Title: The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty
A copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review
Release date: November 14th 2017
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 . . .
Oh my goodness you guys, this book was SO good. It’s been far too long since I’ve read a debut fantasy book and this one just blew me away. It’s certainly earned itself a place as one of my fave books of 2017.
The City of Brass was such an immersive story. The writing and the setting were both amazing and imaginative and the descriptions made it easy for you to imagine yourself alongside our main characters. There’s so much action and political intrigue and there’s also commentary that mirrors real world issues too. There’s a great slow burn romance, unlikely friendships and more. Honestly if you’re any sort of fantasy fan you need books when it comes out.
The world-building in this book is phenomenal. As I mentioned, the descriptions make the story so immersive and everything is so well described. A lot of the world-building is done through dialogue (Dara and others explaining things to one of our main characters, Nahri) and whilst I know a lot of people don’t like world-building done that way, I loved it here. There is also so much history to Daevabad that’s explored all through the novel; there are six djinn tribes, each with a history of their own and history that interlinks. There’s also history not just between the djinn tribes themselves but also between the djinn and the shafits and all of it is so well developed. Thousands of years worth of history mixed in with a number of cultural influences just made for an amazing read and great world-building.
I mentioned before that The City of Brass is such an immersive read, and whilst that’s due in part because of the writing, it’s also in part due to the culture. This is an #ownvoices Muslim fantasy and it has the sort of authenticity that you just cannot get from non-#ownvoices authors. Whilst at times I found myself confused about certain words, it was all part of the reading experience and I personally felt it made things better. I loved that details like daily prayers, different languages and different cultures were scattered all throughout this book and it made the experience that much better.
The City of Brass is told from two different points of view: Nahri and Ali. I loved them both. Nahri is such a bad-ass. We’re first introduced to Nahri in 18th century Cairo, where she hussles Ottoman nobleman to leave their house so she can case it. GO GIRL. She’s also just so realistic- she’s not a perfect character by far. She’s flawed and she makes mistakes and that just makes her a better character in my opinion. I don’t know about you, but I’m apprehensive about fantasy books where the main character doesn’t know they have magic and then they master it straight away with very little training. That’s not this book. I loved seeing Nahri grow into her strength and power and make mistakes and learn from and work hard so she could get better.
In contrast to Nahri, Ali is a prince of Daevabad and has always grown up there, so he’s pretty confident in his abilities. Aentee mentions in her review that “Ali will be a polarising character due to his immovable moral compass and persistent inability to see beyond his own point of view.” To be quite honest, this is one of the things I loved about him because I really related to that. I’m stubborn as heck and also have a tendency not to look beyond my own point of view on certain subjects. I agreed wholeheartedly with Ali wanting to help the shafit, though I got annoyed at his stubbornness about Dara. Nonetheless I thought that his stubbornness and willingness to stick to his beliefs was an admirable quality. Further, I really loved the chapters from his POV not just because I liked him as a character but I loved seeing all the palace/political ingtigue at work. I also loved seeing his friendship with Nahri develop- their relationship was one of my fave relationships of the entire book.
I loved that all of the characters in this book were pretty morally gray. There was no “right” or “wrong” because we understood why everyone did what they did. Relationships were all tangled and it was understood that there was so much history behind every action taken. I especially loved Dara. He brought a unique perspective considering he was 1400 years old and therefore he was part of the history that shaped everyone’s current actions. I loved the slow burn development of his relationship with Nahri and whilst I didn’t always agree with his actions, he’s a character you can’t help but love and root for. His own history was dark and compelling and it was a mystery for most of the book, though I’m excited to learn more about him in book two.
Also, I can’t write this review without saying THAT ENDING. HOLY SHIT. I was on the edge of my seat for at least the last 100 pages and I think ashfdigashf accurately describes my emotions. AND THE EPILOGUE. I’m not even more excited for the next book than I already was.
Overall, The City of Brass is an amazing debut #ownvoices Muslim fantasy story with phenomenal world-building, political intrigue and amazing character development. The writing and setting was so immersive, the cultural influences of the book & the inclusion of that culture made for an even better reading experience. This is one of the best fantasy books I’ve read all year and is certainly one of the best debut fantasy books I’ve ever read, and so I highly, highly recommend you check this out when it releases on November 14th.
Thanks for reading!