Author: S.A. Chakraborty
Year Published: 2017
- Plot: 3.5/5
- Characters: 4/5
- Writing: 5/5
- Overall: 4/5
I went into The City of Brass with really high expectations and although I liked it, I didn’t love it as much as I wanted to.
We met Nahri, a thief who lived in 18th century Cairo who also had the mysterious ability to heal people’s diseases and injuries. After a few mishaps, Nahri becomes immersed in a magical world when she becomes entangled with a warrior-djinn called Dara. Together, they embark on a journey to the city of djinn and Daeva, called Daevabad. I found Nahri to be quite amusing to read about, but also a bit annoying because although Dara was the most exasperating and arrogant character in existence, she still liked him for some unknown reason and spent a lot of her time worrying and generally obsessing over him. It takes them about half the book to reach Daevabad, so the most fortunate reader must endure constant descriptions of them travelling, eating lentil soup, drinking unending cups of wine and talking. How exciting!
The other POV character is Prince Ali of Daevabad. I found him to be a far more interesting. In Daevabad, there were many divisions: djinn, shafit (half-djinn, half-human) and Daeva (similar to djinn but they worship fire). The shafit were treated as second-class citizens and many of their basic rights were taken away from them. The Daeva were also discriminated against, for various reasons. At the start of the book, Ali sympathised with the shafit and was discreetly funding a group dedicated to aiding them. However, as the novel progressed, it became clear that things weren’t as simple as they seemed at first and it became impossible to blame one group for all the events that had unravelled. I think this was skilfully done because as the reader, it’s almost instinctual to want to ‘take a side’, but I couldn’t because I could clearly see and understand all of the sides. It was interesting to see Ali’s loyalties being pulled in all directions. His loyalty to the shafit, his family and the other people he held dear were all held in the balance. I think he was a good person though, deep down inside, and I almost felt sorry for him as I watched him try to do what he thought was right.
It was nice to see some Muslim-rep. What was even nicer was that because I already understood and knew so much about the culture, language and religion my reading experience was increased tenfold. I have grown up hearing fantastical stories about the djinn and it was fascinating to see some of the things I had heard embellished and added to then woven into a sprawling story.
The plot wasn’t paced properly. The beginning of the book was painfully slow and dense then at the end… BAM! Suddenly, so many things were happening that didn’t make sense and weren’t explained properly and I was just very, very, confused.
Overall, I liked The City of Brass and my main issues with it were the pacing, the plot and some of the characters.
Have you read The City of Brass? Do you plan on reading it? Let me know in the comments!