Book Review: City of Brass

36475759Rating Five Star

Title: City of Brass

Author: S. A. Chakraborty

Series? Yes, 1 of 3.

Rating: 5/5 Stars


Book Depository // Booktopia // Dymocks

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Harper Voyager Australia in exchange for an honest review.

For me, City of Brass takes the title of Fantasy Debut of the Year. It contains an impressive and expansive world, populated by a cast of diverse and morally-complex characters. This is fantasy at its finest, imaginative and mesmerising, while also offering cutting commentary on the real world. There’s engaging action, compelling palace intrigues, slow burn romance, and everything else I could possibly love in fantasy – get this book into your hands!

City of Brass

The titular City of Brass refers to Daevabad, an ancient city simmering with magic and steeped in the complex history between the six djinn tribes. Whether the action is unfolding within Daevabad or beyond its gilded walls, the world Chakraborty created feels palpable and fully-realised. There are layers of history imbued in the conflicts between the different factions within the novel, particularly the clash unfolding between djinn and shafits (people with mixed djinn-human heritage). The world-building spans across several continents, encompassing thousands of years of history and a multitude of cultural influences. The resulting effect is an immersive landscape that feels at once familiar to our own world, yet infinitely strange and wondrous.

City of Brass is told through the viewpoints of two narrators:

  • Nahri: an orphaned hustler living in 18th century Cairo. Although her cons have Nahri performing zars, palm readings, and healing, she has never believed in magic.
  • Ali: an idealistic young prince of Daevabad, who is torn between duty to his family and his beliefs in a better life for the shafits.

I expect that many readers will fall in love with Nahri, it’s hard not to with her razor-sharp wit and ingenious resourcefulness. I began rooting for her with the first chapter, where she swindled two Ottoman noblemen with style and aplomb. Her character development throughout the story is considerable, and I loved how she stayed in touch with her humanity despite all the fantastical situations she finds herself in.

On the other hand, I imagine that Ali will be a polarising character due to his immovable moral compass and persistent inability to see beyond his own point of view. I loved his chapters for their palace politics and commentary on social and racial divide. Ali’s character is an extension of the series’ larger struggle between tradition and revolution – I found his chapters extremely compelling despite my disagreement with many of his choices.

Aside from the narrators, we also have a memorable cast of distinctive supporting characters. The most notable of which is Dara, the daeva who introduced Nahri to this wondrous new world. His relationship with Nahri is one of the most thrilling component of her story arc – and not just because he’s smoldering hot. He also has a dark and richly embellished past of his own, and I love how his interactions with most characters in the book is weighted with double meaning and history.

The villains of City of Brass are also equally compelling, this is a book where morals are complex and relationships are tangled. Every action has convoluted and riveting implications and consequences. There’s a hint of a bigger story at play behind every character, from the djinn who pursues Nahri and Dara, to the tyrannical ruler of the City of Brass. I can’t wait to see these players get more development within the next instalment of the series.

I read in an interview that Chakraborty wanted to recreate a fantasy version of the Islamic Golden Age with the setting of this novel. I loved that little details the prayers, the languages, and the culture were left in the story. It’s a triumphant example of an #ownvoices Muslim fantasy, and I will link to some #ownvoices review of it where I find them.

Highly recommended! If you’ve read it, please let me know your thoughts 😀

22 thoughts on “Book Review: City of Brass

  1. To be honest, I did NOT hear about this book until very recently. And this sounds absolutely amazing. Like why was this not on my radar before? Anyways, I hope to get a copy of this at some point, because the setting and characters are really drawing me in.


  2. I haven’t read this book, but it got me intrigued since it seems like a rich historical fantasy. I’m glad that it seems to meet my expectations in terms of setting, but other than that, it also seems to have a fleshed-out characters. I initially have my doubts since usually fantasy that sets in the middle east feels stereotypical, but now that I know it’s an #ownvoices, I can’t wait to read it! Great review Aentee!


  3. Great review for this book Aentee, I was lucky enough to get an ARC for The City of Brass and I agree with everything you’ve said about it. This book is probably my Fantasy Debut of the Year as well; the world building was beyond incredible and I loved the characters, though admittedly it took me a little while to warm up to Ali. I loved the story and the romance and just everything.
    The only thing I don’t love about The City of Brass is how long the wait is going to be for the next book. 😀
    Again great review. 🙂


  4. Yayyyyyyy, I’m so pleased you liked this! I read it also, and I was so so SO pumped based on the cover and book description, and then it absolutely lived up to my expectations. I have a tiny interview with the author coming up on Lady Business later this month, and I’m buying the book for my sister for Christmas. It’s really really good and I can’t wait for the sequel.

    (I hope Dara dies. I don’t like Dara.)


  5. I try to stay away from series (bcs welp broke final year student with exams coming in 2 weeks) bUT HOLY MOLY I’M SO INTO THIS THANK YOU. and omg its based on fantasy Islamic Golden Age? Where have been? I am ashamed. So getting this when I see it, thank you so much aenteeeeee ❤


  6. I hadn’t heard of this book before your review, but it sounds so rich and stunning. (Speaking of stunning, your graphic is beautiful!) The characters sound so compelling and complex, and I haven’t read an Islam-inspired fantasy before. Thank you for introducting this book to me, Aentee – you have me very excited to read it! ❤


  7. Going by the wonderful review, The City of Brass looks like an interesting read..will definitely go through it..I too have recently reviewed a recent launch – The Wild Cat – a thriller , a deviant tale of a young woman who unknowingly becomes victim of Cyber Crime through an online dating app.
    It’s an intriguing story dealing with Cyber safety for women.Here goes the review :


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