually see it in action for the djinn, of course. My headcannon is that the djinn just stay for a while somewhere they get worshiped as invisible benevolent/scary spirits to the humans until one of the humans offer up themselves or their daughters/sons.

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On 8/8/2020 at 10:31 AM, Gigei said:

When I read the first book I thought that the human world would play a bigger part in the series but by the third book I knew it wasn't going to happen.

Nahri and Ali getting transported to the human world at the end of book 2 and stripped of their magic teased more than we got, IMHO. At the very least I expected that Nahri would have to had to disguise or try to explain Ali in some very creative ways, but of course he was conveniently mostly unnoticeable to the muggles.

And BTW, what's the deal with all djinn magic failing once the Seal left Daevabad? Haven't we been told that the Djinn already posessed their new powers when released from bondage, despite Anahid  still freely wandering around with the Seal for years? It was never explained how and why all the magic was now tied to the Seal remaining in the city.

 

On 8/8/2020 at 10:31 AM, Gigei said:

However, we did see an alternative explanation via the marid example who made human-marid children. It's apparently possible for them to offer a bargain like "I'll grant a wish, you do the deed and bear my child" deal..

 

Marid bargains were mostly rape and worse - Sobeck raped and then ate most of the newly adolescent girls sacrificed to him, after all, so this is hardly an exoneration. And I am sure that pre-Suleiman Djinn engaged in such too, which may have been what eventually produced Suleiman in the first place, given that humans in this setting don't have any magical powers. Sure, it was strongly hinted, though not explicitely confirmed that the Peri meddled with him too, like they also put up Anahid to curb and punish the marid and then the Gehziri to topple the Nahids. I really loved this aspect of the The Empire of Gold, BTW, wheels within wheels, a succession of people being nudged and helped to achieve the obscure goals of shadowy and supposedly neutral pseudo-angels. It was very satisfying how Nahri saw through them and refused to play their game.

Anyway, the post-Suleiman djinn  had no reason to bargain for shafit children, as such interference with humans was seen as one of the reasons why their ancestors had been punished and transformed in the first place. Given the fact that nuDjinn are normally invisible to humans and that shafit are usually abandoned in human society  by their Djinn sire, it suggest very dark implications about the  provenance of most first-generation shafit and provides some very good reasons to object to this practice. It is a crime and is indeed fairly likely to backfire (again?) eventually. But the narrative never explores these aspects, instead using the issue of shafit manipulatively and cheaply. For instance, you'd think that the Nahids would have come like a ton of bricks on the Djinn irresponsibly siring shafit offspring in the past, instead of or at least alongside with  oppressing and eventually trying to genocide the shafit themselves. Yet there was no sign of it in the books, nor of any laws that forbid such behavior to the djinn.

Also, if all the tribes except the daevas tended to fully integrate shafit living in their communities, you'd think that there would have been more opposition to shafit being sold and used as slaves in Daevabad and beyond it, with the blessing of Gezhiri government But no, it is just used as a reason for the rest of them to go to war with the daevas and to paint them as morally superior.

Along with this, my greatest disappointments with this book was how it reduced Manizheh from a very complex and nuanced character into a  2-dimensional villain and the very contrived treatment of Kaveh and Muthandir . One of the things that I most enjoyed in The Kingdom of Copper was how it depicted Ghassan, Muthandir and Manizheh as interesting, flawed and relateable antagonists.

Mind, I guessed that Manizheh was alive and that she had staged the brutal butchering of her party in order to escape back in book 1. And despite the horribleness of it I could understand that  like an animal gnawing through it's own foot to escape a trap, a person could be driven to such terrible action to free themselves. And indeed what we saw from Ghassan - Nahri interactions and his efforts to break her down gave a good hint of how in a few more decades of despair it could have come to something so extreme. It was also  clear that Manizheh was lying about some things in the second book, but on the whole it was believable that she tried to be as honest as she could, that some of the more ruthless decisions she made were due to time constraints and that she would have gone for less destructive options otherwise. Also, she seemed competent and sincerely devoted to the well-being of the daevas and Deavabad.

Unfortunately, the author felt that she needed to make her "worse than Ghassan" for some reason, when the protagonists already recognized that the late king was bad enough to openly rebel against and would have certainly also fought against somebody who was no better. As a result, Manizheh was re-made into a stock villain and a compulsive liar who was impossible to sympathise with. Also, incompetent. The greatest healer in centuries, who knew that speed was critical, tried to kill Ghassan by suffocating him? Please. She  decided to wantonly disregard all the human-related prohibitions and pointlessly destroyed a village?  In the end, I almost expected her to scream "Unlimited Power!" while she was destroying Daevabad and giving away the Seal to ifrit. Etc., etc. 

I also don't understand why Nahri being Manizheh's daughter was retconned. I mean, it should have been obvious that in a  patriarchal Djinn society as depicted in the first 2 books, it ought to have been 99.5% likely that Nahri was Rustam's. However, nobody ever brought up this possibility and Manizheh not only claimed Nahri for her own child, but IIRC even thought of her as such in her PoV. And it was a much more interesting connection - it was clear that Nahri must have been conceived for a (likely nefarious) purpose, but despite that and despite her being a shafit, Manizheh was still reluctantly attached to her and proud of her. 

The belated revelations about Rustam felt hugely flat and contrived to me - you'd think that nobody entertained the likelyhood of his paternity for a reason - i.e. he must have been known as very gay. And as a Nahid healer he should have also known how to prevent an accidental pregnancy.

