We’re excited to reveal the cover plus a preview excerpt from S. A. Chakraborty’s The Kingdom of Copper, which continues the sweeping adventure begun in The City of Brass (now available in paperback). Chakraborty conjures a world where djinn summon flames with the snap of a finger and waters run deep with old magic; where blood can be dangerous as any spell, and a clever con artist from Cairo will alter the fate of a kingdom…
The Kingdom of Copper publishes January 22, 2019 with Harper Voyager. From the catalog copy:
Nahri’s life changed forever the moment she accidentally summoned Dara, a formidable, mysterious djinn, during one of her schemes. Whisked from her home in Cairo, she was thrust into the dazzling royal court of Daevabad—and quickly discovered she would need all her grifter instincts to survive there.
Now, with Daevabad entrenched in the dark aftermath of the battle that saw Dara slain at Prince Ali’s hand, Nahri must forge a new path for herself, without the protection of the guardian who stole her heart or the counsel of the prince she considered a friend. But even as she embraces her heritage and the power it holds, she knows she’s been trapped in a gilded cage, watched by a king who rules from the throne that once belonged to her family—and one misstep will doom her tribe.
Meanwhile, Ali has been exiled for daring to defy his father. Hunted by assassins, adrift on the unforgiving copper sands of his ancestral land, he is forced to rely on the frightening abilities the marid—the unpredictable water spirits—have gifted him. But in doing so, he threatens to unearth a terrible secret his family has long kept buried.
And as a new century approaches and the djinn gather within Daevabad’s towering brass walls for celebrations, a threat brews unseen in the desolate north. It’s a force that would bring a storm of fire straight to the city’s gates… and one that seeks the aid of a warrior trapped between worlds, torn between a violent duty he can never escape and a peace he fears he will never deserve.
Cover art by Will Staehle; art direction by Mumtaz Mustafa
Alizayd al Qahtani didn’t make it very long with his caravan.
“Run, my prince, run!” The sole Ayaanle member of his traveling party cried as he staggered into Ali’s tent one night they were camped along a southern bend of the Euphrates. Before the man could say more, a blood-dark blade burst from his chest.
Ali flew to his feet. His weapons already at hand, he slashed the back of the tent open with a strike of his zulfiqar and fled into the darkness.
They pursued him on horseback, but the Euphrates glistened close ahead, black as the star-drenched night reflected in the river’s coursing surface. Praying his weapons were secure, Ali plunged into the water as the first arrows shot flew, one whistling just past his ear.
The cold water was a shock, but Ali swam fast, the motion as instinctual as walking; faster than he ever had, with a grace that would have taken him aback had he not been preoccupied with saving his life. Arrows struck the water around him, following his course, and so he dived deep, the water growing murky. The Euphrates was wide, and it took him time to cross; to push through water weeds and fight the fierce current trying to drag him downstream.
It was only when he was staggering up the opposite bank that the sick realization swept over him: he had not needed to emerge for air the entire time.
Ali gulped, shivering as a cold breeze stole through his wet dishdasha. Nausea rose in his chest, but there was little time to contemplate what had happened in the river—not when mounted archers were pacing the other side. His tent was aflame, but the rest of the camp looked untouched and eerily still, as though a quiet command had been passed amongst the other travelers in his party to ignore the screams they might hear tonight.
Ali had been betrayed. And he was not waiting around to find out if either the assassins or his traitorous companions could cross the river. He stumbled to his feet and ran for his life, racing headlong toward the opposite horizon.
Dawn had broken by the time his legs finally gave out. He collapsed, landing hard on the golden sand. The river was long gone. In every direction was desert; the sky a bright, hot bowl turned upside-down.
Ali’s gaze darted across the still landscape as he fought for breath, but he was alone: a blessing and a curse. Relief and fear warred through him. He was alone—with a vast desert before him and enemies at his back, his only possessions his zulfiqar and khanjar. He had no food, no water, no shelter. He hadn’t even had time to grab the turban and sandals that might have protected him from the heat.
He was doomed.
You were already doomed, you fool. Your father made that clear. Ali’s exile from Daevabad was a death sentence, one obvious to anyone with knowledge of the politics of his tribe. Did he really think he could fight it? That his death would be easy? If his father had wanted to be merciful, he would have had his youngest son strangled in his sleep within the city’s walls.
For the first time, a twinge of hate clawed up in Ali’s heart. He didn’t deserve this. He had tried to help his city and his family, and Ghassan wasn’t even generous enough to give him a clean death.
