Review of THE CITY OF BRASS (The Daevabad Trilogy #1) by S.A. Chakraborty
“Greatness takes time, Banu Nahida. Often the mightiest things have the humblest beginnings.”
What could have been an instant favourite was put away and only picked up months later because of the pacing of the story
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…
I started the book with great enthusiasm. Everything about this book attracted me: the characters, the storyline, and world-building. The first few chapters were great fun and I felt a new favourite was on the way. However, this feeling disappeared quite quickly. The story started to slow down, and I put the book away and didn’t pick it up again. The middle dragged on so much that I became a little bored with the story. I picked it up again weeks later and really had to force myself to continue reading.
The second half went a lot smoother and I found that a welcome change. I think this was because the book was written from two points of view: Nahris and Alis. I had some trouble switching storylines within the overall plot. Further on in the story, the storylines come together, and it is a lot more fun to read the book.
I liked all the characters in The City of Brass, but each at a different time. I found Nahri to be a powerful character throughout the book and I loved following her. Then you have Dara and Ali. In the first half of the book I liked Dara and I didn’t really like Ali, and in the second half, this changed. I started to find Ali much more charming, and I was really looking forward to his chapters.
I had expected that there would be two characters very clearly pushed towards each other, but the ‘love affairs’ came about quite naturally.
I also loved the world-building in The City of Brass, although it was a little harder to fully grasp in the beginning. There were many populations with complicated names, which sometimes made me mix things up. But I found the overall story that the author wanted to tell very interesting, just a bit complicated.
The ending made me want to know the sequel. So I will definitely be reading the second book in this series – THE KINGDOM OF COPPER!
Would I recommend it?
Yes, I think the positive points outweigh the negative ones. Be aware though, this book is quite slow for the first 50% (about 300 pages) so if you are used to fast-paced books, you might not like this one as much.
Blood, child trafficking, genocide, gore, rape (mentioned), torture, violence, war
Characters from various African countries (mainly Egypt), own voices Muslim rep, Jewish rep, m/m relationship
November 14th 2017
About the author
S. A. Chakraborty is the author of the critically acclaimed and internationally best-selling The Daevabad Trilogy. Her work has been nominated for the Locus, World Fantasy, Crawford, and Astounding awards. When not buried in books about thirteen-century con artists and Abbasid political intrigue, she enjoys hiking, knitting, and re-creating unnecessarily complicated medieval meals. You can find her online at www.sachakraborty.com or on Twitter and Instagram at @SAChakrabooks, where she likes to talk about history, politics, and Islamic art. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, daughter, and an ever-increasing number of cats.