The City of Brass (The Daevabad Trilogy #1), by S. A. Chakraborty
Publish Date: November 14, 2017
Published by: Harper Voyager
My Rating: ★★★★☆ (4 out of 5 stars)
**I received this as an egalley from the publisher through Edelweiss in return for an honest review.**
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 . . .
This was a book that took me some time to get through (so much, in fact, that I didn’t finish it until almost a month after its release). I wish I could say that it was because of outside factors like work, but it is sadly not so. This book was just long. And I don’t know if it’s just because I had to take a lot of time understanding the world-building, or if I just didn’t feel extremely compelled to constantly be reading it. Either way, despite that, I came away from it feeling mostly enchanted and eager for the next installment.
The book drew me in right off the bat, and I immediately fell in love with Nahri as a character. There was something about her that pulled at my interest and held onto it. The plot moved quickly with her and had me eager to turn the page – only to find myself suddenly facing Ali’s perspective in the City of Daevabad and finding it kind of losing its momentum. It wasn’t that I disliked Ali or anything (in fact, by the end of the book I was almost as in love with him as I was with Nahri), it was just that his scenes were so chock full of politics and basically setting the scene for the reader to understand the dynamics of the population of Daevabad, particularly concerning the shafit (part-djinn, part-human). Somehow this just felt like a lot to take in all at once, and it took me several chapters between his and Nahri’s perspective before I felt that I understood it all well enough to actually start reading it at a more decent pace.
The world-building was good, just long and full of so much information that I sometimes felt like I had forgotten something or mixed something up. I loved the magic of everything, and the plot definitely had a lot of intirigue and emotion behind it. I did feel some reactions seemed a little strange or convoluted, but I think by the end I had already started forgetting minor things that weree mentioned once or twice prior that would have helped me understand those incidents better.
What mostly drove the story for me were the characters, particularly Nahri and Ali. Like I said, at first I was only mildly interested in Ali, who, despite being kind and pro-shafit, had the unfortunate tendancy to also think that the religion of the Daevas was wrong and that only his was right. I honestly can’t even tell if he ever changed his stance on that. And while I did not agree with the Daevas, either, who believe that all humans and shafit are evil and no better than dirt, I don’t agree with Ali’s presumption that they’re religion is wrong either.
Nahri, on the other hand, was wonderful from the start. Her main goal in life is to study to become a physician, and is willing to do anything to do it. I love her intelligence and wit, as well as how much she cares for those close to her. I don’t, however, understand how she still loved Dara by the end. Dara, who is one of those thousand-year-old love interests who suffered for millenia and is quick to temper, started off decently, but slowly became someone I did not like by the end. He became angry, possessive-but-distant, and just overall kind of douchey.
Like I said, the plot was extremely interesting if not a little slow to understand at first, and the characters full of great depth and intrigue. I feel like I don’t fully agree with either “side” of the overall conflict, nor do I fully disagree either, and I like that that reflects reality because no one is always fully right or wrong when it comes to things. It definitely kept my attention the entire time I was reading it, despite the fact that I didn’t feel the extreme need to always have my face in it.