Angry tears pricked his eyes. He wiped them away roughly, feeling disgusted. No, this would not be how things ended for Alizayd, weeping tears of self-pity and cursing his family as he wasted away in some unknown patch of sand. He was a Geziri. When the time came, Ali would die dry-eyed, with the declaration of faith on his lips and a blade in his hand.
He fixed his eyes southwest, in the direction of his homeland, the direction he’d prayed his entire life, and dug his hands in the golden sand. He went through the motions to cleanse himself for prayer, the motions he’d made multiple times a day since his mother had first shown him how.
When he finished, he raised his palms, closing his eyes and catching the sharp scent of the sand and salt clinging to his skin. Guide me, he begged. Protect those I was forced to leave behind and when my time comes…His throat thickened…when my time comes, please have more mercy on me than my father did.
Ali touched his fingers to his brow. And then he rose to his feet.
Having nothing but the sun to guide him through the unbroken expanse of sand, Ali followed its relentless path across the sky, ignoring and then growing accustomed to its merciless heat upon his shoulders. The hot sand scorched his bare feet – and then it didn’t. He was a djinn, and though he couldn’t drift and dance as smoke among the dunes the way his ancestors had done before Suleiman’s blessing, the desert would not kill him.
He walked each day until exhaustion overtook him, only stopping to pray and sleep. He let his mind – his despair at how completely he’d ruined his life – drift away under the white bright sun.
Hunger gnawed at him. Water was no problem – Ali had not thirsted since the marid took him. He tried hard not to think about the implication of that, to ignore the newly restless part of his mind that delighted in the dampness—he refused to call it sweat—beading on his skin and dripping down his limbs.
He could not say how long he’d been walking when the landscape finally changed, rocky cliffs emerging from the sandy dunes like massive, grasping fingers. Ali scoured the craggy bluffs for any sign of food. He’d heard rural Geziri were able to conjure entire feasts from human scraps, but Ali had never been taught such magic. He was a prince raised to be a Qaid, surrounded by servants his entire privileged life. He had no idea how to survive on his own.
Desperate and starving, he ate any bit of greenery he could find down to the roots. It was mistake. The following morning, he awoke violently ill. Ash crumbled from his skin, and he vomited until all that came up was a fiery black substance that burned the ground.
Hoping to find a bit of shade in which to recover, Ali tried to climb down from the cliffs, but he was so dizzy that his vision blurred and the path danced before him. He lost his footing on the loose gravel almost immediately and slipped, tumbling down a sharp incline.
He landed hard in a stony crevasse, smashing his left shoulder into a protruding rock. There was a wet pop, and a searing heat burst down his arm.
Ali gasped. He tried to shift and then yelped in pain, an agonizing ache shooting through his shoulder. He gritted his teeth as the muscles in his arm spasmed, biting back a shout.
Get up. You will die here if you do not get up. But sick and weak, Ali’s limbs refused to obey. Blood trickled from his nose, filling his mouth as he stared helplessly at the stark cliffs outlined against the bright sky. A glance at the crevasse revealed nothing but sand and stones. It was—rather fittingly—a dead place.
He choked back a sob. There were worse ways to die, he knew. He could have been caught and tortured by his family’s enemies or hacked apart by assassins eager to claim bloody “proof” of their victory. But God forgive him, Ali was not ready to die.
You are a Geziri. A believer in the Most Merciful. Do not dishonor yourself now. Shaking, Ali squeezed his eyes against the pain, trying to find some peace in the holy passages he’d memorized so long ago. It was difficult. The faces of those he’d left behind in Daevabad—the brother whose trust he finally lost, the friend whose love he’d killed, the father who’d sentenced him to death for a crime he hadn’t committed—kept breaking through the encroaching darkness; their voices taunting him as he slowly slipped away.
He woke to an impossibly foul substance being forced down his throat.
Ali’s eyes shot open and he gagged; his mouth full of something crunchy and metallic and wrong. His vision swam, slowly focusing on the silhouette of a broad-shouldered man squatting beside him. The man’s face came to him in patches: a nose that had been broken more than once, a matted black beard, hooded gray eyes.
The man laid a heavy hand on Ali’s brow and spooned another thick helping of the disgusting gruel into his mouth. “Eat up, little prince.”
Ali choked. “W-what is that?” His voice was barely a whisper in his parched throat.
The djinn beamed. “Oryx blood and ground locusts.”
Ali’s stomach immediately rebelled. He turned his head to throw up, but the man clamped his hand over Ali’s mouth and massaged his throat, forcing the revolting mixture back down.
“Ay, do not be doing that. What kind of man turns down food that his host has so thoughtfully prepared?”
