Review: The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty


The City of Brass coverTitle: The City of Brass
Author:  S.A. Chakraborty
Published:  Nov. 14, 2017
Series: The Daevabad Trilogy
Genre:  Historical Fantasy
Format:  Kindle
Source:  Purchased

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.

I bought this book as a Christmas gift for my sister-in-law, and my curiosity was so piqued by it that I had to get it myself — and I’m SO glad I did.

The City of Brass was the first book in The Daevabad Trilogy — a fantasy series set in the Middle East with *gasp* Middle Eastern characters. Let’s face it, fantasy literature is typically pretty darn white. The City of Brass is here to at least begin remedying that.

This book is told from the point-of-view of two different characters.

We start off in 18th-century Cairo, where we find Nahri, a 20-something con artist with healing powers. She does pretty much anything she can to get by, not limited to reading palms, hosting “zars” designed to get rid of evil spirits, and sometimes flat-out theft.

Interestingly enough, Nahri doesn’t believe in magic despite her own supernatural abilities. Her friend/business partner Yaqub warns her not to play around with magic, but she laughs it off because she doesn’t believe it’s real.

But when she hosts a zar to get rid of an evil spirit possessing a little girl, she accidentally summons a terrifyingly handsome djinn warrior, and Nahri is forced to accept that magic is real.

When they are attacked by ifrit, the djinn — who insists he is a daeva, not a djinn — helps Nahri flee to safety in Daevabad, the magical city of brass that serves as a capital to the six different djinn tribes.

Nahri learns that in order to have magical abilities, she has to have djinn blood — and not just any djinn blood. Her healing powers indicate that the blood of the Nahids, a powerful family of healers from the Daeva tribe who used to rule over Daevabad, runs through her veins.

Throughout the book, Nahri struggles to embrace her newfound identity and navigates complicated political rivalries that span centuries.

“Greatness takes time, Banu Nahida. Often the mightiest things have the humblest beginnings.”

In other chapters, we get the perspective of Prince Alizayd al Qahtani, the youngest son of King Ghassan ibn Khader al Qahtani, whose Geziri ancestors defeated the Nahid-led Daevas to seize control of Daevabad and end persecution on shafits, whose heritage is part djinn and part human.

Alizayd, or Ali as he’s typically called, has been studying at the Citadel his whole life. He is training to be the Qaid for his older brother, Muntadhir, who will eventually become king of Daevabad.

Where Muntadhir is spoiled and given to overindulgence in life’s pleasures, Ali is selfless. He is a fierce warrior with a very strict moral code.

Throughout the book, Ali tries to balance his religious values with his family loyalty, but being the second son of a king is dangerous.

And without spoiling anything… so many plot twists that I honestly couldn’t have dreamed up.

I don’t think I can sing enough praises for The City of Brass. S.A. Chakraborty’s debut novel is the type of book that will keep you turning pages long after you should have gone to bed. If you like fantasy, this is for you. If you’re fascinated by Middle Eastern culture and history, this is for you. If you’re interested in how political dynamics are never simply black or white, this is for you.

Go read The City of Brass. I promise you won’t regret it.

5 Star Review


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