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

The City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty

Posted July 26, 2021 by Amber in Reviews / 0 Comments

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The City of Brass

The City of Brass

by S.A. Chakraborty

Series: The Daevabad Trilogy #1
Publisher: Harper Voyager on November 14, 2017
Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Target Age Group: Young Adult
Representation: BIPOC, Middle Eastern
Content Warnings: Alcohol, Blood, Colonization, Death, Genocide, Gore, Murder, Racial Slurs, Racism, Religious Bigotry, Torture, Violence

Rating: ★★★★

Check out this book on Goodreads or buy the book at Bookshop.org

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...

 

The City of Brass is a refreshing YA fantasy story.  This is one of those series that has garnered so much hype over the last few years, and it is well-deserved.  There are still a lot of familiar (and tired) tropes, but the world is different and the magic excellent… and I really enjoyed the way Chakraborty slowly peeled back bits and pieces of the land’s history.

Nahri is an interesting protagonist.  She has some snark and big dreams and is surviving by her wits alone – fairly common in a YA fantasy heroine.  She’s likable enough, but I think that The City of Brass benefits from being multiple POV..  I think on their own, both Nahri and Ali would have gotten tiresome, especially in such a long books.  Ali is pretentious but kind.  He has spent most of his life training to guard his brother, who will someday be the king of Daevabad.  Nahri has lived on the streets in the human world most her life until she accidentally raises Dara.  The two together compliment each other well – one with a well of understanding about the world and one who is slowly learning it.

As is to be expected in YA fantasy, there is a love triangle.  I found it fairly inconsequential and annoying – it neither added to the story nor took away from it too much, although that may change as the trilogy goes on.  If you don’t particularly care for the romance, it’s easy enough to ignore up until near the end where it becomes pretty important for a few scenes.  The action took a long time coming, but I really liked the way Chakraborty developed Nahri’s magic.  Unlike most characters in her position, Nahri struggles to pick up the art and makes major mistakes.  It’s refreshing to see a Chosen One style character treated in that way – not everything came to her perfectly.

It’s the world of The City of Brassi that captured me most as a reader.  This novel uses Arab mythology and tradition to build a world that starts in Cairo, Egypt and expands to a djinn city.  Chakraborty explores legends around the djinn in a new, refreshing light while weaving in modern issues. There were a lot of things introduced in this novel that I’m hoping will be expanded upon and revisited as the story goes one.

If you have been sitting on The City of Brass, I highly recommend giving it a read.  The world is interesting and alluring.  Even though thesis of the book may be off-putting, the story itself captures the imagination and it’s easy to get invested.

Ratings Breakdown

Setting: ★★★★ 1/2
Plot: ★★★ 1/3
Characters: ★★★ 1/3
Writing: ★★★★
Pacing: ★★★★
Personal Enjoyment: ★★★★ 1/2

4 Star Rating

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The City of Brass Stays on the Shelf

I loved the world in this story enough that I would want to read it again – I always find stories about the djinn interesting.  In fact, I think that’s why I keep reading The Amulet of Samarkand over and over.

The City of Brass is also a book I think would be interesting to experience in audiobook form, included but not limited to the fact it’s so long.  I know I’ll reread this again eventually, but maybe I’ll listen to it some day as well.

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Have you already read the Daevabad trilogy?  If so, did you enjoy it?  Which book is the best in the trilogy?  Let me know in the comments!

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