“The City of Brass” by S. A. Chakraborty
Genre: Adult Fiction, Fantasy
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 love the feel of this world. It’s a richly vibrant Middle Eastern world. Then we mix in the magical world. It’s delightful. I don’t read many Middle Eastern/Middle Eastern inspired books so this was a refreshing change of pace on my reading list.
Our two POV characters Nahri and Ali are wonderful. Nahri is a con artist who turns out to to be a healer (Nahid). Her struggle trying to find her place in this world was great to watch play out. Ali is the younger son of the king who doesn’t fully agree with some of the beliefs held by his family. He works behind the scenes to help other beings. He’s torn between blood and beliefs. Surprisingly, Dara ended up being my favorite character of the lot. He’s a brooding warrior. I really enjoyed the his struggles. Like I said, he’s a warrior so he’s done some bad things. Then there’s the other things that he doesn’t fully remember.
The magic system is wonderfully rich. Thank goodness for the glossary of terms in the back of the book. I need lots of explanations and reminders of what things are. I love political fiction so it was fascinating to see how the ‘races’ interacted with each other as well as the prejudices within the magical world. I wasn’t always able to keep track of exactly who all the groups are in relationship to each other but I managed to keep up well enough.
The pacing is the book’s biggest downfall in my opinion. It moved at a glacial speed sometimes. It took over 200 pages for Nahri and Dara to reach the city and for things to finally get moving. The end really picks up. Those last 100 pages or so were awesome.
All in all, this was refreshing change in pace of my typically fantasy books. Can’t wait to eventually move on in the series!