City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty
Published: November 14th, 2017
Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fiction
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.
“Find out what you really are, what really exists in this world. Come to Daevabad where even a drop of Nahid blood will bring you honor and wealth beyond your imagining…Respect.”
The City of Brass is a powerful #ownvoices debut novel people. S.A. Chakraborty’s debut novel follows the story of Nahri. She is an orphaned con artist living in eighteenth-century Cairo. She doesn’t know who she is, who her parents are, or how she is able to heal people. She also can understand and respond to seemingly any language without prior knowledge of the said language including a strange tongue she somehow knows even though she’s never heard anyone else speak it. Nahri is a 20 something young woman with no hope and does tons of swindling activities in order to survive. She has dreams of one day going to Istanbul to learn to heal properly. While executing a phony healing ceremony, she accidentally calls on Dara, a powerful djinn with a violent past and reveals that Nahri is part djinn, descended from a long line of healers. To be safe she must flee Cairo as she is a target for ifrit (evil djinn with no souls who are her family’s enemies). We then follow her and Dara as they make their way to Daevebad where only those with djinn blood can enter. Daevabad is far from perfect the rulers oppress the shafit (half-djinn) and there is always the threat of rebellion and war. Nahri is actually part of the tribe that conflicted with the current ruling tribe. She swapped the oppressive powers of France and the Ottoman Empire in her native Egypt for a new set of injustices and oppression.
“But terrified as she was, the sound of her native language was intoxicating, and she didn’t want the mysterious stranger to stop speaking.”
Nahri is a smart young woman with incredible healing abilities and a master of languages. I love how real she was we got to see her be confident and sarcastic but also very scared and make decisions that weren’t always the best. We learn that she is a very powerful being from the Nahid tribe and the last of her kind. Her gifts are apart of Nahid culture. I want to see her really understand her people and not be swayed by the royals. Dara is a powerful Afshin that are connected to the Nahid. He sounds sexy and wonderful. I love how complex he is without even getting his point of view. But, I didn’t like how some characters spoke of him but we didn’t get to hear his POV. Ali was interesting but also a little insufferable. I want to see how far he will go and if he will actually do something about his corrupt family. The side characters were all very complex and a lot were morally grey and touched on real things.
“Go,” he urged. “I promise not to go to war without your permission,” he added with a sharp smile at the Qahtanis.
The plot of this story was exceptional and it beautifully highlighted Middle Eastern culture. The pace was amazing and picked up right away. There were many plot twists and I won’t spoil them but just know that even if things appear gone I think the author is setting us up for something amazing in book two.
3) Writing/World Building
“Because on the day of your judgment, Alizayd…when you’re asked why you didn’t stand up for what you knew was just…” He paused, his next words finding Ali’s heart like an arrow. “Loyalty to your family won’t excuse you.”
The story is rich in Egyptian and Middle Eastern culture and history. As a PageHabit book, we got annotations from the author throughout the book which gives us the authors personal touch and feelings in the story. Since she has been to many of the places and I think part of the culture this really elevated the story. The dialogue is very well done as well. The City of Brass (Daevabad) sounds gorgeous and is a place of different tribes and people. The description that the author writes really transports you to this world.
But Dara went no further—though there was no denying the flash of regret in his eyes as his thumb lightly brushed her lower lip. “I’m coming back, Nahri,” he promised. “You’re my Banu Nahida. This is my city.” His expression was defiant. “Nothing will keep me from either of you.”
I really love Nahri and Dara and the relationship brewing. I don’t know what will happen in book two but I know it will only get better. It was sexy and their banter was so fun.
What did you think of the story?