Reviewed by: Beth
Rating (out of 5): 4 stars
Nahri is a con—she uses her fake “talents” to “heal” those who may be possessed by spirits, and then she charges fees, steals what she can, and disappears. She does have some talent—she knows when people are ill, and whether it is treatable. But where she lives, women are not healers and she keeps her knowledge to herself. When a job goes very wrong, and she ends up being hunted, and finding a very unlikely savior. The magic that she has always denied is real, and now she’s caught up right in the middle of more than she ever expected.
On the run, she and her savior—a djinn that shouldn’t exist—end up at the City of Brass, and their plans all go awry. She learns, the hard way, that sometimes power is not just magic, but politics wielded by those who have no intention of ever losing.
The setting of the story is the Middle East. The language, the deserts, the religions and spiritual practices…this is no blend of cultures. Chakraborty is excellent at really helping the reader picture the environs, the clothes, the people themselves—there is a natural flow to what she relays that allows the reader to see it without it being forced upon them.
There are a lot of characters in this book, and at times the story moves a little slower than it might otherwise have due to that. Like any epic fantasy (and this often has that feel), there is much to be introduced: backgrounds, characterization, and build-up. Having said that, Chakraborty does a good job juggling it all, and I have a suspicion that the following books will move a bit quicker since so much has already been established within this book. However, it’s unique and intriguing overall, and definitely moves quicker towards the last half of the book.
The characters themselves are multi-faceted. Nahri is a con, as stated above. She’s been that way her entire life, by necessity. The question for her is what role that background may play for her now that she has reached the city of brass and is under the…protection…of those who rule. The djinn is haunted and fascinating, and his past will play a bigger part in Nahri’s life than either of them will guess. Even the ruler’s sons, both very different and in roles neither of them chose for themselves, have inner lives that they have kept hidden. Nahri is another strong female, feeling her way into an unknown situation and trying to figure out how to make her own way instead of allowing it to be wrested away from her.
City of Brass is a unique read, and it has some truly epic moments. From a slight romance to some brutal punishments, it’s an interesting read and once again shows how stories can serve every interest and culture—and how even in the culture where women are often less-than-valued, a woman can direct her own destiny.
Sexual content: none