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The City of Brass (The Daevabad Trilogy, Book 1) (edition 2017)

by S. A. Chakraborty (Author)

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1,0704612,401 (3.97)58
"Step into The City of Brass, the spellbinding debut from S. A. Chakraborty--an imaginative alchemy of The Golem and the Jinni, The Grace of Kings, and Uprooted, in which the future of a magical Middle Eastern kingdom rests in the hands of a clever and defiant young con artist with miraculous healing gifts. 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 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 and a reliable way to survive. But when Nahri accidentally summons an equally sly, darkly mysterious djinn warrior to her side during one of her cons, she's forced to question all she believes. For the warrior tells her 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 not what they seem, lies Daevabad, the legendary city of brass--a city to which Nahri is irrevocably bound. In Daevabad, behind gilded brass walls laced with enchantments, behind the six gates of the six djinn tribes, old resentments are simmering. A young prince dreams of rebellion. 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 to be careful what you wish for"-- "A brilliantly imagined historical fantasy in which a young con artist in eighteenth century Cairo discovers she's the last descendant of a powerful family of djinn healers. With the help of an outcast immortal warrior and a rebellious prince, she must claim her magical birthright in order to prevent a war that threatens to destroy the entire djinn kingdom. Perfect for fans of The Grace of Kings, The Golem and the Jinni, and The Queen of the Tearling"--… (more)
Member:stevepugh
Title:The City of Brass (The Daevabad Trilogy, Book 1)
Authors:S. A. Chakraborty (Author)
Info:HarperVoyager (2017), Edition: edition, 545 pages
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The City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty

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I have held onto The City of Brass by SA Chakraborty for almost a year after receiving an advanced copy from Book Expo of America. I knew I wanted to read it the moment I laid eyes on the gorgeous cover and then learning the book doesn’t follow the typical Eurocentric fantasy standard? I excitedly thought this would be a fantastic new story in the same vein as Beasts Made of Night. Unfortunately, City of Brass failed to do what Beasts Made of Night did so well. In fact, City of Brass failed to do what the majority of books do, period.

Now, this book was read for the Pages and Pause Screen podcast where myself and co-host Ally go super in-depth on the problems we had with this book. Be aware that the podcast does have spoilers, but I’ll keep this review spoiler-free.

When I say that this book failed to do what the majority of books do in general, I mean that this book seemed only to confuse. There was no solid ground for me as I reader to cling to. Every single piece of information we receive is either negated or muddled. Things don’t get explained until very late in the game, and even then, not explained fully. Best example? I finished this book and I still don’t know what the difference between a djinn and a daeva. Some don’t like using the term daeva and others hate the term djinn but what is the difference? Some groups feel the term djinn is a pejorative, everyone else uses it freely and dislike daeva. We never find out what the heck the difference is. I have no idea why x person is so offended at being called a djinn. Also, that bare bones explanation about djinn possibly being a pejorative? That doesn’t come until approximately 20% through the book.

From a technical standpoint, I understand why Chakraborty frames the book as she does, with nothing solid and everything constantly changing. We follow, mainly, Nahri’s point-of-view. Nahri has no clue about this new world she’s been sucked into, so therefore we as readers, by extension, have no clue about this new world. But still, this feels like a very novice mistake — trying to constantly keep your readings guessing, jumping, unnerved. There needs to be SOMETHING solid that readers can cling to.

Apart from the unclear worldbuilding, we have the characters that are too fluid. What do I mean by that? Well, there are only TWO characters in this novel that remain the same personality wise from the start to the end. Dara and Ghassan. Dara, from the beginning, is an ass and he ends the book, an ass. A lovable ass, but an ass none-the-less. Ghassan begins as someone to be suspicious of, who has his own best interests in mind first second and last, and he ends exactly this way. Every other character? Full of inconsistencies and OOC moments. Nahri goes from being a really smart, self-sufficient street rat, to trusting strangers immediately (accepting food and drinks from a princess she knew she should be suspicious of). Ali’s only consistency is being inconsistent — putting down those he says he’s trying to rescue, all the time.

