“There’s no magic, no djinn, no spirits waiting to eat us up.”
Nahri doesn’t believe in magic. Even if proof exists in her ability to heal, both herself and others. It doesn’t matter. It’s just a part of her. Not a magical being there to grant wishes of her every whim. She’s just a con artist, hustling her way to something resembling a decent life in Cairo.
When one of her cons accidentally conjures Dara, a powerful djinn warrior, Nahri finds herself running from enemies she never knew existed, to a city she’s never heard of, to seek sanctuary from people she never believed in.
But once she reaches Daevabad, her life doesn’t become any safer. Court politics and centuries old tensions surround her at every turn. Nahri once dreamed of being a powerful healer. Of having wealth and luxury and fame. They do say, be careful what you wish for.
“The abilities that had once kept a roof over her head had become a curse, this connection with long-dead relatives she’d never known a plague on her life.”
The City Of Brass is one beautiful fantasy novel! Chakraborty brings the landscape of the Middle East to life with lush descriptions. You can smell the cedar chips burning in the rooms, and luxuriate in the sandalwood perfuming the air. Breathe in the jasmine and frankincense of the gardens, drink in the rose petals in the Grand Bazaar, while sipping sweet Hibiscus tea. Every texture, sound, scent and flavor is described simply yet effectively and it makes you yearn to surround yourself in the magic of scenery that Chakraborty weaves.
Along with the perspective of Nahri, we get Alizayd, a young idealistic Prince struggling to find his own way in the city. He wants to revolutionize what he sees as his father’s corrupt regime, but doing so isn’t as easy as he initially thinks. Choices he makes have devastating consequences.
Mystery surrounds Dara, but not just around him. The more Nahri learns, the more it seems like everyone has hidden agendas and secrets in the city of brass. Nahri wants to be left alone, but quickly learns that this isn’t an option. Whether she likes it or not, she is at the center of a war she doesn’t understand and can’t hope to control. Her friendship with both Dara and the young Prince only makes it more confusing and difficult for her.
“To keep walking a path between loyalty to your family and loyalty to what you know is right. One of these days, you’re going to have to make a choice.”
Both Ali and Nahri discover that not everything is what they thought, and that there are things happening around them that they can’t possibly begin to understand. They will have to re-examine everything they think they know and face choices more difficult than anything they’ve ever faced before.
The way Chakraborty presents the characters, it isn’t easy to pin a definitive good or bad on anyone. It is a complex society with a muddied history, and all sides make questionable choices both in the past and the present. Which makes the prospect of the next two books in the trilogy even more exciting because I honestly have no idea which direction this story can go.
“She felt for him–truly. It was frustrating when someone upended your well-laid plans.”
I love when characters and plots reside firmly in the mucky grey area of moral ambiguity. Writing from the perspective of good versus evil is just too easy. I prefer a more complicated point of view, and starting with a con artist as one of the main characters places us dead center in murky.
Prince Ali is also fantastic writing and character development. He is righteous, but Chakraborty makes sure that he sees that even his beliefs aren’t black and white. That he must face hard truths in order to really stand behind his beliefs, and that his beliefs might end with just as much blood shed as he wants to stop. The similarities to current racial and religious conflicts are woven into his story line. Which gives the entire book a richer and more in depth texture.
Everything in this book is vivid and filled with beautiful writing. But the plot is well paced, with just enough world building and adventure to make you feel that you are well ensconced in the landscape with Nahri and Ali. And the mystery. Just when you think things are going to be resolved, new mysteries and intrigues are presented. The last few chapters of the book end in a maddening combination of satisfaction and immediately needing more. Have I mentioned that 2019 is WAY TOO LONG TO WAIT FOR THE NEXT BOOK?????
I absolutely loved the setting, and feel like I haven’t read enough fantasy in this area or with this particular mythology. I devoured this world, and fell in love with every single thing in this book. The City of Brass immediately became my new book obsession!
Anyone who loves good fantasy, with solid world building, breathtaking pacing, questionable characters and a whopping heap of adventure will fall in love with this book. Absolutely stunning book!