The City of Brass (The Daevabad Trilogy #1) by S.A. Chakraboty

City of Brass book cover

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… (via Goodreads)

City of Brass is the first book in the Daevabad Trilogy and in my opinion it is off to a good start.

As some on Goodreads have pointed out, when you take the overall plot line and boil it down to it’s most basic points, the story does sound a bit cliched. Young woman living on the streets does what she can to survive when she meets a mysterious stranger. The woman’s life is somehow put in danger and the stranger helps her before whisking her away on a perilous journey. The journey itself is fraught with danger and they finally arrive at a grand city that is beyond anything any one has seen. There, the young woman learns she is a lost person of great importance and she is thrust in to a very unfamiliar and lush lifestyle. She must learn who she can trust when it seems everyone has something to hide.

Yes, cliched, and yes done over and over in countless stories. Yet to be honest, one can say that about almost every book ever written. New and unique ideas are rare and most books are a rehashing of previous ones. It is only in how they are rewritten that is important. At least to me.

And it is in that aspect that City of Brass shines (pun intended). Chakraborty has taken a well known and well used fictional trope and brushed it up a bit with her storytelling. The lead female character, Nahri, isn’t one to sit idly by even when she has everything she ever desired served to her on a silver plate. All of her young life she has refused to let any one dictate her future and she will not let any one start now. Not the handsome djinn Dara, not the equally handsome prince Alizayd, and certainly not the king Ghassan al Qahtani.

As lovely as the story is, what really stood out to me were the characters themselves. Every one of them is flawed in one way or another. None of them are perfect despite what persona they present. Even the minor characters, ones who only appear in one or a few scenes, they too are flawed in one way or another. It makes them all feel more real and adds depth to an already fascinating story.

City of Brass is a bit long at over 500 pages so it will take a bit longer to read. However, it is a unique story set in an area of the world that does not get much love in fiction. Plus it has a strong female main character that will appeal to most. The second book was just recently released and I’ve already added it to my list to read and review.

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