The City of Brass (The Daevabad Trilogy #1) by S.A. Chakraborty

city ofI completed City of Brass a couple of weeks ago and with a couple of minor issues I would say that it worked out as quite an amazing read.  I certainly wouldn’t have guessed this to be a debut novel.  The world building is sumptuous, it oozes with details providing a rich and colourful vision for the mind to feast on at the same time as bringing to mind tales of the Arabian Nights with all the magic that those entail.

We start the story by making the acquaintance of Nahri.  In her twenties Nahri lives a double life on the streets of 18th century Cairo.  By day she is a healer and the small glimmer of magic that she hides gives her a genuine ability in this field.  She can see a person’s illness although she can’t always make them well.  By night she practices slight of hand relieving the wealthy Ottoman nobles of their precious baubles.  She also takes part in cleansing ceremonies, ridding people of their demons, or ifrits, as they are known.  At one such ceremony Nahri unwittingly calls forth a djinn warrior, or daeva warrior – as is the preferred term.  Dara is the most notorious and fearsome warrior in Daevabad history.  Recognising that Nahri may herself have mixed blood the safest course is to take her to the magical city of Daevabad, her only protection against the ifrits that will now hunt Nahri to her death.

The story then follows the two as they travel rough terrain, constantly pursued by evil as they try to reach the protection of the legendary City of Brass.   Of course, on arrival, don’t expect all their troubles to disappear.  The City of Brass is far from idyllic.  Ruled by something of a tyrant, King Ghassan, fear and oppression are the main order of the day.  The six pure blood tribes keep those with mixed blood firmly under the heel.  Shafits – as mixed bloods are rather derogatorily called –  are treated terribly and it seems that rebellion is brewing.  On top of this Ghassan himself treads a precarious line keeping the ambitious nobles in check.  Bring into the mix a warrior with a very troubled past and a potential Daeva with blood in her veins from a line of healers who have long been thought to have been killed off and you can imagine the machinations that are afoot.

To the characters.  Strangely enough Nahri and Dara are not the only key characters.  Prince Alizayd (Ali) is one of the main roles here and has his own POV chapters.  Ali is the younger brother of Muntadhir.  The two have different roles and expectations.  Muntadhir will become ruler of Daevabad.  Ali has been raised and trained with the expectation of becoming his brother’s protector.  As such he will not marry, his devotion being reserved to the safety of the king.  Ali plays an intriguing role and his chapters are interesting to read.  He’s conflicted, the ill treatment of the mixed blood population doesn’t sit well with his religious beliefs and he wants to help – although his attempts to do so are a little ill misguided and serve to highlight his own naivety.

In terms of criticisms.  I confess that my main expectation was that there would be instalove and I dare say that the description of a young girl, with secret magic, being led across the desert to a legendary city, had a few eyes rolling with that very thought, but, I’m happy to say that wasn’t the case.  Nahri and Dara do indeed develop a relationship but it’s much more realistically paced and measured and takes time to develop.  However, the pacing of the story itself does suffer from a lull during the middle of the book. It fairly bolts out of the stalls with an intriguing introduction with smooth and impressive writing but then it seemed to lose focus a little.  Fortunately this blip is only during the middle section and wasn’t enough to deter me – in a way, I couldn’t help thinking that this lack of momentum was a reflection of the time Nahri spent in the palace.  The realisation never quite lived up to her expectations and she seemed to be at something of a loss herself and this seemed to come out in the story.   My other little niggle was in relation to Dara.  I liked his character but, did he come across as an experienced warrior who has lived many years?  Not really.  In his interactions with Nahri he read a lot closer to her own age – it didn’t make me dislike him any but he didn’t have that weary indifference that you would expect from somebody who has been round the block a few hundred times.

All in all, little criticisms aside, this was an entertaining, well written and fairly engrossing tale.  It has a wealth of magical elements thrown in and is a beautifully written story.  The ending is very dramatic and leaves something of a jaw dropping set up for the next book which I will definitely be picking up.

I received a copy through Edelweiss courtesy of the publishers for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.


8 Responses to “The City of Brass (The Daevabad Trilogy #1) by S.A. Chakraborty”

  1. sjhigbee

    A fabulous review, Lynn. I’m delighted you enjoyed this one so much, given just how beautiful the cover is.

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yeah, I had a couple of small issues but overall this is an impressive first book in series and definitely a great debut.
      Lynn 😀

  2. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    I really enjoyed this too. I didn’t realize this was a debut either until I finished and looked up more info on the book! The writing was so polished and easy to get into, I would have thought the author had been publishing for years. I can’t wait for the sequel either 🙂

    • @lynnsbooks

      The writing was lovely wasn’t it – very impressive and a debut to boot – wow!
      Lynn 😀

  3. @lynnsbooks

    The writing was lovely wasn’t it – very impressive and a debut to boot – wow!
    Lynn 😀

  4. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    A “jaw-dropping setup” for the next installment sounds like a great way of keeping the readers in thrall after what looks like a very satisfying story – niggles and all 🙂
    This one goes to the “wanted” list straight away, thank you so much for sharing!

  5. ‘…and they all lived happily ever after.’ | Books and travelling with Lynn

    […] Daevabad Trilogy by SA Chakraborty got off to an excellent start with The City of Brass.  The second instalment, The Kingdom of Copper, is due in January […]

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