From City to Kingdom: S.A. Chakraborty on Building the Magical World of the Daevabad Trilogy

S.A. Chakraborty wowed us in 2016 with her debut novel The City of Brass, a deeply imagined Middle Eastern fantasy with a feisty, fascinating protagonist, an engaging magic system, and a rich lore. Below, she joins us to talk about expanding on that latter element in the sequel, The Kingdom of Copper, which arrives on shelves in January.

Everyone says second books are hard, but one of the delights of writing a trilogy is watching the world you’ve created grow larger and deeper. In The City of Brass, I envisioned a world of djinn hidden just beneath the surface of our own; powerful, capricious beings who watch the rise and fall of human empires with the glee we might cheer the misdeeds of celebrities. When they get a little too interested in humanity—toying with them and using them as pawns in their own war against the marid, powerful water elementals—they’re promptly punished: divided into separate tribes, stripped of their most powerful magic, and banished across the world.

My story picks up centuries later, during which the djinn have created a new world, inspired by both magic and the human lands in which they have sheltered—and whose deadly manner of politics they have taken up. However, while The City of Brass mostly focuses on Daevabad, the capital of their world, The Kingdom of Copper opens up the world to the other magical lands that the six tribes inhabit.

I’m so excited now to share part of that world with everyone now: the tribal sigils, each routed in the history of the land and culture of each djinn tribe. These are markers they would proudly use to identify themselves. Some are fairly straight-forward: the Sahrayn use the sails of their famed sand-ships while the Daevas prefer the distinct fire altars of their sacred faith. Others were inspired by trade symbols: the Agnivanshi tiger is reminiscent of the seals of the Harappans and the crescent moon ringed by rondels was a popular pattern on the clothing of early Silk Road travelers. The Geziri antelope is a nod to the ancient rock art that still litters the landscape of much of the Arabian peninsula, and for the Ayaanle—a tribe concerned with justice both in the law and the marketplace—an antique scale, the color a nod to the rich headwaters of the Nile River.

Sprawling from 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.

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 Daevabad 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.

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 fire- blooded 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.

​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.

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 corridors marked by humans millennia ago, carrying with them things of myth: golden apples that cure any disease, jade keys that open worlds unseen, and perfumes that smell of paradise.

Extending 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.

Preorder The Kingdom of Copper, available January 22, 2019.

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