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The City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty
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The City of Brass

by S. A. Chakraborty

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Really enjoyed this book, can’t wait for the next one to come out ( )
  ArianaA | Sep 7, 2018 |
I finally gave up about 3/4 of the way through. It was difficult to keep straight the different djinn factions, and the book, oddly, slowed down when the heroine and the djinn Dara reached their destination. ( )
  dcoward | Aug 28, 2018 |
First published on Booking in Heels.

The story starts in very late 18th Century Egypt, right after the invasion of Napoleon. Fortunately, you need absolutely zero historical knowledge as the magical hijinks kick in before too long, and we’re whisked off on a wonderful journey that never mentions Napoleon again.

Let’s start with the plot then, as I’ve touched on it already. It’s pretty amazing, to be honest. I wouldn’t say it’s 100% unique, as djinn, ifrit, Solomon, etc, are all part of Middle Eastern mythology and have therefore been used in countless other works of fiction before this one. That said, I’ve never seen so much effort put into a story before. There’s a lot going on here.

The narratives alternate (more or less) between Nahri, an Egyptian orphan of unknown heritage, whisked away by a djinn she accidentally summons, and Prince Ali, the devoutly religious second son of the monarch of Daevabad. Their ‘voices’ are sufficiently different to keep the reader occupied, and whilst I’d say that I preferred Nahri’s chapters, there wasn’t really much in it.

There are multiple different plotlines – Nahri’s heritage, a looming rebellion, Dava’s past and his true loyalties, and Ali’s disillusion with the power of the ruling elite. Unusually, I was equally interested in all of it, and that’s down to the skill with which each strand is woven. I’ve read reviews that say The City of Brass is slow to start, and I can understand that. It is, sort of. But I didn’t really notice until this was pointed out to me, as I was so wrapped up in the lore and the world-building.

Ah yes, the world-building. Maybe I should have started with that. It’s incredible. On her website, S.A. Chakraborty mentions that she’s ‘a white convert’ to Islam and in a recent interview she states:

In Islam, we believe you have humans, angels, and all these other creatures, including the djinn, who are created from smoke or fire. They live alongside us, but you can’t see them, and they live for hundreds and thousands of years. As a history lover, I thought that was just great.

So the fundamental concept is based on Islamic lore, but that feels almost dismissive of the work that Chakraborty has put into The City of Brass. Not only does Daevabad feel real, I’m pretty sure at times I could almost see and hear it. There’s a whole world here, with different tribes, races, factions… I would honestly read any book set in or around Daevabad. The magic system is very in-depth and I absolutely adore it, on the face of it.

But that does lead me to my only criticism of The City of Brass. Even now I couldn’t confidently tell you which races are djinn, or the differences between the tribes, or who can become a slave and who can’t, etc. There’s a lot to take in, and I frequently had to read a page a couple of times before I could get it straight in my head. There is a glossary at the back, but it doesn’t really help that much. As an example, a ‘relic’ is discussed fairly early on (as an actual plot point, not an irrelevant aside) but it’s not explained until half the book later what a relic actually is. It didn’t spoil my enjoyment, but a little more explanation would have been very helpful; either that or a more comprehensive glossary.

The characters are impressively nuanced, for the most part. Ali, in particular, struggles with balancing his faith against his family, and his morals against his politics. It was occasionally a bit heavy-handed when he refers to ‘the right religion’ etc, but it was infrequent enough for me to overlook it. The real star of The City of Brass is Dava, however, the djinn who Nahri accidentally summons in the streets of Cairo. I love him. His personality is so complex that you’re never quite sure what’s going on; you don’t know what his motives are, how much of his power he’s hiding, why he’s so feared… He’s just sort of perfect, actually.

The ending is intense. It’s revealing and brutal and intense. It doesn’t end on a cliffhanger, not really, it’s not that cheap of a novel. However, it does raise questions that I want answered now. I checked when the next book is out and was disappointed to learn it’s not until January 2019. Then I checked again just in case I was wrong and it was actually earlier (I wasn’t and it’s not).

The City of Brass is honestly incredible. I’d be very, very surprised if it doesn’t make it onto my eventual Top Ten list at the end of the year. The world, the story, the characters are all masterfully crafted and I’ll be devouring anything that S.A. Chakraborty writes. If she wrote a cereal packet blurb, I’d read it. ( )
1 vote generalkala | Aug 7, 2018 |
Absolutely stunning fantasy debut from S A Chakraborty. I am a total fantasy addict, and this has me nearly as excited as I was when I first read Patrick Rothfuss’s Name of the Wind. It’s not only very well written, very intelligent and extremely original, but it also has the key elements of a gripping plot along with a truly excellent, witty main female protagonist in Nahri.
The City of Brass is inspired by Middle Eastern culture and folklore, with the Islamic faith present throughout, making this high fantasy a huge standout and so different from the plethora of high fantasies inspired by Medieval Britain. But that's not the only difference. It's the setting, the world building, the politics! This is a rich and lush fantasy that is so very easy to get lost in; I was completely captivated by the world of the djinn. Highly recommended, highly addictive, and I’m not sure how I’m going to wait till next January for Kingdom of Copper. ( )
1 vote Jawin | Jul 22, 2018 |
The City of Brass is an immersive fantasy epic set in 18th century Egypt and the imaginary city of Daevabad. Petty thief Nahri survives the streets of Cairo by whatever means possible--swindling, stealing, etc. But when a scam goes wrong and she accidentally summons a djinn, Nahri learns of her true identity and her hidden magical powers. Now with a target on her back and pursued by demons, Nahri and her djinn must flee to the safe haven of Daevabad, the City of Brass. The plot hits all the beats of the hero's journey, from the call to adventure to the freedom to live. While the plot isn't the most original, the novel excels in its world-building. S.A. Chakraborty crafts a fantasy world that beautifully combines both Middle Eastern folklore and Muslim faith. I look forward to the next installment in the series.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of The City of Brass from Harper Voyager. However, this has not influenced my review in any way. ( )
  hianbai | Jul 14, 2018 |
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For Alia, the light of my life
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He was an easy mark.
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Book description
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 summons 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 marid 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 . . .
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"Nahri has never believed in magic. Certainly, she has power; on the streets of eighteenth-century Cairo, shes 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 summons Dara, an equally sly, darkly mysterious djinn warrior, to her side during one of her cons, shes 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 marid 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"--Amazon.com.… (more)

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