The City of Brass
by S. A. Chakraborty
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…
Yes, I am aware I am late to the party and to add insult to the injury, I took a long time to pick this one up because of all the hype and the gushing reviews I kept seeing everywhere. When that happens, my brain is immediately reluctant to read the book because whether I want it or not, expectations are raised to a certain level. I try hard not to let myself be influenced but I am human.
In any case, this time the hype lived up! I am so glad because I was so freaking scared of starting this one. I was immediately swept away by the engaging writing and frankly, the concept really intrigued me. I am not sure I have read any djinn books before, I am left wondering ‘Why the hell haven’t I?’ and I have no answer.
Chakraborty’s writing is one of the biggest draws here because her writing is just so engaging and inviting that you have to hop on the adventure carpet with her, there’s no other way. I think the romance was complicated enough for me not mind it, there were layers to it that I am still not sure I understand yet (because of how vague the layers are), there’s political intrigue and I loved reading about it.
The characters are so incredibly written as well, there are no good guys or bad guys in this book, almost every main character is gray and I loved it so much. There’s always that chance of a good person doing bad things for a good cause and vice versa.
Nahri’s world is changed irrevocably when she accidentally summons a powerful Daeva, her life of thievery and trying to learn about medicine is over when the said Daeva has to take her to his land while trying to escape some murderous ‘people’. Dara is the Daeva that Nahri summons and he’s a really complex character, often I really couldn’t find any reason to like him but there were moments when I softened towards him because of his experiences in the past. He does so many shady things but in his heart, he thinks he’s doing the right thing and those people are the most dangerous.
Talking of people who think they are doing the right thing, Ali, the other main character of the book and frankly, somehow despite his less-than-stellar behaviour, he became my favourite. I don’t know how but he stole my heart with his nerdy tendencies and righteousness. I think he really worked as a POV because despite Dara’s insistence that he was right about the history of Daevabad, Ali offered his own perspective to the whole muddled history and so we are shown that both sides were pretty horrendous when it came to the glorious history of the Daevas.
There’s no one side that’s entirely right and I loved it, I always like when there are no clear lines in the sand. That makes the story more real, more believable. I think this moral gray area over the entirety of the plot and the characters is what made this book a real joy for me.
If I had to pick at something in this book then it would have to be slowing down in the middle, it took me a while to pick up the book again because of it. However, once the plot started to move forward, it was really easy to get lost in the book.
The City of Brass was one of my favourite reads of the year and I can’t wait for the sequels! An absolutely fantastic debut and start to a trilogy by S. A. Chakraborty. Fans of fantasy and political intrigue will definitely enjoy this book. If you haven’t read it yet for some reason, don’t waste any more time, just go and read it. It’s really good!
Oh, and if you want to recommend some djinn books, please do! I now have some craving for that!