Book Review: The City of Brass (The Daevabad Trilogy Book 1) by S. A. Chakraborty

 
 
Nahri is just trying to make a living as a thief when she accidentally summons a djinn and learns that she herself is part djinn and must go with him to the hidden city of Daevabad. But trouble is stirring within the city, and Prince Ali is caught in the middle, struggling to balance his morals and his loyalty to his family, and Nahri and Dara's arrival could stir things up even more.

Book Review: The City of Brass (The Daevabad Trilogy Book 1) by S. A. Chakraborty | reading, books, book reviews, fantasy, djinn
Title: The City of Brass
Publisher:
Book Number: Book 1
Pages: 545
My Book Rating:
More Info: Goodreads, Amazon, Publisher
 

Review:

I have been on a djinn kick lately, ever since learning a bit about the actual beliefs and mythology of them, and this was exactly the kind of portrayal of djinn I was hoping it would be! It was everything I wanted from the djinn and more. I sometimes read this author’s [really interesting] Twitter threads about djinn-related stories, so it doesn’t surprise me that she created a great version of them. But not only did she have different types of djinn with different abilities, she created this whole complex and well-thought-out history and society for them that included war, religion, tribes/families, economy, prejudice, and more.

As for the characters themselves, they were just as amazingly well-written. They were complex and believable and three-dimensional. I found myself rooting for so many of them, even when they did bad things, even when they were on opposing sides. In fact, I want to talk a little bit (or a lotta bit) about some of them in particular. I won’t share anything I consider a true spoiler, but you can skip the next four paragraphs if you haven’t read this yet and don’t like to know anything.

*POTENTIAL MILD SPOILERS*

DARA! Dara was such an interesting character. You know how sometimes in books we get this brooding love interest character, and we’re constantly told what a monster he is, but we’re never actually shown anything bad? Or he does things that seem bad, but then it turns out there’s a perfectly good explanation for them? (Sorry for the mini rant, I get really frustrated by that.) Well, this was the perfect example of a character who really had done awful things, and the author didn’t try to cover them up, and the reader even got to see some of his darker side firsthand. And you know what? I still liked him. He was a character who was not all good, but not all bad. You had this caring side of him and his side of the story about the past, then you had this cruel side of him and the opposing side of the story that made him out to be a monster. He had a lot of prejudice against shafit and the other djinn tribes, and he was a troublemaker sometimes. He never just laid low and kept his head down; his beliefs and desires were too strong for that, and sometimes his temper got the best of him. But the thing is, for the other djinn, the war and the things that happened were over a thousand years in the past. It was something that happened to their ancestors, not them. For Dara, it was like it just happened since he didn’t remember his time as a slave. And his hatred of the Qahtani family was kind of understandable when you consider how they killed his whole family. And I think he regretted, or was starting to regret, some of his past. I also felt terrible for him, having been made a slave. He just had all these layers and all this complexity that I loved.

I liked Prince Ali too, even though he and Dara were basically enemies. He was so caught in the middle between his family and his desire to do what was right and help the shafit. I felt like he actually did make the best choices possible, and yet no one on either side was happy with him or willing to understand, and it completely blew up in his face. I felt really bad for him, and I felt like he had a lot of realism and complexity too.

I even liked Muntadhir. He liked to drink and fool around and avoid responsibility, but, in his defense, he didn’t ask to be king one day. I think the poor guy just wanted to have a life with you-know-who, but he knew he never could. And he defended his brother and seemed to really care about him. I think he also had more depth than Ali realized. I don’t like the decision he made at the end, but, when I consider things from his perspective, I can understand it.

Last but not least, Nahri. She was believable, and I could completely understand her desire to stay in the place she called home, to not be forced into an entirely different lifestyle, culture, and religious faith. I felt for her when bad things happened. I thought she great when she took charge with that list of demands from the king. She was strong-willed, and I liked her.

