Title: The City of Brass
Series: The Daevabad Trilogy (#1)
Author: S. A. Chakraborty
Genre: Fantasy Fiction, High fantasy, Adventure Fiction, Historical Fantasy
Published: November 14, 2017
Followed by: The Kindom of Copper
“You’re some kind of thief, then?”
“That a very narrow-minded way of looking at it. I prefer to think of myself as a merchant of delicate tasks.”
Nahri lives in 18th century Cairo, she knows nothing about her heritage and has been marginalized by society due to her abilities which include finding and healing other people’s maladies, healing herself, and being able to speak any language she hears.
In order to survive she uses her reputation as a healer to con people, so when she is called to help perform a fake exorcism on a 12 year old girl she agrees. However, during the singing part of the ritual Nahri decides to use her native tongue, which no one else in Cairo seems to speak or even recognize, and accidentally summons a demon. Well, it turns out that the girl was actually possessed and now the demon she summoned is extremely pissed off and unleashes a bunch of ghouls to kill Nahri. Luckily for Nahri, she also summoned Dara. Aaahhh Dreamy, beautiful, gorgeous, Dara…he is everything you would want in a rescuer-kidnapper. When Dara realizes Nahri is a shafit, descendant of a half-human half-magical tribe thought to be extinct, he knows he must get her to Daevabad where she will be safe from the ghouls. Thus, they embark on a dangerous journey full of weather extremes, confrontations, and death threatening situations.
It is during this journey that Nahri and Dara develop a strong link. Nahri is feisty and spunky; she has always been alone and has learned how to hustle and get information from people. During the trip she tries to get information from Dara to understand who he is and more importantly, who she is, but Dara was a slave for a very long time and feels zero desire to talk about the atrocities he was forced to commit. As Dara warms up to Nahri during the trip, he slowly starts to reveal his past, but never all of it. I guess (hope) we will find out more about him in the next book.
The book chapters are split between Nahri and Alizayd Al Qahtani, so while we follow Nahri and Dara on their dangerous journey to Daevabad, we also learn about what life is for those who live in Daevabad through the eyes of Ali. Prince Ali is Muntadhir´s younger brother and son of King Ghassan Al Qahtani. His brother is a king in the making and Ali is being trained to be his brother’s executioner, but Ali has a different opinion about what is right and wrong and wants to make amends for the injustices other tribes are suffering under his father’s rule. It is with this search for justice that the book becomes more than a girl trying to understand who she is. It becomes about history, oppression, and the dirty game of politics.
The City of Brass is a fantastic debut novel. Chakrobarty imagines how the Djinn might have lived and their societies developed. It is obvious that she has a deep knowledge of Medieval Middle Eastern history and is able to create realistic sociopolitical issues that remind us of today’s society while examining the line between patriotism and tyranny. Just when you think you know who the villain of the story is, a new piece of information surfaces.
All the characters play an important role in developing the story, but Nahri, Dara and Ali are the ones with the most conflict in their hearts:
Nahri is barely discovering who she is and has people pulling her in different directions., Nahri is constantly conflicted between what others need her to do and what she believes is right, but in the end always stays true to herself.
Ali is devout to his faith and openly speaks against the laws that favor their specific Djinn race. He believes in real equality and justice, and as the story develops he feels more torn between loyalty to his family and what he knows in his heart to be the right thing.
Lastly, Dara. Although he does not have his own POV in the book, he has his own judgmental and strong voice. We know what he thinks about Ali and his family, who are on opposite sides of an old conflict, but we don’t know anything about him or his past, just what other people have heard or read about him.
Chakraborty has created a vibrant world and a powerful story that examines various issues such as loyalty and prejudice. There is a lot of plotting conniving, and magic.
Needless to say I am so ready for The Kingdom of Copper!