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

The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty

(I received a digital ARC copy from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.)

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...

Can we please have more con artists/ thieves as main characters? Because Nahri sure rocks as one. She’s cunning, sassy and quite the ‘business woman’. She has the abilities to heal people but doesn’t think much of it beyond using it to earn a living without provoking suspicion. And she’s always been able to understand any language she hears but to this day she hasn’t found a single person who knows the language she remembers from her childhood. She provides quite elaborate and theatrical cures to people’s ailments - real or otherwise- while she cunningly swindles them. For some reason Nahri’s character arc reminded me of Alina’s from the Grisha trilogy. Like Alina, Nahri goes from being a normal commoner to realizing she has great powers and being thrust among the royalty where she tries to navigate and stay alive among the deadly political games.

Dara is a Daeva warrior; mysterious, handsome and very very deadly. He is very much the enigmatic bad boy with temper issues. It continuously annoyed me though that he kept way too many secrets from nahri. Now he needn’t tell her about himself but she deserves to know about her own heritage.

Prince Alizayd is the naive, good hearted second son of the ruthless ruler of Daevabad. Ali was raised as a warrior in the Citadel, to protect his older brother when he becomes King but now he is brought back to live in the court among scheming traitorous nobles during a time of high political turmoil in the city. Ali has a very interesting story arc throughout which he is at war with the two sides of himself. His loyalty to the royal family is constantly tested by the cruelt he sees towards the various groups of people.

There are two plotlines in the book until they join about halfway in. One storyline is about Nahri who while ‘curing’ a possessed girl in a theatrical manner, invokes an ancient daeva warrior, Dara. The other is about Ali learning his way around the royal court and trying help the Shafit (people with with mixed human and djinn blood) who are ill treated by the other residents of Daevabad and the law isn’t in favor of them either. When Dara brings Nahri to Daevabad, believing it to be the safest place for him, the two plotlines converge. I loved how most of the time there were no ‘good’ people and ‘bad’ people. There were just various sects of people (djinn/daeva) who were all trying to take care of their own people. One’s enemy was another’s friend.

There were so many twists in the story that kept me turning the pages. I loved the pace although there were times during Nahri and Dara’s travel and during some of Ali’s ‘adventures’ where I felt the pacing dragged a bit. Also while I enjoyed the world building a lot, I can see how it would be complex for some. I do think the book needs a lot of concentration to understand the complex world building.

The epilogue was PHENOMENAL and I absolutely can’t wait for book 2. Also something about the epilogue had me confused. A character who was a somewhat important throughout is hinted at being gay although this was never mentioned before. I hope we get to see more of this aspect in book 2 and it’s not just queerbaiting.

The writing is rich and I loved the way the author works on two storylines but that never confused me. I enjoyed the vibrant descriptions of the author and the way she kept the pace fast with the writing even when the story was going slow. I did feel the dialogue was cliched at times but I enjoyed them nevertheless.

- The characters
- The plot
- The writing
- The diversity

- The parts where the story dragged a bit.

A complex, well written, magical story set in a vibrant, diverse world that hooked me right from the beginning. One of the best debut books I've ever read.

Actual Rating - 4.5


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