Finally, the notion that Kaveh didn't have the support of important city daevas came completely out of the left field. Also, somehow the very same militarily trained daevas who had been thrown out of the barracks, abused, some of them even killed IIRC, while Muthandir didn't lift a finger to help them, remained slavishly devoted to him still? To the extent that they refused to protect their own quarter? Or thought that it was a good idea to kill Dara, tear Kaveh apart and leave the city at the mercy of ifrit?! What?! I was bemused by Muthandir's survival in the previous book after he had his great death scene, no less, but his antics in this one are complete nonsense. And then I belatedly understood that the author desperately wanted to avoid "bury your gays" criticism. Unfortunately, she failed to convince me that Muthandir's relationship with Jamshid was a wholesome one, because not only didn't the former try to intervene when Jamshid was dying of his wounds, but he also neglected Ali's warnings about the impending attack on  the Navastem procession, in which Jamshid was also almost killed. And even if she wanted to preserve Muthandir at all costs, it would have made vastly more sense to just leave him in his cell for this part of the series.

I liked everything else a lot and I think that it was a satisfying enough conclusion to the trilogy, which avoided the worst pitfalls, but it was a definite step down from the complexity and nuance of "The City of Copper" and didn't quite fulfill it's promise, IMHO. 

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On 7/6/2020 at 12:51 PM, Gaston de Foix said:

It appears that Suleiman's status as a prophet and his magical abilities are absolutely facts underlying the world.

I think this is certainly true as regards the tone of the books, and its certainly something that all the characters believe to be true, but ultimately the only real evidence we have for it are claims made by the marid and the peri, right?  Given how the latter especially act in the third book, it certainly doesn't seem impossible that they were the ones to set Suleiman up as a prophet for their own ends.  I don't think there needs to be any higher power involved than them (although they clearly act as though there is, so...).

On 7/6/2020 at 11:18 AM, Gigei said:

Perhaps the author didn't want to spend 100's of pages on Nahri's romance with Dara since the heated sexy goings-on with a hot war god would might overshadow the quieter Ali "we both like books and I'm a repressed virgin" romance.

One of the things I enjoyed about the second book was realising that, while Ali's POV chapters definitely play up the "I'm a shy nerd who likes books" aspect, the actual actions he takes mean other characters can plausibly see him as a politically ambitious religious fanatic with dangerous levels of support among the city's military.  Which is probably what the reader would think of him he didn't have his own POV chapters but, say, Jamshid did. 

On 8/9/2020 at 6:35 PM, Maia said:

Along with this, my greatest disappointments with this book was how it reduced Manizheh from a very complex and nuanced character into a  2-dimensional villain and the very contrived treatment of Kaveh and Muthandir . One of the things that I most enjoyed in The Kingdom of Copper was how it depicted Ghassan, Muthandir and Manizheh as interesting, flawed and relateable antagonists.

Mind, I guessed that Manizheh was alive and that she had staged the brutal butchering of her party in order to escape back in book 1. And despite the horribleness of it I could understand that  like an animal gnawing through it's own foot to escape a trap, a person could be driven to such terrible action to free themselves.

I had Manizheh pegged firmly as the central villain of the story when she appeared at the end of City of Brass, but I agree that the second book did a lot of good work to humanise her.  She still read very clearly as the villain though, and it's hard to have much sympathy with a character who approves of a plan that involves the indiscriminate murder of children.  So I think she does become a bit less interesting in the third book, but it wouldn't really have been possible for her to stay sympathetic after how the second book ended.

I think it's plausible for both Manizheh and Dara to think of themselves as acting for the good of the (abstract) daeva population, without really having much of a connection to or understanding of the actually existing daeva population.  (Dara since he's been gone from the world for so long, and Manizheh since she was deliberately isolated by Ghassan and then in self-exile for decades.)  But that's much harder to justify for Kaveh, especially when his own son seems to belong to the very social group (of daeva with strong personal ties to Muntadhir and the Qahtani family) whose existence Kaveh is then so surprised by.

(I do agree that Muntadhir's death in Kingdom of Copper was well-done, and that nothing that happened in Empire really seemed to justify undoing it.)

DId we ever get Manizheh POV chapters outside of the prologue of the third book?  In that chapter, the ifrit Aeshma refers to Nahri as Manizeh's daughter, but Manizheh's own thoughts only seem to refer to Nahri by name or as being 'family' or a 'child'.

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5 minutes ago, Plessiez said:

I think this is certainly true as regards the tone of the books, and its certainly something that all the characters believe to be true, but ultimately the only real evidence we have for it are claims made by the marid and the peri, right?  Given how the latter especially act in the third book, it certainly doesn't seem impossible that they were the ones to set Suleiman up as a prophet for their own ends.  I don't think there needs to be any higher power involved than them (although they clearly act as though there is, so...).

So this is all true.  But teasing out a bit further whether nor there is a higher power, there are rules governing their conduct.  Tiamat is an elemental ocean goddess and Anahid could bind her and all the Marid.  We see that from Ali's POV.  

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I thought the entire shafit/daeva/geziri layer-cake of oppression and grudges was genuinely good, like, you had situations where all of their actions could be seen as at least on some level justifiable. And yeah, the "hiding what Ali looks like through his own POV" was great as well. Those things were definitely the strongest points of the book. 

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