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 . . .
Author: S. A. Chakraborty
“He was looking for her. Nahri was the one who had called him.”
The City of Brass has absolutely everything you’re looking for in the first book of a fantasy trilogy: a beautiful AU with rich history, languages, politics, magic systems, and longtime oppression; a willful female lead who comes from nothing to rise to badass-ness; a devilishly handsome, super strong warrior love interest who is maybe not the greatest person ever but oh gosh you love him; a corrupt but genius and conniving king who is hard to outsmart; and a young rebel prince who knows what’s right and is bound to bust out of his shell soon to help save the world.
The story is of Nahri, who starts as a street rat in Cairo before accidentally summoning Dara, the swoon-worthy djinn warrior. Pursued by ifrit (the bad guys/creatures), he whisks* her off to presumed safety in Daevabad, the city of her ancestors—it turns out she is 50% djinn. Not only that, but she is possibly the last living descendant of a very powerful and magical family that ruled the djinn race for thousands of years before being wiped out by the current regime. (Her lineage is a mystery that will absolutely become way more important in later books, I’m sure.) But Dara has a lot of secrets and an extraordinarily complicated history, and the ruling family is not very happy to see either of them.
All this overlaps with a very complex political situation: the shafit (those who are half-djinn and half-human) have been not only oppressed but persecuted for millennia, and an uprising is bubbling below the surface. There are five different djinn tribes—all with their own cultures, religions, and languages—none of whom get along very well, if at all. The king’s eldest son…oh boy. I’m not going to ruin that one for you. And his second son is young but smart with spot-on morals and a lot of skill with a weapon.
*I asterisk the word “whisks” above because their journey to Daevabad takes a tad bit longer than I would have liked. It’s important for world-building, but it’s the slowest part of the book. Also, this book was highly anticipated because it is by a Muslim author and features aspects of the Islamic faith and traditions. I have read the reviews of a healthy number of Muslim friends and fellow reviewers who were very disappointed in the execution of this cultural focus. Truthfully, it is not much of a focus at all.
However, as far as stories go, I really loved this one. I literally read the last few chapters on my hands and knees because I was so excited and couldn’t contain myself or read quickly enough! I really should have known better than to start another trilogy that’s not fully published yet. What am I going to do with myself while I wait?