All reviews are spoiler free, unless noted otherwise.
“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 and a mysterious gift for healing—are all tricks; both the means to the delightful end of swindling unwitting Ottoman nobles and a reliable way to survive.
But when Nahri accidentally summons Dara, an equally sly, darkly mysterious djinn warrior to her side during one of her cons, she’s forced to reconsider her beliefs. For Dara tells Nahri 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 hawks 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 and behind the six gates of the six djinn tribes, old resentments run deep. And when Nahri decides to enter this world, her arrival threatens to ignite a war that has been simmering for centuries.”
Character Development: 4.5/5
One of my biggest bookish peeves are one-dimensional characters. People who are always in the right, always selfish or always cruel because no one in this world is truly one-dimensional and I want to see that translated onto the page.
That being said, Chakraborty did a good job with every single character in her world. Even the most secondary of characters has a complex personality and a poignant history driving the decisions they make. I couldn’t find it in me to hate any single character at the end of the book, no matter how vapid they may have seemed in the beginning.
I also loved that each of these characters was complex enough to make you think long and hard about who is right, who is wrong and what morality really means in terms of religion and the law. In this day and age, this kind of contemplation is necessary and I feel like it showed how extremism in any sense can be detrimental. This part of the book pushed me to reexamine my own values and judgements.
Pace & Clarity: 3.5/5
The pacing was well-done and the novel itself was fairly clear for the incredible amount of world building and creation that took place. However, I did find the latter third a bit difficult to follow. To be honest, I had no clue what was happening in the escape and fight scene. I lost track of who was killing who or doing what and I glossed through it and figured it out later. A pretty critical scene to be confused by in my opinion. I’m still not sure what happened there?
On this front, I haven’t read very many novels that fall into the realm of Middle Eastern mythology or the Muslim faith, so I really can’t tell you how original or overused anything is. I can tell you, however, that Chakraborty writes an incredibly compelling narrative without relying on the trite romantic conventions of most fantasy novels.
If anyone is concerned THIS WAS NOT UNNECESSARILY ROMANTIC. The relationships were fairly developed, flawed, and believable.
Plus, there really wasn’t a single dull moment in the latter half of The City of Brass. At times, I had to reread, but overall the plot was fast-paced and compelling. I appreciated Nahri’s will to survive and her ability to see past the expectations of others and control her own narrative. She wasn’t written as a character who was willing to dwell in uncertainty long. There were definitely some fun twists towards the end, but I don’t want to spoil anything.
Typically, I hate when I’m not given the whole history of things, but that lack of background knowledge is driving me to pick up the second book!
Final Thoughts: 4/5
All in all, an incredible first installation! The world that Chakraborty built for her characters entralled me. This is one of those moments where I am TRULY looking forward to the second novel.