In Other Words: City of Brass

In Other Words: City of Brass

S.A. Chakraborty's fantasy novel uses vivid descriptions to bring Arabic mythology to life.
Published: February 8, 2022 | Updated: September 30th, 2022 at 5:07 pm
City of Brass
The City of Brass exists in a fictional 18th-century Middle East.

In Other Words is The NewsHouse’s new biweekly book review. Contributors Ashley Clemens and Chloe Langerman will cover everything from fantasy to modern fiction to memoirs. At the end of their reviews, they’ll share a recording of their favorite passage from each book. 

 

In this fantasy inspired by Arabic mythology, Nahri—a Cairo-raised con woman who dreams of being a healer—has her entire life changed overnight when she accidentally summons a djinn (the equivalent of a genie). The two are pursued by an ancient evil as they trek across the Arabian Peninsula to seek refuge in Dara’s old home, the City of Brass. In the city, Prince Alizayd al Qahtani, a djinn, has just moved back home to the palace after receiving extensive military training at the Citadel. Ali struggles as his loyalties split between his royal family—made up of his older brother and sister and his fight for justice for the shafit—a race of half humans, half djinn who have been oppressed for centuries. When his two allegiances come in conflict, Ali finds himself trapped in the middle.

The magic of this book comes from the details that make the story tangible. Coins jingling in Nahri’s pocket as she flees, revealing her location. King Ghassan having to sit through a series of menial complaints. The attention to detail brings an additional layer to the action, characters and drama playing out on the page.

Another aspect of this book that forced me to read the whole thing in two days and then immediately hunt down a Barnes and Noble on vacation to find the next two books in the trilogy was the pacing. The world envelops you in the first page and just as you’re getting your footing, Chakraborty throws you into a new situation to start to figure out again. Each page has you guessing until the very end. The plot is dense with action and information that builds to a lush, detailed and ultimately believable world where magic feels palpable.

The characters are all compelling and their motivation is realistic and understandable. Despite the challenges each character faces, their perseverance and grit make them easy to root for as you read. I had an absolute blast with this book, and it opened my eyes to a whole new realm of fantasy and mythology I haven’t had much exposure to previously, and what a beautiful book to dive right into.

The writing is clear and it’s easy to get sucked into the world of Daevabad and find yourself coming home on a plane from your family trip wishing the series had more than three books.

In other words, 5/5 stars.