Reviews for City of the Plague God, by Sarwat Chadda

librarianpenguin's review

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adventurous emotional funny hopeful inspiring lighthearted reflective sad medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

5.0

delirium23's review

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5.0

Audiobook listen with my kids and this was super well done. Emotional and fast paced and there was a moment where I got all choked up. I love that this is a standalone but I honestly wouldn't mind another book! The author's note at the end was also worth the price of admission.

aurierylla's review against another edition

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adventurous funny fast-paced

5.0

alenka's review

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adventurous emotional hopeful fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

5.0

THIS WAS SO GOOD ohmygosh, Sik is such a wonderful character!! He's this salt of the earth, grounded kid who has spent a lot of time working in his parent's deli. He knows he's not exactly the adventuring type, like his brother was, and he's mostly interested in supporting his family and keeping this running - except he is KIND of interested in adventure, but he doesn't know how to fight, and he certainly knows fear. This is a pretty chill, cool ass kid who knows his city and knows how to use his surroundings to survive. He's so freaking charming! And holy crap,
Spoiler MO IS SO CHARMING TOO! I love him and I'm so glad we got to meet him. I really hope future books blatantly refer to Mo and Daoud as queer. Speaking of which...

OK, I pulled this book off the new cart and checked it out immediately because of the reviews which all said things like it being 'strongly suggested' that Mo and Daoud were queer and loved each other. I have been getting more and more frustrated lately with stories that have queer "representation" by basically popping queer people into that sidekick/best friend slot, mentioning like, once that they are queer, and calling it a day. I wanted to know if this story did that too, and...does it? Friends, I don't know! Daoud and Mo both quietly hint that their relationship was more than just friendship. They are brown teen, Muslim boys, and there's a lot against them in the world. It makes sense that they wouldn't be boldly out, and god, when Daoud explained to Sik that he had tried to show Sik his family the portfolio, tried to show them his love for Mo? I really felt that. It isn't an out and proud queer kind of rep, but it feels like a realistic kind of rep. Coming out is hard, it's not always safe, and sometimes it's just hard to say the words. It makes so much sense to me that it wouldn't be easy for Daoud - Daoud, who lives with Mo's family, and whose own family is never mentioned, which hints a possible coming out that didn't go so well. There is a lot here, and it's kind of subtle, but this is a book for older readers (I put it in our tween collection) and I don't think this is bad rep, or rep that sidelines it's characters. But maybe others will feel differently! I don't know.


ANYWAY. This was fantastic, I absolutely loved Sik, his voice, his scrappy underdog style of tricking enemies - all of it was so freaking good. However. I am super down for book two being all about Belet ballet fighting her way into Kurnugi. Gimme!

megj23's review

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adventurous funny hopeful medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.25

stacieh's review

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4.0

Manhattan is is being attacked by the plague god, Nergal. Thirteen year old, Sik, is grieving the death of his brother and helping his parents run the family deli. Nergal thinks Sik holds the key to eternal life and Sik is immortal but doesn’t it know it yet.

When I explained the plot to my 10 year old, she tells me that Manhattan gets destroyed a lot in the Rick Riordan presents books. That made me laugh. I really enjoyed this book. It explored the theme of being the hero when others say you can’t. Identity and family relationships play a big role in this tale. I loved the mythology mixed with realism.

Sik learns to appreciate his family and life that’s left even without his brother. He makes new friends along the way. I really enjoyed this adventure . Sik was a fabulous character. I loved seeing him grow as the story progressed. I’ll definitely be sharing this with my mythology loving children.

whatifitsbooks's review against another edition

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adventurous emotional hopeful tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated

4.5

 As you may have heard by now, this book has been my most anticipated read for a while now - since March 2018, to be excact, when I learnt that RRP was gonna publish a book that features all I could ever hope for. I'm not even sure I'll manage to put this review into coherent words, but I will try.

Like, Mesopotamian gods? In an own-voices Middle Grade book? That features solely Muslim characters (apart from the (demi-)gods, of course) and literally says out loud that Muslim people rarely get to be the heroes? And shows right then and there what the religion and culture actually means, in spite of what prejudices might say? A freakin' dream.

Now, Sarwat Chadda could not have known how accurate the threat of a plague would be when he wrote this book in 2018, but it's felt freakishly accurate; from everyone's reactions (both the ridiculing ones and the serious ones) to how the atmosphere was written. The plot was mostly focused on that, but the underlying themes of family and loss of a loved one were very present and both heartbreaking and -warming as well.

