Book: The City of Brass
Author: S.A. Chakraborty
Series: The Daevabad Trilogy, #1
Genre: Historical Adult Fantasy
My Rating: 4.25/5 Stars
“A warrior. Oh, by the Most High… He was looking for her. Nahri was the one who had called him.”
It’s books like this that remind me why I love fantasy so much…
The City of Brass takes us through a journey from the points of view of Nahri and Prince Alizayd al Qahtani. In eighteenth-century Cairo, Nahri struggles to survive. With no family and her desire to acquire enough money to move away and pursue ambitions to further develop her healing skills, her only source of income is obtained by the other skill she possesses, being a con artist. Her belief in magic is nonexistent, yet her whole life unexplainable abilities, such as the power of healing instantly and speaking a language that no one else knows, left Nahri constantly wanting answers regarding her origin. Though such a wish gets accidently granted when she unintentionally calls a mysterious djinn warrior named Dara who may know more about Nahri than she ever imagined. This begins their journey to Daevabad, also known as The City of Brass, where tribes of different magical abilities exist, where Alizayd is a prince, and where Nahri has the opportunity to learn more about where her life was supposed to be lived.
I have to say, I was absolutely in love with the Middle Eastern setting that this story took place in, especially since my background is from the Middle East. It’s sad to say that in the past I haven’t read a book with such a setting, and since finishing this book, I am definitely craving more. The experience of coming across Middle Eastern words that I recognized made reading the book so much more exciting.
With the story itself, I found a lack of balance between the first half and the second half. This means that, surprisingly, the first half held my interest more. It was a whirlwind of adventure, traveling, and encountering an endless cycle of trouble that had me invested in every aspect of the characters and the plot. Then Nahri and Dara arrive in The City of Brass and it really ends up being anticlimactic as Nahri begins an average day to day life in the palace. She learns her trade and Dara is nearly nonexistent, only showing up in Nahri’s life at random times. Though it did not entirely turn me off from finishing the rest of the book, it was still a little disappointing when the intensity and potential of the first half of the book ended up not being consistent.
It was definitely hard to read about certain aspects involved in this world. The discrimination against the shafit being one of them. I felt as helpless as Ali when such horrible actions and words were thrown towards these people. But it’s hard because no one is entirely good or entirely bad in this story. This is apparent with Ali, Nahri, and Dara. The main characters may have good intentions, may be fighting to survive, but I think it’s interesting that it does not necessarily mean they are solely pure and good. They have their flaws. Ali’s plea for no discrimination against the shafit was a mistake in the eyes of his family, but his intentions for equality are good, yet it pins him as breaking the law. Nahri’s need for survival caused her to become a con artist, to trick and steal. It was never really clear what Dara was and wasn’t. His past was barely revealed yet rumors of the horrible crimes he committed circled around. I honestly had a love hate relationship with Dara because his actions, words, and the claims of his past consistently had my feelings toward him all over the place.
As for the characters and their relationships, I adored the growing friendship between Nahri and Ali. It took me awhile to enjoy reading from Ali’s point of view, but I think once his friendship with Nahri took off I became more invested in his character. Romance in this book definitely existed though it wasn’t the focal point of the story and the characters. Even though romance is the main element of a story that I look for, I wasn’t disappointed with the amount this book had to offer.
Overall, I loved the setting and I cared about the characters, but it did not entirely meet my expectations. The ending left me more confused than reassured about certain aspects of the plot and I felt as if it was dancing around a huge reveal instead of giving it to us straight. Now I have to wait for the sequel to answer my questions.