Overview (No Spoilers):
After seeing my fellow book blogger, Nils, hyping this series for months, I was excited to jump into this new series. I try very hard to avoid reading anything about a book before actually picking it up to prevent spoilers, however in this case I wish I would have been warned not to read A Master of Djinn immediately prior. I still have a very hard time separating these stories in my head, despite the fact that they’re very different as they share many of the same settings, strong female characters, and fantasy elements, especially in the beginning. As with A Master of Djinn, I loved that The City of Brass is first set in Cairo. Just before Covid lockdowns, Luke and I spent three days in Cairo and the surrounding area. We loved our time in this city and both of these books served to bring back fond memories of our visit. That said, the similar settings served to aid further my confusion separating these two stories.
The City of Brass follows the perspective of Nahri, a con woman from the streets of Cairo who despite having an unexplained healing power, doesn’t believe in magic until it chases her from the only life she’s ever known into one of danger and djinn. The second perspective that we are granted is from Prince Ali, whose family rules in Daevabad. The Prince is a religious zealot who can be a bit much for most of this read, however he does grow on the reader as his edges soften and he matures from some hard learned lessons. Both of these characters have their worlds turned upside down throughout The City of Brass as unraveling family secrets upend everything they thought they’d known, along with causing them to revisit set prejudices.
I loved the concept behind Chakarborty’s The City of Brass, especially the literary world she develops along with how the story evolves from any beginning expectations. The majority of this read, while intriguing, follows a fairly linear plot arc that doesn’t hold a ton of unexpected twists and turns for the reader. Instead, emphasis is placed on worldbuilding and detailing the strict culture influenced rules that Nahri must now adhere to. That is, right up until the end when the depth is exponentially expanded upon with several key revelations that totally change the playing field, setting up for an action packed sequel. Even now, I am left with the feeling that the full implications of several of the plot twists are yet to be realized, and will likely be further explored in the next book.
The characters seemed to fill one dimensional roles, especially the macho warrior men who are quick to anger and even quicker to fight. Every sentence is scrutinized by these warriors for an excuse to be insulted. As every interaction, especially between Dara and Ali is steeped in this dynamic, the peacock posturing grows tiresome by the end. Additionally, Nahri’s quick adjustment to the existence of magic is abrupt. Sure she marveled a few times, but overall she hardly seemed shocked by this new world she is inhabiting. These issues aside, as previously described, much of The City of Brass feels as though it is preparing the foundation for the action packed ending that catapults this read to a new intriguing level of depth. Overall, with a delightful magical system and the literary world now established in The City of Brass, Chakraborty suffuses the ending with significant mystery that ultimately heightens the suspense for our main characters.
Additional Insight (Spoilers Abound):
- What happened to Baseema’s family? Did the ifrit who took control of Baseema kill them? Was that the blood source on her hands?
- What is going on with Nahri’s lineage? Most of the book we think she’s full Nahid but then we find out the king is lying and she’s only part. Who were her parents? I’m guessing her Dad is actually who she thought was her uncle throughout this whole book. How did Nahri hide from the ifrit her whole life? Why was she in Cairo?
- Did Dara kill who she thought was her Mom and Uncle? How is her Mom, Manizheh still alive? Why has she faked being dead for the past 20 years? How is she connected to the ifrit?
- How does Dara have all this unbelievable power?
- If Dara is still a slave and he can be commanded by Nahri, who is his master? Will someone think to get his relic out of the hidden tomb to free him?
- The romantic interest between Dara and Nahri becomes a lot more complicated if she is his master or can control him. Plus there are some major red flags there.
- Muntadhir is really hard to like, especially in the end, however those moments he defends his brother really add a needed layer of depth to this fun loving heir.
- What law does Khazyur break? Why are the marid and peris after Dara?
- We find out Jamshid is also part Nahid. Do he and the crown prince know of their love for each other?
- How did Nasreen get Dara’s ring? Why are they hiding it from Nahri?