And then there are the characters. Sik's a brilliant main character - just wanting to do his own thing until he gets dragged into something bigger. And yes, maybe his motivation is a bit slefish at first, since he mostly does it to help his family, but that's the best reasoning for me, to be honest. And he does think globally, too, even if it's just his secondary motivation. He's firmly rooted into his beliefs and culture, even if he struggles with it, never having seen his parents' birth place (Iraq), and that makes him such a relatable character for kids of immigrants.

Daoud and Belet are nice addition to him, filling in the other roles neatly. While Belet's the fighter that coaxes on Sik, Daoud is a reminder of what's on stake - Sik's relationship to him grows as the book develops (in connection to Sik's dead brother Mo, too, but I do not want to spoiler about that. I promise it's amazing!)

The godly characters are written wonderfully - especially Ishtar, who isn't suddenly humanized. She's all the goddess she should be, being ominous and confused as she navigates the modern world. I love the way Sarwat balanced the opposing aspects of her personality (love and war) and showed the development in her throughout the years. The same goes for Gilgamesh, who may not be what you expect but makes so much sense, too.

There's so many small and gigantic things in this book that make it work so well - from pop-culture references that make you laugh to small history lessons to explain everything to people who may not be familiar with Mesopotamian mythology (not to mention that there's a glossary in the back explaining not only that but also Muslim phrases!). With Ishtar as one of the gods in focus, it makes sense that this book is mostly about love in the midst of a fight, and that was woven into the story so perfectly; it just wouldn't have worked out without that balance, showing the relevance of her even in the modern times. That way it's not so far off that she would still be around.

The only thing that irked me just the tiniest bit was the way the mood - both in conversations and Sik's thoughts - changed a little to suddenly for me a few times. There could ahve been a bit more space for reflections, but I understand that those are hard to get completely right without boring your readers (especially when those are typically on the younger side).

All in all this book was absolutely worth the wait - it was all I expected and more, with so many levels of important messages that really need to be put out there today. 

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marziesreads's review

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5.0

The latest entry in the Rick Riordan Presents series, Sarwat Chadda's City of the Plague God introduces us to Sikander Aziz, younger son of Iraqi refugee parents, and his kind-of-friend Belet, adopted daughter of the goddess Ishtar. Sikander, whose parents run a popular Arabic/Mediterranean deli, misses his older brother Mo, who recently passed away. Sik is only thirteen but is a very responsible young man, who helps his parents run their business in lower Manhattan. Imagine his shock when the Mesopotamian god Nergal shows up with some demons (one of which speaks entirely in rhyming couplets) claiming that Sik has something that his brother Mo stole! Saved by the feisty Belet, the adopted daughter of Ishtar, goddess of love and war, Sik embarks, rather unwillingly, on an adventure to save Manhattan, his parents, and his friends, from Nergal the Plague God, whose plague dogs run rampant in the city Sik loves.

Chadda has written a well-paced and truly fascinating tale using Gilgamesh and the gods and goddesses of Mesopotamian mythology. He also manages to reframe aspects of Arabic and Islamic culture in ways that are instructive for teaching tolerance and understanding. (In particular, I loved his use of common Islamic terms that are all too often misused or misconstrued, such as jihad, a righteous struggle that is often personal.) Chadda touches on the prejudice and bullying that Sik has had to put up with, though Sik is rather inured to it at this point. But this story makes young readers identify strongly with Sikander, his love of family and his feelings of loss for his brother. Belet is also a fabulous, fearless character. I hope that we will see more novels from Chadda in this world. This novel, begun before the start of the pandemic, encourages young people to be strong in the face of our present adversity.

The audiobook, narrated by Vikas Adam, was delightful.

I received an advance review copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

gracew's review

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adventurous dark hopeful slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated

4.5

Not exactly the escapism one usually finds in Riordan's imprints but really great regardless. It's great fun to watch a Muslim lead be amazing and interesting and cool. The world building is really great, too, with lots of interesting themes and motifs throughout. There were parts that dragged for me, however, with moments where I thought to myself "ok, can we move on to the plot please" and then the final battle ended pretty abruptly for my tastes. Still, overall a super fun read even with the pandemic going on.

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ezekielblessing's review against another edition

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adventurous emotional fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated

4.25