The City of Brass – S.A. Chakraborty

WOW. Wow wow wow. Wow. It’s 2018, and we have a ridiculously inventive first entry into a fantasy saga set entirely in the Middle East. If this is the starting line, the Daevabad trilogy is going to be epic.

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 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.

Review: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The world S.A. Chakraborty developed is HUGE. She has created a whole new plane of Daevas, politics, powers, creatures, and conflicts. The vast landscape is so immersive; I’d be surprised if this series doesn’t extend into companion novels and spin-offs. There is a lot to work with here.

Borderline too much.

Chakraborty’s world is expansive and magnificent, but there really are a lot of details to keep straight. In the interest of transparency, I’m writing this review several weeks after finishing the book, and the loads of notes about the world Nahri finds herself plunged into have leaked out of my brain.

In this world, you have six different factions of the Daeva (who are also known as the “djinn”, a human word for Daeva): the Sahrayn, the Ayaanle, The Geziri, the Tukharistanis, the Agnivanshi, and the Daevas. Yes, in addition to the Daeva species, who are sometimes also called djinns, you have the Daeva tribe. At any point, the verbiage in the book interchanges these terms, and though it is really creative and interesting, it is hard to keep up with. The glossary and appendices in the back of the novel are supremely helpful, but sometimes I found myself in want of a few footnotes in the midst of it all. My only hesitancy with this series is the large amount of political context and huge cast of characters. The City of Brass is imaginative, playful, and fun, but tread lightly: it is not a light read. This is a high-fantasy game.

I’m really looking forward to the sequels; Chakraborty’s characters and their potential friendships, romances, conflicts, and betrayals are a really exciting thing to look forward to. Hopefully, the appendix remains a faithful friend.

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