CITY OF BRASS
SERIES: City of Brass, #1
GENRES/ SUBJECTS: Urban Fantasy, Historical
REPRESENTATION: Muslim MC
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…
The narrative is split between two POVs, conwomen turned venerated healer/princess Nahri, and idealistic, second son, Prince Ali. The general (Goodreads) consensus seems to be that Nahri is the more compelling character and that Ali is a little bit harder to connect with. Strangely, I sort of felt the opposite. Usually, Nahri would be the exactly the type of character that I would love: she’s resourceful, smart and always on the lookout for an easy mark. But in this case, I actually found myself more charmed by Ali. I thought it was interesting to see his outlook on the political landscape of Daevabad. I liked what we sort of Nahri when she was still in Cairo — when she was at her most conwomen-ish — but as the story progressed and she sort of lost this aspect of her character, I definitely found myself more intrigued by what was going on with Ali.
City of Brass starts really strong. We see Nahri running a con on two Turkish merchants, and then running a faux-seance. After that, once she’s summoned accidentally Dara, the plot sort of stalled. I really struggled through their journey and didn’t feel like it picked up again until they were well settled in Daevabad. There was a really slow build, until the last few hundreds of pages. Once everything did come together and it was one thing after another, an action-packed ride to the finish. So, I really liked the beginning, the middle was a bit of a wash for me, but the ending really packed a punch.
In my opinion, this is the strongest part of City of Brass. Cairo and Daevabad are vividly described, not just in the actual physical settings but in the really complicated cultures, tribes and family relationships going on. The world of Daevabad was completely immersive and well constructed.
The biggest problems that I had were the pacing being slightly off, and Nahri not feeling the strongest protagonist. But these issues resolved themselves by the end. The plot really kicks up — as I said — and Nahri, who hasn’t really shown those conwomen tendencies since the very start, suddenly seems to realise what’s at stake. I think the second book in the series is going to be great!