So, with all of these flaws, why did I give it three stars? Because there are definitely kernels of greatness. This feels like a debut novel, and that’s because it is Chakraborty’s first novel. So these mistakes are to be expected. If she’d had a stronger editor, a lot of these issues I had with the novel would likely be fixed. There is so much for Chakraborty to play around with in this world, that she only needs to focus on a handful and flesh that out instead of trying to focus on everything, and keep everything a secret. The City of Brass by SA Chakraborty is definitely not the strongest #OwnVoices YA Fantasy choice, but it is one with a lot of potential. Chakraborty definitely has the talent, she only needs someone to help guide and focus that attention into something concise and clear.

// I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this title. // ( )
1 vote heylu | Jan 8, 2020 |
The writing, the concept, the characters, and the conflict were all very interesting. I loved this book. I'm very excited to find out where this goes. ( )
  jonvoigt21 | Jan 7, 2020 |
The first book in a fantasy series about a city of djinn (although not all of them like being called that) and a young thief/con artist from the streets of Cairo who discovers that she has a deep connection to them.

I enjoyed this one. There's a lot of interesting and well-realized world-building and complicated politics and magic, and the characters are very realistic, with no clear-cut good and bad guys, just lots of people with various attitudes, agendas, and pasts.

It's a pretty chunky volume -- over 500 pages -- and for the most part it's somewhat leisurely paced, but not in a way that ever made me really impatient with it. And the last 50 pages or so held me absolutely riveted when I should have been putting the book down to do other things. I believe volume two is already out, so I must definitely get to that soon. ( )
  bragan | Jan 5, 2020 |
Nahri is a young woman on her own in Cairo while Turks and Franks war over the city, surviving on her wits and her strange abilities to understand any language she encounters and to determine what’s going on in a human body, sometimes even to heal it. Then she accidentally summons a djinn and things get much more complicated. Ali is a prince in Daevabad, a powerful djinn city, with dangerous sympathies for the impoverished mixed-blood people who aren’t allowed to leave and seek their fortunes in the human world any more than they are allowed to resist the djinn. There’s a lot of the crushing weight of the past along with palace politics where retribution for old wrongs and the fear of new ones makes everyone act badly. One thing the book did well, I thought, was to show some of the attractions of strict faith. Ali is a young hothead who looks down on djinn who drink and have extramarital sex, and that threatens to lead him seamlessly into bigotry against those with other traditions, but his convictions are coherent to him in a way this kind of fantasy rarely emphasizes. ( )
  rivkat | Dec 16, 2019 |
An Arabian Nights themed story that starts in Napoleonic Egypt but soon turns into fantasy set in the city of the Djinns where the Islamic Djinn tribes live in uneasy truce with the fire-worshipping Daeva tribes. It’s interesting, and I’ll be interested in the sequel. However, I thought the ending a bit too abrupt and it left too much unresolved plot.
  Maddz | Aug 31, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 46 (next | show all)
At the moment, speculative fiction has an exciting relationship with protest fiction and feminist narratives, and while “The City of Brass” doesn’t blow away cultural notions of difference or reconfigure the male-female divide, it does exploit the genre’s penchant for inclusion. In fact, the novel feels like a friendly hand held out across the world. (I hope very much that it will be translated into Arabic and Farsi.) It reads like an invitation for readers from Baghdad to Fairbanks to meet across impossibly divergent worlds through the shared language and images of the fantastical.
 
The expected first-novel flaws—a few character inconsistencies, plot swirls that peter out, the odd patch where the author assumes facts not in evidence—matter little. Best of all, the narrative feels rounded and complete yet poised to deliver still more.

Highly impressive and exceptionally promising.
added by melmore | editKirkus Reivews (Aug 21, 2017)
 
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For Alia, the light of my life
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He was an easy mark.
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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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