The City of Brass (The Daevabad Trilogy #1) by S.A. Chakraborty (2017)
Fiction | Historical 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…”
pooled ink Review:
Where to begin with this one…
Well first of all it’s an impressive debut novel to be sure! The imagery, the plot, the writing, it unfolds with such unique flavor and grandeur that it’s to be commended. I certainly enjoyed the fresh take on this fantasy tale as it not only is inspired by Middle Eastern culture but is actually rooted and suffused with it. Egypt, Islam, and Middle Eastern myths are not mere facets to the story but are the story’s heart from whence the story blooms.
I admit I’m still adjusting to reading adult/general fiction. I’m at this weird age where Young Adult Fiction is not always a win for me but Adult/General Fiction remains hard to commit to. The problem is that sometimes YA comes across as boringly juvenile and sometimes Adult is simply boringly dry. But this book managed to straddle the line for the most part I think. I enjoyed the premise enough to remain quite interested throughout even if I did have moments where my mind wandered and yearned for something else.
This book is not boring, or at least not to me, but…I can’t place my finger on it but there is something that kept it from being an all-day binge. It was easy to enjoy while reading but just as easy to put down and step away.
Anyway, enough of that. Let’s get into the story!
We meet the main character, Nahli, who is an orphaned con artist (although ironically she does possess some magic of her own) who has no memory of who her family is or where they come from. She tells fortunes and gives bogus remedies for payment but she does actually possess the mysterious ability to heal. Lately she’s begun branching out and performing healing ceremonies that are sort of like exorcisms however this time she decides to sing in her native tongue (the only link to her past). Well, the supernatural make quite the appearance as a result. Nahri thought djinn, deava, and the like were naught but myths however she’s struck by their mighty force that night and forced to go on the run.
Traveling with Nahri is a deava warrior who assigns himself as her protector to get her to the city of brass where she will be safe from the infrits hunting her down. Dara is also the first one to help unravel the truth behind Nahri’s hidden past and her impossible powers (due to her being human).
Nahri’s is the first POV and the second POV that the book eventually unveils is that of Ali, a djinn prince. Through him we really get to witness life in this supernatural city, the religion, the oppression, the political games and webs spun at every turn. He’s a prince not destined to be king but this only makes him more mobile and interesting, not to mention useful.
Overall I liked the characters we meet and how their stories intertwine as they unfold. I didn’t feel a particular connection with any of them but I still thought them well written.
I also appreciate the parallels imbedded in this tale of fantasy that reflect the social and political situations of our world past and present. On that front it was quite unapologetic and honest. People often think fantasy is just a bunch of silliness with magic and whimsy, but good books, no matter their genre, reflect the world we live in simply through a different lens in hopes of translating what we cannot see on our own in a way we may be more open to hearing.
My favorite aspect of this book however was the world-building. True it could become quite dense and overly-detailed in the writing, but the imagery and concepts were breathtaking. I adore the art, history, and bustle of Egypt and the Middle East and those aspects were wonderfully translated in this fantasy text. It was also a nice breath of fresh air, I love how fantasy allows me to travel even when rooted in our world. Through fantasy I’ve travelled across the globe (although I’m still waiting on a good read to take me to South America; I won’t hold my breath for Antarctica haha). So on that front this is certainly a recommended read!
Overall I thought this book a read worthy of its praise even if it didn’t hit a home-run for me personally. If you’re a reader of fantasy or even history then please give this one a look, you just might be surprised.
The City of Brass is a novel proud with magic, myths, and destiny. Spun together with an expert pen, adventure and politics whisk the reader away in this desert tale of family, oppression, fate, and love. Boldly told and adorned by a delicate hand, this historical fantasy deserves the praise it receives.
Purchase Here: The City of Brass
Similar Recommended Reads: Nevernight by Jay Kristoff, The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang, The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi, The Wrath & The Dawn by Renée Ahdieh, Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett, A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston
Meet S.A. Chakraborty!
S. A. Chakraborty is a speculative fiction writer from New York City. Her debut, THE CITY OF BRASS, is the first book in an epic fantasy trilogy set in the 18th century Middle East and will be published in November 2017 by Harper Voyager. When not buried in books about Mughal portraiture and Omani history, S. A. enjoys hiking, knitting, and cooking unnecessarily complicated meals for her family. You can find her online at www.sachakraborty.com or on Twitter (@SChakrabs) where she likes to ramble about history, politics, and Islamic art.