*END SPOILERS*

I also liked the romance, but I feel it was overshadowed by the amazing characters and all the intrigue and complexity of the plot, which is not necessarily a bad thing, just the reason I almost didn’t even think to mention it. I would’ve maybe liked to see a little more of Nahri and Dara’s time together as their feelings were developing, but I still thought their feelings were believable enough, and they had a cute dynamic sometimes.

What I loved most about this book though was that nothing was simple or black-and-white. The characters weren’t perfect, and they were biased, and they didn’t always know what was best, and they made mistakes, and they did bad things sometimes, but they also did good things sometimes. Their motivations, their desires, their backgrounds, their feelings, their relationships—none of it was clear-cut. And the whole situation in Daevabad with the Daeva and the shafit and all the characters involved was complex in a very realistic way.

This book was a little long and somewhat slow-paced, and I may have skimmed some of the descriptions of rooms and gardens, but those were my only issues, and they’re such small ones.

I’m so glad Danya @ Fine Print and Becky @ A Fool’s Ingenuity wrote such amazing reviews for this book because I’m pretty sure they were the ones who convinced me I needed to give this book a try!

To wrap this up, if I had to pick one word to describe this book, it would be ‘complex’. I’m pretty sure I used it like ten times in this review. Seriously, the history, the society, the djinn, the backstories, the characters, their relationships—all of it was so well-thought-out and detailed and well-written, and I definitely plan to continue this series!

 
 
Book Blurb

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…

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  1. Elley @ Elley the Book Otter

    This book has been hanging around the fringes of my TBR for a while now, but I am always a little hesitant with fantasy about my favorite…. races? creatures? I’m not quite sure how to classify djinn, haha. It makes me so happy to hear that they’re well done and portrayed with richness and complexity! Thanks for the great review – this is now firmly on my TBR AND I’ve flagged it with a little “read this year!” tag. ;)

    Elley @ Elley the Book Otter recently posted: Discussion: Summer Beach Reads

    1. Kristen Burns

      Ooh djinn are one of your favorites? They’re so interesting! I just call them all creatures lol. But yes, I loved the way the authors portrayed these! I can’t wait to see what you think of this book!

  2. Daniela Ark

    yay the review is here! I was very excited to see this book on your sidebar! Do I see the start of Dijinn total world domination on this blog?? :) Another underappreciated [by me] supernatural creature you will MAKE me read?? :) xoxo

    1. Kristen Burns

      Did you see my recent bookish infatuations post? It’s djinn and werewolf domination at the moment, haha. I’m gonna make you read about ALL the supernatural creatures ;-)

  3. Luna & Saturn

    Nice review, we’ve been meaning to read a djinn book – The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury – but as always, we’re lagging behind. It’s amazing that the author is really invested in making sure that the characterisation is complex. Dara definitely sounds like an intriguing character. We’re a little concerned that the books is slow-paced and kinda long, but if it’s as enjoyable as you say, then it should be alright. :)
    ~ Luna & Saturn @ Pendragons

    1. Kristen Burns

      Yes! I mean, ok, the king was kind of a villain? But I loved how Dara and Ali were on opposing sides, yet I liked and understood both of them. I can’t wait to get some explanations and see what happens to the characters in the next one!

  4. Greg

    Before this book came out I only knew of the City of Brass as an efreet city in D&D, so when I saw this book first appear I was way interested. I haven’t had a chance to read it yet though, so I’m enjoying seeing reviews. Sounds like it’s really well done, if a touch slow, but the characters having such shades of grey really appeals to me as well.

    Greg recently posted: Sunday Post #254

    1. Kristen Burns

      I had no idea there was a City of Brass in D&D. I wonder if maybe it comes from an old mythology story or something? A touch slow, but I can deal with that when the characters are this interesting!

      1. Greg

        Yeah I always loved the concept! It’s in the Elemental Plane of Fire in the game, which I think is an interesting choice, maybe that’s why they made it an efreet city? I don’t really know if efreet were affiliated with it in the mythology or 1,001 Nights or whatever. When I saw this book was coming I was super curious. :)

        Greg recently posted: Blackfish City

        1. Kristen Burns

          Idk either. I just know the author does a lot of Twitter threads about stories from 1,001 Nights, so I figured it’d make sense if it came from there.

