13 January 2018

Five Reasons To… Read The City of Brass

The City of Brass
Published: 8th March 2018 (UK)

Source: Book box/Edelweiss

Genre: Fantasy, Historical, Young Adult

My Rating:
Step into The City of Brass, the spellbinding debut from S. A. Chakraborty—an imaginative alchemy of The Golem and the Jinni, The Grace of Kings, and One Thousand and One Nights, in which the future of a magical Middle Eastern kingdom rests in the hands of a clever and defiant young con artist with miraculous healing gifts
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 . . .
I can probably think of more than five reasons to read The City of Brass but I will attempt to be concise and give you the best reasons for reading this utterly amazing book, even if it does involve convincing you folks to read the first book in yet another series. Actually, I’ll probably just try not flail too much and actually write coherent sentences because this was me after finishing:

Complex and Interesting Characters

The characters in this book were the best. Nahri was this amazing con artist. She could sense illness in people and she also conned the rich out of their money to fuel her pursuit of moving to be able to pursue being a doctor. Despite her abilities and their unknown origin, she didn’t believe in magic until a djinn (daeva) arrives in her life and she discovers there is an entire city of djinn called Daevabad. I loved how Nahri may have discovered a world of magic, demons and djinn but she never loses who she is and wants to be. Sure, she takes moments to question what she wants but she is still her own person and tries to avoid being swept away.

Then there is Dara, the mysterious djinn Nahri summons who has a dark past he mostly can’t remember and the bits which he does don’t always shine himself in the best light. He remembers a different world to the one he arrives in and although he wasn’t always a good person I did love him and the connection he built with Nahri. He was the man who introduced her to this other world and the two built a bond from that and helped one another grow.

There was also Prince Ali, one of the sons of the current ruler of Daevabad. I didn’t always love his actions or agree with his opinions but he did add a whole other element to the story. I won’t reveal the reasons why but Dara and Ali didn’t get along or agree on all things. They were on opposite sides of things and I sided much more with Dara on this but Ali wasn’t all bad. He was blunt and interesting and he was a good friend to Nahri even if he was far too blind to the faults of those closest to him.

Amazing World Building

The world Nahri and all of the characters inhabit is such an interesting one. Seeing how the world of the djinn overlapped with the human world was so cool. And then there was the city of Daevabad, that entire city was so interesting. It genuinely felt like a real place. I could visualise that city and the people living in it. It was fully fleshed and so interesting. You can tell that research went into studying the historical period the book is set and also in learning about the cultures which influenced those of the djinn. It wasn’t just one culture but multiple ones which influenced the different types of djinn. I thought it was a highlight of the book how real the world the characters inhabited was.

Family Mystery

Nahri had no knowledge of her own family. She didn’t question her origins too much on the streets of Cairo as she had to spend far more time concentrating on surviving and passing under the radar of the authorities as not all she did was strictly legal. It meant that as time went on and she learnt more about her possible past (and Dara’s past) the more intrigued I was and I just know that this will get explored in the next book (which I totally want in my hands now… I cannot be wishing away the year though). I think the mystery of both her origins and those of Dara led me to get sucked in as you see small hints of the past but there is so much more to be explored as the series progresses.

Djinn! (Or Daeva if You’re That Kind Of Guy)

This was such an original take on djinn. I haven’t read a lot of books featuring djinn anyway, but this one was so unique. The djinn and their society were so interesting. It was so similar to human society anyway which is logical but it was also unique. Each type of djinn had their own culture and each was so individually defined by both appearance but also their beliefs. Their abilities weren’t just chalked up as being magic but instead, there were abilities which folks tended to and then the half djinn, shafits, who were treated as lesser beings. Some of the mixed blood people also possessed abilities and I would be very interested to see why some did and some didn’t. There was the daeva (who took on the original name of the djinn) who were fire-based djinn and there were a large variety of others. The different djinn tribes actually lead on to the next point.

An Interesting Take On Racism and Religion And Class Which We Can All Relate To

One of the elements I liked most about this book is that it showed the mirroring of certain elements of the human world in that of the djinn. As soon as we were introduced to the world of the djinn through the eyes of Ali and then later Nahri it was obvious to me that there was discrimination against the shafts with the view that full-blooded djinn as being superior to those of the half blood shafit. It was similar to the pureblood superiority seen in Harry Potter but in City of Brass it goes beyond that with those in the different djinn tribes having their own rivalries.

The corruption seen in the ruling class of the djinn also meant viewing full blooded djinn as superior to those of the half blood shafits. They also had the view that the Daeva tribe were backward as they had their own religion whilst the rest of the djinn had a new different religion which was adopted and these divisions split the focus of the djinn and weakened them allowing corruption to spread.

I have to say, whilst the divisions in djinn society weren’t always comfortable to read because it made me so angry but it is one thing I love about fantasy reads. Even with its historical setting it was brilliant at highlighting the ingrained biases which occur in society and fantasy is an excellent way of achieving this. It was brilliant!

Have you read this and if so what are your reasons for others to read (if you loved it as much as I did)? And what’s your favourite fantasy read of late?

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