Book Review

The City Of Brass

The City of Brass

  • Author: S.A. Chakraborty
  • Genre: YA Fantasy
  • Publication Date: November 14, 2017
  • Publisher: Harper Voyager
  • Series: The Daevabad Trilogy #1

TRIGGER WARNING: slavery, execution, riots, mention of torture and rape

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Nahri has never believed in magic. Certainly, she has power; on the streets of eighteenth-century Cairo, she’s a con woman of unsurpassed talent. But she knows better than anyone that the trades she uses to get by — palm readings, zars, and a mysterious gift for healing — are all tricks, both the means to the delightful end of swindling Ottoman nobles and a reliable way to survive.

But when Nahri accidentally summon Dara, an equally sly, darkly mysterious djinn warrior, to her side during one of her cons, she’s forced to reconsider her beliefs. For Dara tells Nahri an extraordinary tale across hot, windswept sands teeming with creatures of fire and rivers where the mythical married sleep, past ruins of once-magnificent human metropolises and mountains where the circling birds of prey are more than what they seem, lies Daevabad, the legendary city of brass — a city to which Nahri is irrevocably bound.

In Daevabad, within gilded brass walls laced with enchantments and behind the six gates of the six djinn tribes, old resentments run deep. And when Nahri decides to enter this world, her arrival threatens to ignite a war that has been simmering for centuries.

Spurning Dara’s warning of the treachery surrounding her, she embarks on a hesitant friendship with Alizayd, an idealistic prince who dreams of revolutionizing his father’s corrupt regime. All too soon, Nahri 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 to be careful what you wish for … 

I’m the kind of girl who flies through books like there’s no tomorrow. However, there was something about this book that made me slow down and savor it like a super-fancy dessert. The City of Brass isn’t just a book, it’s more of an immersive experience. I love that it’s full of exactly what I’d expect from a book set in Cairo and surrounding areas – people of color.

It isn’t the fastest moving story right off the bat, but I liked how the author took the time to really set the stage and allow me to get invested in the characters. Nahri is awesome. She’s young, smart, and a hustler trying to make ends meet without any family to fall back on in the melting pot that is 18th-century Cairo. But when something goes wrong, she winds up summoning a djinn and placing herself into serious danger. Dara, the djinn, tells her a fantastic story about the city of brass, as he whisks her away to this mythical place. 

However, while Daevabad is beautiful, it isn’t perfect. There is discord brewing, riots are threatening, and corruption runs deep. Alizayd is a bit of a religious zealot, which I wasn’t thrilled to see, but all he really wants is to fix the broken system his father rules. The different tribes don’t get along, and the shafit are part human, part djinn, and highly discriminated against.

“‘Shafit are forbidden from skilled work; if our kind are lucky, they can find a job as a servant or bed slave … We’re not allowed to leave, we’re now allowed to work, our women and children can be legally stolen by any pureblood claiming they’re related —‘“

The descriptions and the writing are gorgeous, and swiftly transported me right into the story:

“Fog shrouded the great city of brass, obscuring its towering minarets of sandblasted glass and hammered metal and veiling its golden domes. Rain seeped off the jade roofs of marble palaces and flooded its stone streets, condensing on the placid faces of its ancient Nahid founders memorialized on the murals covering its mighty walls.”

The story itself was great, and the world building was absolutely incredible. There’s a lot of action, plenty of intrigue, some political maneuvering, a bit of romance, and plenty of plot twists. It’s a great start to a series, and I can’t wait to find out what happens next.

People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn’t an upper limit.

Gasp Factor: 13

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