Monday, December 18, 2017

Monday #Review - The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty #Fantasy #Historical

Series: The Daevabad Trilogy # 1
Format: E-Book, 544 pages
Release Date: November 14, 2017
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Source: Edelweiss
Genre: Fantasy / Historical

Step into The City of Brass, the spellbinding debut from S. A. Chakraborty—an imaginative alchemy of The Golem and the JinniThe Grace of Kings, and One Thousand and One Nights, in which the future of a magical Middle Eastern kingdom rests in the hands of a clever and defiant young con artist with miraculous healing gifts.

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 City of Brass is the first installment in author S.A. Chakraborly's The Daevabad Trilogy. This story switches narratives between two very different characters who grew up worlds apart. Nahri is a young woman in her 20's who doesn't remember her childhood. 18-year old Prince Alizayd is a pure blooded djinn who lives in the secretive city of brass called Daevabad in a far off land. We first meet the black haired, black eyed Nahri doing what she does best. Swindling rich foreigners out of their money.

Nahri, who has a grasp of several languages such as Arabic, Hebrew, Turkish, Swahili & Persian, has lived on the streets of Cairo all her life. She is a cunning thief, but she also has a curious talent for diagnosing illnesses better than some physicians. Nahri, a former pickpocket, hopes to one day travel to Istanbul where she can be tutored in medicine. But, after participating in what the author calls a zars ceremony, held to placate & cleanse the spirit of an afflicted, something rises from the past. Apparently, Nahri finds magic inside of her and wakes up a supposedly long dead Afshin warrior named Darayavahoush. I will call him Dara from here on out. 

Dara is a character with a tormented past. Dara saves Nahri from ghouls and other dead creatures who become aware of who Nahri really is. As the duo travels from Cairo to Daevabad, Nahri learns that the city is the hidden away from human eyes, and only those with the blood can cross over into the city. She quickly learns that the world is filled with Daeva, or fire elementals, and Ifrit, who are sworn enemies of a family called Nashid. Ifrit have a history of enslaving Daeva and unleashing them on humanity. 

But, their favorite target is the Nashid. Dara explains to Nahri that she is the apparent last descendant of the Nashid, and that she is also a Bana Nahida, or healer. Nahri and Dara each have trouble that may await them there in Daevabad, for different reasons. Dara may be killed on sight for things he has done over the past 1400 years, and nobody can say for sure whether or not Nahri will be treated with respect, or because she is a Nashid, scorn because of her descendants and what they did in the past.

Meanwhile in Daevabad, Prince Alizayd al Qahtani is a pureblood Djinn and the youngest son of King Ghassan. One could call Ali a moderate since he is nothing like his father, older brother, or sister. Ali, who grew up in the Citadel and has trained to support his older brother once he takes the throne. If you are not one of the Djinn, life in Daevabad can be brutal. There are warring political factions among the six different djinn tribes, and appalling mistreatment of the mixed-blood, partly human underclass of shafits. Ali also has some negatives against him. He is mixed-race thanks to his mother, and that ensures that he will never be allowed have any children. 

The story in Daevabad is one of twists, turns, violence, and some disturbing scenes which may not be appropriate for younger readers. It also has a whole lot of political conflicts between pureblood djinn and shafits, between the different djinn tribes and other magical elementals, and between those who support the currently ruling Qahtani family and those who are intent on bringing back Nahid rule, using Nahri. Nahri isn't at all comfortable in the city. She feels as though she is being used and she feels as though she would have been better off staying in Cairo. Ali does some things that perhaps make zero sense, but he has a heart unlike others in his family. Dara is the wild card. The Daeva love him, and believe that he can once again bring them to greatness. But, Dara may have other things on his mind. 

Chakraborty has created an intriguing cast of characters and also a wondrous world that combines historical fantasy, epic fantasy, with a rich Middle Eastern setting. The story is written by a person who is familiar with the Middle East, because she is converted Muslim American who has studied Islam. We get an exploration of the classical Islamic world, with elements of Arab, Persian, and South Asian history, as well as folklore in a fast-paced novel that will cast its spell on both genre and general readers, as well as fans of YA fantasy. 

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