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Review: The City of Brass

City of Brass book cover

Title: The City of Brass
Author: S. A. Chakraborty
Genre: Science Fiction & Fantasy
Page Count: 530
Published by: Harper Voyager
Date Published: November 14, 2017
You can find it here: Bookshop.org


When Nahri, a young con woman and talented healer trying to survive the streets of 18th Century Cairo, accidentally summons Dara – a powerful ancient warrior djinn – her life changes in an instant. Not only are there answers to the powers that have haunted her life but she is now on the run from the Ifrit (powerful djinn and sworn enemy of her kind). Ghouls, Ifrit, beasts of air and beasts of water chase her and Dara as they flee to the magical city of the gods — Daevabad, the elusive City of Brass.

The city is ripe with magic, fire, and blood – as persecutions and resentments run deep after a war changed the political landscape of this magical world 1400 years ago … and Nahri now finds herself in the centre of these tensions and the civil war that is about to break it apart.


Let’s Talk Complicated Characters:

Morally grey characters – they are so dang delicious aren’t they? When they are done well, that is … and they very much are here.

This story is actually a split perspective book between Nahri, the talented healer and con artist mentioned above, but also Ali – the second son of the current king of Daevestana. He is an excellent character torn between loyalty to his father but also the people of his kingdom. He wants to protect the innocent, he wants more rights for the oppressed.

Each character is driven and complicated. While we want Dara to be the beefy hero, he is an incredibly layered character with a disturbingly dark and long history. This dark history is only revealed a small piece at a time and I still am not sure if I can root for him, but it is equally hard not to! See, morally grey characters are just the best!

One thing that is surprising is the biting and sarcastic banter amongst these characters. It was rather unexpected in an ancient Middle Eastern fantasy and adds much needed brevity.

Let’s Talk Politics, History, Mythology:

Ok, this book brings a heavy wallop of information and at times it can be overwhelming. S. A. Chakraborty is intimidatingly intelligent and that intelligence is on full force here. Incredibly detailed mythology, pieces of historical fiction, and some heavy politics all combine with magic and romance … it can be tough! I am not one who appreciates books with heavy politics and luckily that does take a somewhat backseat to the mythology, magic, and romance. But it is a book that takes a bit to sort out the different tribes of the djinn and the various mythical beasts. While it is very worth it, I mention this because it isn’t for everyone. Personally, I just love a story that spans multiple genres with a great steeping in history … it’s my jam. But bring your mental A game here … see below …

Let’s Talk Some Warnings:

This is a book for the reader who is willing to put a little more effort into their read – ie don’t pick this up when you are looking for a light, fast read. This takes a bit to sink into and a lot of researching, reading, and flipping to & from the glossaries. It is an effort to get the whole world straight … but it is very, very worth it when it all clicks. I read this and listened to the audiobook at times which really helped with pronunciation. All this effort is more than rewarded as I have not read a story so fully transporting and vividly crafted as The City of Brass.

There is adult content here and I always hate leaving content warnings, but there is a lot violence of all kinds … but do know that I have a very weak stomach for brutality and I never, ever felt violence was lingered upon. Often violence is referred to rather than graphically described.

Overall Take:

It has been a long time since I’ve read such a magical, mythical, political, romantic mashup of a novel done so, so well. It is deep, it is dark, it is a full, completely realized world. It is heart-wrenching, heart breaking and simply an awe-inspiring piece of fantasy. I adore this book and all the deliciously morally grey characters. I am already tearing through the sequel and highly anticipate the conclusion this June.

TBR Ranking: High

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