“Daevabadis.” A second voice spoke up, and Ali glanced down at his feet, catching sight of a woman with thick black braids and a face that might have been carved from stone. “No manners.” She held up Ali’s zulfiqar and khanjar. “Lovely blades.”
A breeze swept through the crevasse, drying the dampness that clung to his skin and tattered dishdasha. Ali shivered.
The man held up a gnarled black root. “Did you eat something like this?” When Ali nodded, he snorted. “Fool. You’re lucky not to be a pile of ash right now.” He shoved another spoonful of the bloody gristle at Ali. “Eat. You’ll need your strength for the journey home.”
Ali pushed it weakly away, still dazed and now thoroughly confused. “Home?” he whispered.
“Ain Luhayr,” the man said as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. “Home. It is but a week’s travel west.”
Ali tried to shake his head, but his neck and shoulders had gone stiff. “I can’t,” he rasped out. I… I’m going south.” South was the only direction he could think to go; the al Qahtanis originally hailed from the forbidding mountain chain along Am Gezira’s humid southern coast and it was the only place he could think to find allies.
“South?” The man laughed. “You are mostly dead and you think to cross Am Gezira?” He quickly thrust another spoonful into Ali’s mouth. “There are assassins looking for you in every shadow of this land. Word is the fire-worshippers will make rich the man who kills Alizayd al Qahtani.”
“Which is what we should be doing, Lubayd,” the other raider cut in. She nodded rudely at the gruel. “Not wasting our provisions on a southern brat.”
Ali swallowed back the vile concoction with difficulty, narrowing his eyes at her. “You’d kill a fellow Geziri for foreign coins?”
“I’d kill an al Qahtani for free.”
Ali startled at the hostility in her voice. The man – Lubayd – sighed and shot her an annoyed look before turning back to Ali. “You’ll forgive Aqisa here, prince, but it’s not a good time to be visiting our land.” He put down the clay cup. “We haven’t seen a drop of rain in years. Our spring is drying up, we’re running out of food, our babies and old folk are dying… So, we send messages to Daevabad pleading for help. And do you know what our king says, our fellow Geziri king?”
“Nothing.” Aqisa spat at the ground. “Your father doesn’t even respond. So, do not speak of tribal ties to me, al Qahtani.”
Ali was too exhausted to even be frightened by the hatred in her face. He eyed the zulfiqar in her hands again. He kept his blade sharp; at least this ordeal would finally end quickly should they chose to execute him with it.
He choked back another wave of bile, the oryx blood thick in his throat. “Well…” he started weakly. “In that case I agree. You needn’t waste that on me.” He nodded at Lubayd’s gruel.
There was a long moment of silence. Then Lubayd burst into laughter, the sound ringing out across the crevasse.
He was still laughing when he grabbed Ali’s injured arm without warning and yanked it straight.
Ali cried out, black spots blossoming across his vision. But as his shoulder slid back into place, the searing pain immediately lessened. His fingers tingled, sensation returning to his numb hand in excruciating waves.
Lubayd grinned. He pulled free his ghutrah, the cloth headdress worn by northern Geziri djinn, and quickly fashioned it into a sling. He hauled Ali to his feet by his good arm. “Keep your sense of humor, boy. You’re going to need it.”
A massive white oryx waited patiently at the mouth of the crevasse; a line of dried blood crossed one flank. Ignoring Ali’s protests, Lubayd shoved him up onto the animal’s back. Ali clutched its long horns, watching as Lubayd wrestled his zulfiqar away from the other raider.
He dropped it in Ali’s lap. “Let that shoulder heal and perhaps you’ll swing this again.”
Ali gave the blade an incredulous look. “But I thought…”
“We’d be killing you?” Lubayd shook his head. “No. Not yet, anyway. Not while you are doing that.” He motioned back to the crevasse.
Ali followed his gaze. His mouth fell open.
It wasn’t sweat that had soaked his robe. A miniature oasis had sprung up around him while he lay dying. A spring gurgled through the rocks where his head had been, trickling down a path shrouded with new moss. A second spring bubbled up through the sand, filling the depression his body had left. Bright green shoots covered a bloody patch of gravel; their unfurling leaves were wet with dew.
Ali took a sharp breath, scenting the fresh moisture on the desert air. The potential.
“I have no idea how you did that, Alizayd al Qahtani. But if you can draw water into a barren patch of sand in Am Gezira, well…” Lubayd winked. “I’d say you’re worth far more than a few foreign coins.”
Excerpted from The Kingdom of Copper, copyright © 2018 by S.A. Chakraborty
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