Djinn politics are as complicated as ours, or my review of the City of Brass

City of Brass

City of Brass (the Daevabad Trilogy #1)

By: S.A. Chakraborty

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Publication Date: November 14th, 2017

Format: Hardcover

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…

  

4 star (griffin)

I learned about City of Brass not when it came out, but because I started following S.A. on Twitter (she’s a history/food nerd, it’s great). Because I was so intrigued by her threads, I decided to check out her book–and man, was I not expecting how great it was. In the mood for edgy political maneuvering in a world of Djinn and djinn-human hybrids? This is going to be a book you should read.

Nahri captures your attention almost immediately–a street grifter in Cairo during the Napoleonic Wars, her only goal is survival, with some thought spared to her desire to become a physician. In this she’s helped by some magical powers that not only allow her to heal immediately, but also help her diagnose and treat illnesses in others. But this goal is dramatically changed when she accidentally summons an actual djinn, and learns that her powers come from her own djinn blood.

Her Djinn protector, Dara, is a grumpy, scarred warrior, at times alluring but also obstinate. He insists that for Nahri’s own protection she needs to go to Daevabad, one of the great cities of the Djinn and the place her ancestors once lived. This is all the more pressing since she’s the last living Nahid, a branch of Djinn who specialized in healing. But not all is great in Daevabad–the second son of the king, Ali, is trapped between his own devotion to his family and his compassion for the human-djinn hybrids, shafit, who live in the city as a lower caste of people. Nahri’s appearance in the city cannot help put stir flames of class resentment and rebellion, and add to the tensions already present.

This was a book that hooked me over and over again, in a number of ways–I liked the honest historical look at Cairo, the cleverly woven stories of the Djinn that was steeped in actual mythology, Nahri’s fierceness, Ali’s cleverness and sense of duty, Dara’s mystery. It was all just delightful, honestly. There were so many excellently drawn characters, who clashed with each other in the most delightful ways. I especially adored Nahri’s dilemma–her attraction to Dara, despite being furious at him half of the time, versus her gentler pull towards Ali. I also loved Ali–he was awkward, set in his beliefs but uncertain of them at the same time, deeply religious but not a fanatic, but also possessing an absolutely brilliant strategic mind.

There was also the whole political maneuvering and tension thing, which I absolutely couldn’t get enough of. Daevabad is a tinderbox even before Nahri, a shafit belonging to a tribe worshipped by djinn obsessed with purity, steps into it. There’s a LOT going on–tension between two opposing religions (Islam and the Daeva religion), tension between pure-blood djinn and the shafit, tension between the original denizens of the city and their conqueror royalty…and that’s not getting into any of the political drama happening outside Daevabad. At times the threads Chakraborty was weaving were a little too complicated for me to follow, especially at the end when there’s a LOT happening. But that’s partially because the two characters whose eyes we see through (Nahri and Ali) are both in the dark about some of what’s going on. The elements that I couldn’t quite get, though, I trusted would be explained in more depth.

I could wax lyrical about this book for a while, honestly–there’s a lot to unpack, and it’s fairly hefty. It toes a line between YA and NA (New Adult), although there’s nothing that would require a content warning. But I’ll finish with this: there is NO WAY I’m not buying the City of Copper when it comes out, because after everything that happened at the end of CoB I NEED to know what happens next and that all of my faves are OK. Fortunately, it’s coming out January of 2019!

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Disclaimer: The synopsis and cover picture were pulled from the book’s Goodreads page. Neither belong to us.

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