The City of Brass (The Daevabad Trilogy, #1) – S.A. Chakraborty

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RATING:⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

SYNOPSIS:

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 . . .

REVIEW (Spoiler Free:)

The City of Brass was one of my favorite reads of 2018! The story is original, the world-building is excellent and detailed, and the characters are well done and have good development. I was blown away by The City of Brass!

Many authors are able to build epic worlds, but not a lot are able to not only build the world, but also construct a whole culture…and do it phenomenally well. Chakraborty creates an entire culture, complete with tribes, history, and magic. I will say that there is A LOT of information and detail in The City of Brass. I had a hard time digesting all of the info and differentiating between a lot of the terms. I actually had to start taking notes while reading, which is something I normally don’t do. However, I did not mind it! I have a four page document on my computer that contains lists of terms, defining characteristics, history, characters, and tribes. This might sound overwhelming, but it wasn’t to me. It was helpful to have a reference while I was reading. There is also a glossary in the book which defines a lot of the terms Chakraborty uses. The City of Brass was definitely a slower read for me, but it didn’t bother me because I was able to savor the story more!

The imagery is vivid and the setting is vibrant and colorful. The city of Daevabad, otherwise known as the City of Brass, is the cultural hub of Chakraborty’s world. There are six sections of the city–each devoted to one of the six different tribes. I loved learning about each different tribe…the characteristics, specific cultures and traits, and values. It is extremely interesting because we learn that the tribes started out as one, united people. But because of a curse, the were separated into six different tribes. One of the biggest plot points is the rivalry between the tribes, especially against the Daeva. Another important plot point is the divide between the Djinn (pureblood, first class, privileged) and the Shafit (mixed blood, second class). The Shafit are seen as second-rate citizens and are treated horribly…they have no access to education, healthcare, or work. This connects to our “real-life” society and shows how we can not treat those who are different, especially minorities, as lesser. I think Chakraborty does a great job of blending this powerful message into the story. I love when authors create a high fantasy world and story, but also include powerful messages that relate to my world and help readers (including myself) learn something.

I hadn’t really read many books based in Middle Eastern culture so it was very interesting to learn a little about Middle Eastern mythology. I found the Djinn, Ifrit, and magic system fascinating. The setting was also gorgeous and so unique compared to a lot of other fantasy books I’ve read. It is also different from other fantasy books because the action isn’t as fight focused…it’s more political and society based action. There are plenty of epic fight scenes, just not as much as some other fantasy books. Despite this, I still found the story very exciting.

The story is told from two points of view: Nahri and Prince Alizayd. The two POVs start out separate, but the characters eventually meet and their stories converge. The two are dealing with their own conflicts. Nahri is on the run from Ghouls, but also learning about herself, her magical identity, and her role in the Daevabad society. Prince Alizayd is struggling to choose between loyalty to family and doing something about the unfair treatment of many of Daevabad’s people. I do actually wish that there was a third POV by Dara. He is also very conflicted in the story, but we don’t know the full extent. I think it would be really cool to see the world and events from his perspective. He also has a very complicated and somewhat troubling history. I really want to learn more about that as well.

One last point that I have is that it’s unclear which side is the “right” side to be on. This story isn’t black and white. Every party involved (the royal family, the Daeva, the Shafit, etc.) has a good reason for their actions. Every party does very bad things. It’s a little frustrating to not have a clear cut “good guy” and “bad guy”, but I actually like it because it makes me, as the reader, think more. It’s a good lesson to remember that life is not purely black and white, and to always look at all sides of a story or disagreement.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

  • Excellent world building and culture building.
  • Huge amount of detail which can be overwhelming.
  • Powerful message about inequality and the treatment of minorities — able to relate to our society!
  • No clear cut good vs evil – every character is complex and makes both positive and negative choices.
  • Lots of twists and turns at the end of the story! I was shocked by one of the twists even though I totally should have seen it coming. The clues were all there, but for some reason I didn’t see it. I usually pick up on twists, but it was a pleasant surprise to not this time.
  • New and interesting setting which made for a unique and fresh read.
  • Get to learn a little about Middle Eastern mythology – especially the Djinn and Ifrit. The author did extensive research, but also put her own twist on it!
  • I have a lot of questions about the ending. It’s going to be a long wait to find out the answers!
  • Content warning – slavery, violence, war, and rape

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