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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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The City of Brass has an original feels as it explores the incredible world of djinn, peris, and marids through the viewpoint of Cairo-raised Nahri. Nahni has always known that she is different with her ability to sense lies and to understand and speak any language, with some healing skills besides. But when she accidentally summons a djinn, she ends up on the run with him, other fearsome beings in pursuit. They take refuge in the City of Brass, and Nahri soon find the complex world of politics and ancient grudges is no refuge at all.

The worldbuilding in this book is extraordinary, the descriptions exquisite. Nahri is refreshing as a heroine since she has a definite edge; even when in the lap of luxury, she can't shake the hoarding habits she knew as a starving thief of Cairo. The pace is good, too, making this a fast read despite its 500-plus pages.

I have a hard time keeping track of a multitude of names, and that made the book's various political factions a source of constant confusion for me. I just could not keep track of who was who and allied with what. The romantic angle within the book isn't heavy, which is good, because it actually left me pretty cold. I am not attracted to the bad boy types in books or reality, and Dara held zero appeal for me from the start. It's evident early on that he did some bad things in the past (a major understatement, which I won't explore in more detail due to spoilers) and the end only confirmed his alignment.

In all, a good escapist read, and I can easily see why it garnered such hype with its originality and fast pace. ( )
  ladycato | Mar 21, 2019 |
So good I've read it twice in a year - and it was better the second time around. A beautifully-imagined Middle Eastern fantasy where social tensions threaten to tear apart the capital city of the djinn. I loved the characters, I loved the world-building, and I loved the way Chakraborty holds her characters to account.

Full review

I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review, but I'll be buying a paperback too - I want this trilogy on my physical shelf. ( )
1 vote imyril | Mar 5, 2019 |
SPOILER FREE!

This was a recommendation from a friend who very accurately divined that it would appeal to me. As soon as I started reading it I was hooked and it did prove to be a book I was reluctant to put down, made time to read, and was very engaged with.

I never like to categorise books as it may close a book off to readers that would find it worthwhile and interesting. This book is in the style of an Arabian Nights story involving characters and creatures with magical powers, and as such it will probably be found on the Fantasy shelf in bookshops and libraries. For people not inclined to read Fantasy novels this would be a terrible shame as they may never even consider reading it.

Middle Eastern mythology is the environment in which this story takes place but this is simply the backdrop to what is a tale of racial prejudice, political machinations, and the manipulation of historical events to influence the thinking of a population with the intent of keeping the current rulers in their place of power and suppressing any dissent that might arise. I do not know if the author had any particular real life situation in mind when she was writing this book, but I can see the actions and reactions in this book being relevant in so many real world circumstances that exist today. Having grown up in a divided community with history being used to foment violent political action I can relate to many of the incidents in this book and the way people’s emotions were used to direct the thoughts and actions of individuals and mobs.

In addition to the story demonstrating how those in power and those who are not operate to try to advance their respective group’s position, the book was very well written. Having recently read John Yorke’s excellent book “Into the Woods: how stories work and why we tell them” I was more conscious of structure and technique while reading “The City of Brass” than I otherwise would have been. In Yorke’s terminology “The City of Brass” is a three dimensional story; the characters clearly develop and the reader can see how their experiences influence their development, growth an action.

One excellent technique was the use of two viewpoints, i.e. the viewpoints of two characters drawn from each of the two main factions involved in the story. Chapters alternated between the two characters and this gave a balanced view of the situation; the reader could understand the thinking and actions of the two main parties and this gives the reader an overview of the story that allows observation of how each side is manipulating facts to influence people. In every real conflict on Earth each party uses prejudices to stir up hate against the group portrayed as the enemy; historical characters are presented as heroes despite atrocities they might have initiated; the atrocities of the other side are pulled out of the history of the group to demonise the present day enemy and fire up the crowds with fear and a desire for vengeance. I have lived through this sort of activity and recognized it very clearly in this book.

No one should be put off from reading this book because they see it as Fantasy. No one should be put off from reading this book because it has magic in it. The Fantasy and the magic in it are simply backdrops to a story about prejudice, conflict, and political manipulation. This story could be set in any nation on Earth and the tale of political struggle and inter-group conflict could be told in any environment; dressing it up in a world where magic is the norm is a technique to let people enjoy a story without being drawn into the real world conflicts that it reflects. This book is an exposé of how political power is wielded and control maintained. From that viewpoint it is a good companion book to “The Leopard” by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa and “Dune” by Frank Herbert.
  pgmcc | Feb 23, 2019 |
Nahri can make a decent living on the streets of Cairo as a fortune teller and sometimes thief, but when she unwittingly summons Dara, a djinn warrior, her life changes drastically. Dara whisks her away to Daevabad, the hidden city of the djinn, where she is welcomed as the last surviving member of a noble race. . . but, of course, all is not as it seems, and even Dara may be hiding secrets from her.

I enjoyed this quite a bit, though it is a rather slow build into the world of the series, and few questions are answered in this first book. That's not to say that the pacing lags -- there's a good bit of action in the book, balanced out by the necessity of detailed description of the world of the story and the different classes and races of djinn. I'm still not sure I grasped all of the subtleties there. I did enjoy the story, though once again I'm not on board for a romance between an 18-year-old girl and a magical being who has lived for millennia. However, that aspect of the story was fairly slight, overshadowed by other relationships and the political maneuvering that Nahri found herself embroiled in. If you're up for a chunky epic fantasy trilogy with Middle-Eastern flavor, I'd recommend this one. I'll be reading the second book soon, I suspect. ( )
  foggidawn | Feb 14, 2019 |
Every now and then I am in the mood for a great fantasy. I went into this with low expectations and ended up really enjoying it.

I do agree with others when they say that majority of this is developing the world. I appreciated that though as I was able to figure out different things going on more. I enjoyed learning about the world and the history around the world.

The story is told between two characters: Nahri and Ali. It was like you are reading two different stories, as they really do not collide until almost 300 pages when Nahri finally makes it to the city. However; I found both POV interesting. There was action on both sides to keep your interest. So much happened with nothing happening at all (if you read this you will understand). I had a few people ask me what this was about, and it was really hard to say as there was individual things happening but I was not sure how they were all going to come together. There was not a solid plot for the first 300 pages, so that maybe something you want to consider when going into this. It still worked for me though.

Overall, this was something I would not think was for me at all and I ended up really liking it. I am happy to have the second book on half so I can continue with the series. ( )
  SimplyKelina | Feb 5, 2019 |
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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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