City of Brass: A Novel (The Daevabad Trilogy), The

S. A. Chakraborty
"An extravagant feast of a book—spicy and bloody, dizzyingly magical, and still, somehow, utterly believable." –Laini TaylorStep 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 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 . . .Advance praise for The City of Brass"Highly impressive and exceptionally promising." –Kirkus Reviews (starred review)"Chakraborty’s grasp of Middle Eastern history, folklore, and culture inspires a swiftly moving plot, richly drawn characters, and a beautifully constructed world that will entrance fantasy aficionados." –Library Journal (starred review)"Vivid descriptions percolate the lush prose, and a final twist leaves room for a sequel. Recommend this scintillating, Middle Eastern fantasy to fans of thoughtful, mystical adventures." –Booklist"The City of Brass is the best adult fantasy I’ve read since The Name of the Wind. It’s stunning and complex and consuming and fantastic." –Sabaa Tahir"An opulent masterpiece...The City of Brass is a must-read." –Roshani Chokshi

Reviews

Reviewed: 2018-12-27

This book is both epic and wonderfully intricate. S. A. Chakraborty has managed to squeeze believable, lovable characters, magical world building, intricate politics and explorations of identity, belonging, and privelege into one book seamlessly and comfortably. Yes, this book is about djinn, but it's also about how different minorities are turned against each other by a ruling party; it's about the use of power, and rebellion, and about grey areas in both. I loved it unconditionally for the ways that it was about the real world while also presenting a fully fledged secondary world for the reader to escape into, and for allowing for hope despite everything. Everyone should absolutely check this book out. You'll love it, promise.

Reviewed: 2018-10-28
Wobbling between 3 and 4 stars on this one. Going to have to mull it over for a bit.
Reviewed: 2018-07-14
Long winded. Lost interest half way through
Reviewed: 2018-01-25
Trigger warnings: mentions of genocide, torture, executions, rape, violence; bigotry based on blood status

I am going to start this review by gushing about how much I loved Chakraborty's writing! The best part of reading this book was the descriptions - the clothes (ALL THE PRETTY!!!!), the food (on some occasions), the backstory - it all created a lush background to set this story against. I am not sure I can delve into the influences of the book, but it strongly has a faery-story-like vibe - the djinn/daeva are magical beings with prolonged lives, and a city hidden from humans where they gather all those of djinn blood. Nahri, a street-smart con artist, catches the attention of the djinns and ifrits when she accidentally summons a warrior during a zar. She is then forced to flee with him to Daevabad, where the djinn live, and once there, she gets caught up in their politics.

Now the story is told from two perspectives - Nahri for the most part, because it is HER story, but we also have Ali, or Prince Alizayd, the second prince of Daevabad, who is a devout young man, and is training to be Qaid (a position that seems like a bodyguard/Hand) for his older half brother, the emir Munthadhir, whom he loves like a sibling. For about half the book, Nahri and the warrior she summons, Dara, are trying to get to Daevabad and meanwhile, in Ali's perspective, we see tensions brewing in the city, unknowingly ripe for the return of a descendant of the previous dynasty of rulers. It seems like Nahri is about to enter a pit of vipers, but as we get to know through the book, the situation is not as black and white as it seems.

Caste politics and apartheid-like views divide the people into djinn and daevas, and much as you think the daevas are about to be harassed for their religious beliefs, they also are the ones whose ancestors used to believe in genocide for the mixed-blooded of their people, so it is like super complicated. Religion is also a major part of the background of the book, and I loved how the author wove it and Middle-Eastern culture so nicely into this story. I know I am repeating it again, but the way she describes everything, man! The only small grievance I had was that the word for them were not used often; instead, they were simplified for a general audience, rather than just use words like shalwar (or similar garments), and include them in the glossary later.

The characters - Chakraborty has created an ensemble of complicated and grey-moral characters, which make Nahri's complex about her background as a con artist seem silly. There is Dara - who is the grumbly warrior type that one would find adorable, kind, and swoony, but he also wasn't a noble warrior (war crimes are not pushed under the rug in this one), Muntadhir, who I want to shake and say - just accept yourself and your feelings, man (He is so bi, it hurts me that he doesn't want to follow his heart), the king, who is sort of lawful evil, I guess - he is horrifying in a way but he is also the one who has to hold a city of 6 different castes of djinn and keep them from murdering each other every day and I feel that, Ali, who maybe the mildest of the bunch, but still has a lot of hang-ups about what is proper, etc, and something tells me he won't be accepting of his brother's choice of crush. Nahri - oh, Nahri - she is such a smart cookie, and such a little rebel, but I didn't really bond much to her. I love that she doesn't forget her skills even when she is in the lap of luxury, and has a cunning mind to stand against the people trying to involve her in their schemes. She also frequently calls out shitty behaviour, so kudos to not being mesmerized by even her love interest.

The story is pretty interesting, and quite extensive plot-wise. There is lot I won't be able to discuss here, but I have so many suspicions about so many things, my head is spinning, and all those are just hinting at what the plot of the second book might contain - the shape of it is still blurry, and I am so excited to uncover what it will be about. The pacing of this book could have been improved upon in some parts, like towards the start of the second third, and much of the later half of the last third. The climax was a bit confusing, especially concerning Suleiman's seal, but I am hoping future books will clear that up. In summary, an amazing start to a fantastically constructed story.

Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review from Harper Voyager, via Edelweiss.
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