If I could hand out a million stars to this book, I would. In a heartbeat. Without hesitation. This beautiful, own voices, Muslim, adult, fantasy, set-in-Egypt book is AMAZING!
“‘You’re my Banu Nahida. This is my city.’ His expression was defiant. ‘Nothing will keep me from either of you.'”
Okay, first, the synopsis. The City of Brass is told from two perspectives. The first is Nahri, a young women living in Cairo who has never believed in magic… despite being able to do magic. One day, she accidentally summons a sly, dark, mysterious djinn warrior who makes her question everything she has ever known, painting images of a magic-filled world that she is somehow deeply connected to.
The second point-of-view is Alizayd (I am completely in love with that name). Ali, is a prince of Daevabad, the city where many daevas and djinn live. His views on life in his city have always been different from his family’s, and he struggles with wanting to help the shafit – those who are half djinn and half human – as they are treated as less because of their mixed race. However, doing so would be to break his father’s, the King’s, laws.
“Often the mightiest things have the humblest beginnings.”
Now, to gush! The story in The City of Brass is so beautiful and magical. S.A. Chakraborty’s writing is amazing, and I wouldn’t even hesitate to say she has become one of my favourite authors ever with just this one book. From the streets of Cairo to the palace in Daevabad, from Dara to Jamshid, from Daeva to marid; every setting, every character, every detail in this book was exciting, intriguing, and, well to be completely honest, a little bit heartbreaking.
“So you’re telling me I should hide my kebabs?”
I literally snorted at this quote.
I absolutely love Nahri. She isn’t by any means perfect. Oh, no! She’s a thief in Cairo who swindles people to make money. Her morals are a little twisted for sure, but her wit and sass are everything! I absolutely adore the banter between Nahri and Dara so much! It felt simple and natural, not overdone to advance the story. Nahri’s development was also interesting. Without giving away spoilers, I felt that the way Nahri grew was realistic based on her history.
Dara. Oh, Dara. He stole my heart, obliterated it, put it back together, and then destroyed it again. Despite not having a POV in the book, his story is so amazingly developed. Daevas and djinn live much longer lives than humans, so his story has so much more to it. His reasons for his actions are believable, and will completely make you question your morals.
“He was beautiful — strikingly, frighteningly beautiful, with the type of allure Nahri imagined a tiger held right before it ripped out your throat.”
As for the characters in Daevabad, I adored and/or hated them all (in the best way possible). Alizayd is adorable. I wanted him to step up a little bit more at times, but his actions were understandable given his position. I have extreme feelings about the King and Muntadhir, but I don’t want to give away spoilers so I won’t tell you if they are good or bad feelings. Nisreen, Kaveh, Jamshid, and many others, all stole my heart in one way or another. Trust me, this book will have your emotions all over the place.
One thing I did want more from this book was LGBTQ2S representation. It is suggested that two of the characters are gay, but it is not fully formed, and to be completely honest, one of those characters deserves SO much better. Regardless, I wish this part of the story could have been developed more, and am hoping to get this in book two. (Also, quick shout-out to Marie at @bookishly.marie who let me rant about this to her, and who has some amazing theories about book two!)
The magic system, tribes and different beings definitely took me a little while to figure out. For example, Daevas and djinn are both fire beings, but Daeva is the ancient term for all fire elementals and djinn is the term many Daevas used after the rebellion. There are also different Daeva tribes, such as Geziri, Nahid, and Ayaanle. It was a bit complicated at first, but Chakraborty does a good job of explaining and developing it as part of the story.
“It’s not just a word! … That slur has been used to demonize our tribe for centuries. It’s what people spit when they rip off our women’s veils and beat our men. It’s what the authorities charge us with whenever they want to raid our homes or seize our property.”
Within this amazing story, is a devastating one that is all too familiar to so many people. The story of oppression. The story of war and of people being murdered for simply existing. It is heartbreaking, and it should make you want to fight. I have no doubt that Chakraborty wrote this book with the intention of making readers feel every emotion possible, and putting it down with a desire to change the world.
“There is power in names. It’s not something my people give out so freely.”
So, if this review is not clear enough, I absolutely adored this book. Every page, every story, every character, every heartbreak. If I haven’t said it outright yet, your heart WILL break. And not just once, but several times throughout the book. It hurts, and I loved it. Not sure what that says about me…
Also, the epilogue… OH MY GOODNESS the epilogue. Those last pages hint at SO much. If you don’t like cliffhangers, prepare your precious hearts because this one is intense!
Triggers: war, rape, extreme violence, slavery.
Thankfully, I was lucky enough to be sent an arc of The Kingdom of Copper, book two in this series, by HarperCollins Canada. So I will be diving back into this amazing world immediately!