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S. A. Chakraborty

Fiction and Excerpts [1]
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Fiction and Excerpts [1]

Five Books to Take You Beyond One Thousand and One Nights

When it comes to stories from the medieval Middle East, One Thousand and One Nights looms large. But its popularity in the Western world likely owes as much to the timing of its original translation as it does to its entertaining tales. Though the Nights has ancient roots in Persia and India, the lively world it recreates in Arabic is that of what is often called the Islamic Golden Age. Though there’s some scholarly disagreement on this term, the Islamic Golden age roughly corresponds with the rise and fall of the Abbasid Caliphate (762-1258 CE). This was a vast and sophisticated world, a cultural continuity that stretched from Spain to the Sumatra. Long-distance travel was commonplace for both trade and scholarship; and indeed, scholars such as Ibn Battuta and Ibn Jubayr left extraordinary accounts of their journeys in a rihla, a literary genre chronicling such quests for knowledge. Tales of heroes and marvels of creation populated both the written works and oral tales of the times, passing down through the centuries to storytellers even today.

Theirs is a world which has always fascinated me, and one which inspired my own fiction. Here I’ve selected five works, both historical and modern—and from a very, very long original list!—to take you beyond One Thousand and One Nights and on a trip to the medieval Middle East.

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Series: Five Books About…

The City of Brass

Nahri has never believed in magic. Certainly, she has power; on the streets of eighteenth-century Cairo, she’s a con woman of unsurpassed talent. But she knows better than anyone that the trades she uses to get by—palm readings, zars, and a mysterious gift for healing—are all tricks, both the means to the delightful end of swindling Ottoman nobles and a reliable way to survive.

But when Nahri accidentally summons Dara, an equally sly, darkly mysterious djinn warrior, to her side during one of her cons, she’s forced to reconsider her beliefs. For Dara tells Nahri an extraordinary tale: across hot, windswept sands teeming with creatures of fire and rivers where the mythical marid sleep, past ruins of once-magnificent human metropolises and mountains where the circling birds of prey are more than what they seem, lies Daevabad, the legendary city of brass—a city to which Nahri is irrevocably bound.

In Daevabad, within gilded brass walls laced with enchantments and behind the six gates of the six djinn tribes, old resentments run deep. And when Nahri decides to enter this world, her arrival threatens to ignite a war that has been simmering for centuries.

The City of Brass, the debut novel from S. A. Chakraborty, is available November 14th from Harper Voyager. Read an excerpt below, and continue with a free download of chapters 1-3 here.

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