City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty

The City of Brass (The Daevabad Trilogy, #1) by S.A. Chakraborty
Series: The Daevabad Trilogy #1
Published by Harper Voyager on November 14, 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 532
Format: ARC
Source: Book Expo of America
Purchase on: Amazon// Barnes & Noble// BookBub
Add to: Goodreads // StoryGraph

I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

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...


I have held onto The City of Brass by SA Chakraborty for almost a year after receiving an advanced copy from Book Expo of America. I knew I wanted to read it the moment I laid eyes on the gorgeous cover and then learning the book doesn’t follow the typical Eurocentric fantasy standard? I excitedly thought this would be a fantastic new story in the same vein as Beasts Made of Night. Unfortunately, City of Brass failed to do what Beasts Made of Night did so well. In fact, City of Brass failed to do what the majority of books do, period.

Now, this book was read for the Pages and Pause Screen podcast where myself and co-host Ally go super in-depth on the problems we had with this book. Be aware that the podcast does have spoilers, but I’ll keep this review spoiler-free.

When I say that this book failed to do what the majority of books do in general, I mean that this book seemed only to confuse. There was no solid ground for me as I reader to cling to. Every single piece of information we receive is either negated or muddled. Things don’t get explained until very late in the game, and even then, not explained fully. Best example? I finished this book and I still don’t know what the difference between a djinn and a daeva. Some don’t like using the term daeva and others hate the term djinn but what is the difference? Some groups feel the term djinn is a pejorative, everyone else uses it freely and dislike daeva. We never find out what the heck the difference is. I have no idea why x person is so offended at being called a djinn. Also, that bare bones explanation about djinn possibly being a pejorative? That doesn’t come until approximately 20% through the book.

From a technical standpoint, I understand why Chakraborty frames the book as she does, with nothing solid and everything constantly changing. We follow, mainly, Nahri’s point-of-view. Nahri has no clue about this new world she’s been sucked into, so therefore we as readers, by extension, have no clue about this new world. But still, this feels like a very novice mistake — trying to constantly keep your readings guessing, jumping, unnerved. There needs to be SOMETHING solid that readers can cling to.

Apart from the unclear worldbuilding, we have the characters that are too fluid. What do I mean by that? Well, there are only TWO characters in this novel that remain the same personality wise from the start to the end. Dara and Ghassan. Dara, from the beginning, is an ass and he ends the book, an ass. A lovable ass, but an ass none-the-less. Ghassan begins as someone to be suspicious of, who has his own best interests in mind first second and last, and he ends exactly this way. Every other character? Full of inconsistencies and OOC moments. Nahri goes from being a really smart, self-sufficient street rat, to trusting strangers immediately (accepting food and drinks from a princess she knew she should be suspicious of). Ali’s only consistency is being inconsistent — putting down those he says he’s trying to rescue, all the time.

So, with all of these flaws, why did I give it three stars? Because there are definitely kernels of greatness. This feels like a debut novel, and that’s because it is Chakraborty’s first novel. So these mistakes are to be expected. If she’d had a stronger editor, a lot of these issues I had with the novel would likely be fixed. There is so much for Chakraborty to play around with in this world, that she only needs to focus on a handful and flesh that out instead of trying to focus on everything, and keep everything a secret. The City of Brass by SA Chakraborty is definitely not the strongest #OwnVoices YA Fantasy choice, but it is one with a lot of potential. Chakraborty definitely has the talent, she only needs someone to help guide and focus that attention into something concise and clear.


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