The City of Brass
The Daevadad Trilogy #1
By S.A. Chakraborty
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Daniele
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…. (Goodreads)
I chose The City of Brass in an effort to read something completely out of my wheel house. Well, I definitely accomplished that, but this complicated fantasy novel turned out to not be my cup of tea…at all… and my review reflects such. I know that many readers will love this book, but I did not.
The City of Brass weaves Middle Eastern and Islamic mythology and folklore with magical fantasy. It follows the story of Nahri, a con artist and half-human healer, the djinn warrior Dara that she accidentally summons, and Ali, the son of the king of The City of Brass, Daevabad. It is told from both Nahri and Ali’s points of view. The story is so complex that it becomes increasingly confusing. And, unfortunately, it is boring. More than half of the book is dedicated to Nahri and Dara traveling from Cairo, Egypt to Daevabad. There is a great deal of world building required, and it is densely executed. There is much more politics involved in the tale than I expected, and, even though I do not mind some political intrigue, I did not like this aspect at all. I struggled to finish the book, putting it aside several times over a period of months. The last bit of the book does offer more excitement, but it is not enough to make it a worthwhile read for me.
I do not particularly like any of the characters and never felt invested in them or the story. I cannot articulate exactly what I expected from this book. Perhaps something lighter and much more fanciful? Instead, The City of Brass is a tough read full of unfamiliar magical creatures, violence, war, rape, and oppression. I do not dissuade readers from reading it if the cover blurb appeals to you. It just was not what I wanted in the end.