The City of Brass
Author: S.A. Chakraborty
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Publish Date: November 14, 2017
Raiting: 4.5 Stars
Synopsis: Nahri has never believed in magic. Certainly, she has power; on the streets of 18th century Cairo, she’s a con woman of unsurpassed talent. But she knows better than anyone that the trade she uses to get by—palm readings, zars, healings—are all tricks, sleights of hand, learned skills; a means to the delightful end of swindling Ottoman nobles.
But when Nahri accidentally summons an equally sly, darkly mysterious djinn warrior to her side during one of her cons, she’s forced to accept that the magical world she thought only existed in childhood stories is real. For the warrior tells her a new 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 hawks are not what they seem, lies Daevabad, the legendary city of brass, a city to which Nahri is irrevocably bound.
In that city, behind gilded brass walls laced with enchantments, behind the six gates of the six djinn tribes, old resentments are simmering. And when Nahri decides to enter this world, she learns that true power is fierce and brutal. That magic cannot shield her from the dangerous web of court politics. That even the cleverest of schemes can have deadly consequences. After all, there is a reason they say be careful what you wish for…
Wow. Can someone invent time travel, so I can go back and shove this book into my own face when it was first released? I am pretty damn cross with myself for sitting on it for so long.
S.A. Chakraborty created a rich world the likes of which I have never experienced. This book is part magic realism and part fantasy, but the world is centered Middle Eastern and Muslim cultures that I have very little knowledge of. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to walk through this story from the eyes of characters who are very different from me.
The story is told from two perspectives: Nahri, a street criminal with magic and mysterious heritage, and Alizayd (Ali), prince of Daevabad who is equal parts awkward and bad ass. While I loved Nahri more than Ali, they both irritated me at times. But really, people aren’t perfect and fictional characters shouldn’t be. Dara is the grumpy Daeva that Nahri accidently summons at the beginning of the book and hot damn I loved him. It’s no secret that I love grumpy male characters in books and Dara is no exception to that. Really, all the characters in this book, even the side ones, are very well developed and they all stuck with me.
One of the problems I had with this book was the world building. It was SO MUCH. I love books with good world building but I felt like this book took it one step over the line. Each scene felt like it added another layer to the world, but sometimes I just wanted a break. I felt like it was hard to keep track of the history in the world too. Each character had their own perspective on what happened in the past and I felt like the story’s history got a bit muddled by this. I get that there are always two sides to history and all that, but I just felt like I couldn’t tell you what actually went down in this world to bring us to where it currently is. The pacing was really thrown off sometimes by the world building too.
But, at the end of the day, this book was damn good. I remember when I first read the synopsis last year I knew I’d like the book. It still took me by surprise just how much I liked it though. What I think it really boils down to is this book is not like any other fantasy book I’ve read. Sure, it might have similar story elements to a lot of fantasy books: female main character (with some kind of hidden past) teams up with broody male and takes on some kind of corrupt system. But the setting and cultures represented brought out new elements and gave this story a richness that other fantasy books can be lacking. When people ask for fantasy book recommendations, The City of Brass is what I’ll be telling them to read for years to come.