REVIEW: The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty

The Daevabad Trilogy Book One; Young Adult

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♦BLURB♦

Step 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, healings—are all tricks, sleights of hand, learned skills; a means to the delightful end of swindling Ottoman nobles and a reliable way to survive.

But when Nahri accidentally summons an equally sly, darkly mysterious djinn warrior to her side during one of her cons, she’s forced to question all she believes. For the warrior tells her 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 not 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, 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 to be careful what you wish for . . .

 

♦4-STAR REVIEW♦

Rich and intricately plotted, The City of Brass was a fantastical journey into the world of djinn and magic. Filled with political intrigue and mounting tensions, the story followed Nahri in her quest to find her people upon learning she’s the last of her kind. With the help of a revered warrior, they travel across many lands to reach Daevabad, escaping death on the way, only to find out too late that this city of brass is far from safe for a girl of her kind.

Told in multiple perspectives, allowing a rare insight into both sides of the story, Chakraborty accomplished a slow, steady escalation of the story to its climax. Both lead and supporting characters were starkly vivid and necessary to the drive of the plot, each with difference purposes and endpoints. As the first in a trilogy, it was a densely-packed tale and won’t be a quick read, but it managed to have me craving the next page even during slower moments. Nahri’s journey throughout the story was tumultuous at best, but true to a young woman’s stubbornness and independence when thrown into this situation. Her struggle for identity forced her to split herself into two halves; one that couldn’t release her old self and one that tried desperately to fit in to an ill-fitting version of what was expected of her, and it was all too easy to see the two sides clash as the story developed. Though the romance is small and uncertain, I expect there to be more to come as I don’t believe this is a core focus at this point, but it leaves me very curious for where the author plans to take it. Even as full of a story as this was, there are still many questions to answer and plenty more story to tell.

The City of Brass had a distinct direction that will leave the reader craving more. Chakraborty easily kept the objective of each character’s path up in the air and there was an anxiousness felt upon turning the last page. A strong female lead, playing a political game and coming into her power, felt refreshing and altogether captivating. The only unfortunate thing is the expected wait for more of the story, but I’ll gladly accept it when I’m this curious to see where it’ll go.

 

♦ABOUT THE AUTHOR♦

Originally (and proudly!) from New Jersey, S. A. currently resides in Queens with her husband and daughter. When not buried in books about Mughal portraiture and Omani history, she enjoys hiking, knitting, and recreating unnecessarily complicated, medieval meals for her family. You can find her online most frequently at Twitter where she likes to ramble about history, politics, and Islamic art.

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