I didn’t know what to think of this book going in. I’m not one for “real world” type books, but I was very pleasantly surprised that we didn’t stay in the “real world” for long, or rather they soon cross over into another world within our world. More on that later.
And though I know it’s all the rage right now, I will be honest in saying I actually generally don’t like when fantasy books stray from your typical European/English medieval setting. But this book so enthralled me that I’m willing to reevaluate that position.
The City of Brass is a fantastic, mystical adventure that feels real, yet is wholly magical in every way. I devoured this book and couldn’t read it fast enough.
Review of The City of Brass
The story is reminiscent of a story known around the world about a young street rat named Aladdin. The story begins a lowly urchin named Nahri who is swindling people out of their money so that she can survive.
When one of these scams goes wrong, she ends up summoning a djinn, or better known as a genie, named Darayavahoush (Dara for short). The summoning also alerts a demon race called the ifrit who want to see Nahri dead at all costs.
Dara, it turns out, is her protector. Though he is a djinn, he doesn’t go around granting wishes left and right. That certainly is a part of the story, more of Dara’s history, but don’t misunderstand the plot because I used the word genie.
Similar to Aladdin, this particular genie, Dara, used to be a slave bound to his vessel. Some djinn are bound to lamps as we think of them, but they can be bound other ordinary objects as well.
I found it interesting that the bangles or cuffs we see in Aladdin that represents genie’s slavery are also present in the story in a manner of speaking. Certain types of metals are harmful to the djinn, and iron in particular seems to dampen their powers, so wearing an iron cuff essentially cripples the djinn’s magic.
The story in City of Brass is really one of survival. Our main character, Nahri, is living a pretty basic life. She struggles to get by, but it’s simple. When her life is threatened, she’s whisked away to this magical city of brass called Daevabad where thousands upon thousands of djinn live.
Soon she finds herself living a life wholly different, yet strikingly similar to the one she led before. Instead of thieves and cutthroats she deals with kings and politicians. But the appearance of luxury hides an even deadlier enemy.
Nahri starts out as a unwilling, foolhardy girl who turns into a strong woman who forges her own path. She leaves behind the mask of a girl who was tossed around by circumstance and culture to become the champion and master of her fate.
There’s a lot about the plot of City of Brass that I just can’t explain. There’s so much more going on, so much that takes place in the background, that it’s nearly impossible to put into words any shorter than the 526 pages Chakraborty already used to tell it.
The short of it is, 1,400 years ago there was a war and though many djinn had put the war behind them, one particular group of individuals were not so willing to accept their current lot in life.
From the first page to the last, this story tells their tale. You will likely ask yourself which group I am talking about many times over the course of the story as it seems like opposition comes from as many as four or five different groups.
But I promise you this, the plot of City of Brass is a masterful work of art. The twists are plenteous and satisfyingly juicy, and the history and worldbuilding were painstakingly crafted.
Where does Nahri fit into all this? Well to answer that question would be telling.
There is another main character in City of Brass, and his name is Ali. He’s the second son and prince of Daevabad.
He and Nahri trade POVs throughout the whole book, back and forth one chapter at a time.
I will admit, I found Ali’s storyline less inspired at the beginning. I would often skim through his chapter in order to return to Nahri. Though his father and brother very much feel like the “bad guys” of the story, Ali is different. We see that from the beginning pages.
But when Ali and Nahri’s storylines collide, we still aren’t sure what to expect of the young prince. There feels like there could be a potential romance between the two, but such a thing would be forbidden based on Daevabad laws.
Nothing significant appears on that front in City of Brass, but I am hopeful for what may be in store for them in Book 2.
Aside from the two main characters and Dara, who I’ve already mentioned. Kevah is a man you should pay particular attention to as well as his son, Jamshid. Jamshid is Ali’s brother’s best friend, and though we can never truly tell where Ali’s brother’s allegiances lie, Jamshid seems, to me, to be completely in the light.
Jamshid is loyal, honorable, and an all round great character. Though his significance in City of Brass is small, I have a feeling that he will take on a greater role moving forward.
I give City of Brass a 5 out of 5. Though it’s only three weeks into January, I feel confident in saying this book will be one of the best I’ve read all year long.
I can’t wait to dive into Kingdom of Copper and will be starting it just as soon as I finish writing this review.
Interested in more reviews? Check out my review of Kill the Queen by Jennifer Estep.