Title: The City of Brass
Author: S.A. Chakraborty
Pub. Date: November 14, 2017
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…
This will be a spoiler free review. I listened to the Audible Audiobook, and I highly recommend it. Soneela Nankani is an incredible narrator and does this book justice. I promise you won’t be disappointed with the quality of the audiobook!
So, I made the mistake of not writing this review, before binge listening/reading The Kingdom of Copper and almost all of The Empire of Gold. Events in these books have all kind of jumbled and combined, and I don’t quite remember what happens in each.
I legit binged these books, inhaling them, listening for a solid 7 hours a day. I immersed myself, and I might be a tad bit obsessed. So, this review might be vague as hell, I’m just warning you. And it won’t be because I didn’t like the book. It’ll just be because I’m a dumbass and didn’t write down my thoughts as I finished the books.
Here we go!
Okay, let’s start off with, why the fuck did I wait so long to pick it up? Thank god I had work, and thank god that work allows me to listen to audiobooks, otherwise, I don’t know if I would have picked this book up? At least, not when I did. But damn am I kicking myself for waiting so long.
I’d seen some reviews prior to picking this book up that said the world building was too much, too confusing, and to each their own, but bish, where?
I fell in love with world, it came to life in my mind. I’ve never been to Cairo, but I felt like I was there, in the midst of the city, wandering around with Nahri. Ugh, Nahri. I love her. She’s brilliant, amazing, and so fiercely independent. She’s a fighter, a survivor and I love her.
I liked that we got to know Nahri a bit before we’re whisked away to the fantastical, to Daevabad and magic. I liked that we got to see her in the human world, just doing her thing, learning about her dreams, her ambitions, how she survived in a world that is still very against women independence. I loved how relatable she felt, even if I didn’t share all her same experiences. She felt real and grounded – basically like someone you could meet on the street.
But the world. Oh my gosh. Like I said, I’ve never been to Cairo, but it came to life. I can’t speak to whether or not every aspect was accurate, in the sense of the people, the religion and faith represented, but it felt alive. Like it held that magic that we sometimes see in our real world. Not the blatant fantastical magic that’s in the rest of the book, but like the soft magic of a sunrise, or holding a strong belief in something.
Needless to say, I loved it.
Then we had the appearance of Darayavahoush (Dara) a Daeva, magically summoned by Nahri. That whole scene was so good, and then everything that happened next, and omg, I can’t say more because spoilers. But Dara and Nahri’s relationship in this book. It was so enjoyable. I’m a sucker for when two people are more or less forced to travel together, and being together for ages, bonds them, and then feelings bloom. It’s one of my favorite things in fantasy books.
I was really surprised at how long it took to get to Daevabad. I expected to be almost immediately transported there, but it really does take like, most of the book to get there.
Granted, my view of “most of the book” is skewed since I listened to the audiobook, and don’t actually have a visual representation of how far along in the book I was.
When we finally do get to Daevabad, like Cairo, it comes to life. Like, I wish it were a real place you could go to. Or I wish I could just drop into this book and explore. Maybe due to political upheaval, it might not be the *best* place to visit, but I still want to go.
You know you’ve hit obsession point of a book, when you start to plan trips to a fictional place.
Once Nahri and Dara reach Daevabad, we’re introduced to Ghassan Al Qahtani, King of the magical realm, his two sons, Muntadhir, heir and successor and Alizayd, the younger son and Muntadhir’s future Qaid (leader of the army). We also meet Zaynb, Ali and Muntadhir’s sister who is really good and navigating court politics like Muntadhir. Ali isn’t good at this at all and is pretty devout in his beliefs and is often vocal about them, making him some enemies. We also meet Jamshid who is just precious, and I love him. I love how he and Muntadhir interact and their relationship.
The rest of the book is just a whirlwind of Nahri learning so much, so quickly, and Dara doing what he does. Having already read book 2, I know what happens next, but the ending of this book…you’re not ready for it. The intensity, the heartbreak, the emotion. Between Nahri, Dara, Ali, Muntadhir and Jamshid, they all go through the fucking wringer and none come out unscathed. I mean, my heart fucking broke. Repeatedly. I was sitting at work, stunned, tensed, stressed out, and practically whispering no, no, no, no, no…over and over and over again, because what the fuck? I mean, as brutal as it was, it was an amazing ending, an amazing cliffhanger for The Kingdom of Copper. Nahri is a fighter and will always be a fighter, and when presented with a situation that’s dire af, and all hope seems lost, she powers through. But that moment after that scene on the boat, where she’s in her room, (if you’ve read, you know) my heart shattered for her. Like, actually shattered. Despite everything she’s been through, goes through…gah, I can still see the scene so vividly, and it’s so emotional and legitimately heart wrenching.
And poor Alizayd. I felt his pain as well. He didn’t deserve any of that. Maybe a punch or two for his actions, but not what actually happened. Jamshid, definitely didn’t deserve what happened to him, and Muntadhir, eh. Maybe he deserved a bit of what happened.
Not justifying, not really, but he was a bit of an asshole on that boat.
The whole ending to this book is now coming back to me so clearly, and basically everything is a spoiler so I can’t talk about any of it, so you’re just going to have to read the book and find out what wrenched my heart into a million pieces.
I could sit here for another 1300 words and tell you how much I loved this book, and why and give you a million reasons. But that would be a really long review, and this review is already so much longer than I expected, and I think it’s time I closed it out.
I can only say, read this book, you will not regret it. It sucks you in, makes you fall for the world and the characters. It has happy moments, and cute moments, and romantic moments, and friendship teasing moments – it also has utterly heart crushing emotional moments that will hurt. But guess what, there’s a book 2, and it’s out, so you can read more about Nahri and Dara and Ali and Muntadhir and Jamshid and all the other characters that make this book so amazing. If you’re looking for a new fantasy read, I cannot recommend this enough. Honestly, I can’t. This is definitely a new favorite.