  5. Lola

    The world building surrounding the djinn and their history and society sounds really well done. And it’s great when characters are so well written and are complex and believable. Dara sounds like a very interesting characters and it can be interesting to read about character who have done bad things. I also am not a fan when you’re told someone is bad, but actually hasn’t really done bad things. It sounds great how he has a caring side, but also has done bad things. All the characters sound very believable when you talk about them like this and like it makes sense why they do what they do.

    I like it when stories aren’t black or white, but things are more complicated than that. It can make for such interesting reads. I am glad to hear you enjoyed this one so much and it sounds like this is exactly the type of djinn book you were looking for.

    Lola recently posted: Sunday Post #291

    1. Kristen Burns

      It was! It just irks me when we’re constantly told how bad a character is, but all we see is them being good. So yeah, I love when a character actually has done bad things but also has good aspects too. The characters really were well-written and complex.

      I love that too! Because it’s realistic. Things in real life are rarely black or white either. Thanks!

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  8. Olivia Roach

    This one is already on my TBR and I cannot wait to read this one! I really like djinn stories too although admittedly I don’t read them nearly enough. And I am very much anticipating having nothing be black or white. That’s the kind of complexity I just love to see my books. So happy you loved the portrayal and here and reading it :D

    Olivia Roach recently posted: Heart Land [Book Review]

  9. Di @ Book Reviews by Di

    Okay, this book was kind of on my TBR but now I definitely need to read it. I skipped all the spoilers and only skimmed your review because I AM going to read this and then I will get in touch!

    Hey – have you ever tried Weather Warden by Rachel Caine? It’s also got Djinni and is a pretty fun, fast paced UF series. It’s one of the only other UFs I’ve read other than Steel and Stone. Huh. Maybe I should read more!

  10. Becky @ A Fool's Ingenuity

    You know I was excited about this book. I loved it. I definitely class it as a favourite. I’m so glad you enjoyed it, I knew once you read it you’d see it was totally awesome and this is why we need more djinn books in the world.

    I totally agree with you about Dara. He did terrible things (like awful) but he was such a good person as well. He is kind and caring and there is so much more to him and I better have more of him in the next book because I can’t even with everything that went down. As you know, I was less sympathetic of Prince Ali (also, am I the only one who gets the Aladdin song in their head when you read that?) but you made a lot of good points and like I told you, I read the little teaser snippet that came out recently and I just know his story is going to get interesting. I think there’s a whole lot packed into the pages of this book and I was so impressed.

    I just need more of everything with this book. This is gonna be an awesome series.

    Becky @ A Fool's Ingenuity recently posted: The Kiss Quotient // I Loved It… You Need It

    1. Kristen Burns

      Thanks! It did sound awesome. But I’m glad I waited until I was in a djinn mood or I may not have liked it as much since I used to not really care for books about djinn!

      Dara definitely has depth and different sides to him. I love his complexity. OH GOSH. NO. I get the song stuck in my head every damn time I see Prince Ali lol. Except I literally only know the lyrics “Prince Ali” and my brain just has to mumble a tune for the rest, which is even worse. Gah I’m really curious what his story will be like!

  11. Cee Arr

    ‘I think the poor guy just wanted to have a life with you-know-who,’ – *gasps* Voldemort!?!?! Plot twist!!!! ;) (Ya know ya love me! Lol.)

  12. Di @ Book Reviews by Di

    I had to stop by this one because this book really does interest me. I even have an ebook of it. 🙈🙈 I do love Djinn though so I’m going to have to prioritise this one a little more. I’m struggling though with my reading schedule this month. As I mentioned I’ve been so busy and that has also impacted my reading. Hopefully I’ll be able to catch back up though. 🤞🏻 Then we’re totally chatting about this one when I’ve read it!

    Di @ Book Reviews by Di recently posted: Review: These Rebel Waves - Sara Raasch