Will Byrnes's Reviews > The City of Brass

The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty
Rate this book
Clear rating

by
1526851
's review

it was amazing
bookshelves: books-of-the-year-2017, fantasy, fiction

It’s time to polish that special lamp gathering webs in the attic, put a fine edge on your bladed weaponry, remind yourself of ancient tribal insults and outrages, dust off that list of wishes that is around here somewhere and vacuum your magic carpet. You are about to be transported.

description
“The Magic Carpet” (detail), 1880, by Apollinary Mikhaylovich Vasnetsov © State Art Museum, Nizhny Novgorod, Russia/Bridgeman Art Library

Nahri, our Aladdin here, is a twenty-year-old thief and con artist, working marks in 18th Century French-occupied Cairo. She has a gift for discerning medical maladies and another for treating them. She is adept at languages and at parting the unwary from their money. When she is called in to help deal with a 12-year-old girl who is possessed, she rolls her eyes and opts to have a bit of fun trotting out an old spell that has never worked before. The difference here is that she tries it in a language she seems to have known forever, but which no one else has ever heard. Turns out the girl really was possessed, by a particularly nasty entity, and turns out that Nahri’s little experiment summoned a very scary djinn. In a flash, the evil possessor spirit and a large number of its dead minions are on her like decay on a corpse. Thankfully, the djinn is there to save the day, with extreme prejudice. Thus begins a beautiful friendship.

description
Image from deviantart.net

The frustrated pursuers have made Cairo a no-go zone for Nahri, so she and the djinn, Dara (which is a small portion of his entire name) head for the place where people of his sort reside, the world capital of the magical races, Daevabad, the Brass City of the title.

description
From Bensozia - Illustration by Edmund Dulac for Stories from the Arabian Nights

To call Dara a hottie would be a bit of an understatement. Handsome? For sure. Incredibly powerful? Fierce in battle? Be afraid, be very afraid. Able to leap tall minarets in a single flying carpet? You betcha. As if that were not enough, he is literally a creature of fire, and emits actual smoke. You never had a friend like him.

Cairo may present imminent threats of death, but Daevabad is no prize either. Ancient tribal hatreds are kept at bay by a strong, and ruthless ruler. King Ghassan ibn Khader al Qahtani must contend not only with inter-tribal tensions, he must cope with a growing insurgency. (Think sundry Middle East rulers with tribally diverse populations.) There are many who feel that laws favoring purebloods are unjust, and want those of mixed Djinn-human blood, shafit, (think mudbloods) to be treated fairly. One of those happens to be the king’s number two son. Ali is a very devout young (18) man. As second in line, he is destined to help his older brother, Muntadhir, rule, as, basically, the head of security. He is extremely adept at sword-fighting and has gained a good reputation among the other student-warriors at the Citadel, a military training school (not in South Carolina) where he has been living and training for some years. Dad would not be pleased were he to learn that junior was giving money to an organization that purports to offer civilian-only aid to shafit, but is also rumored to be involved in a more military form of activity. (Think Hamas)
description
S.A. Chakraborty - image from her site
Revolutionary tensions are on the rise, palace intrigues as well, as trust is something one could only wish for. One key question is where Nahri really came from, who is she, really? It matters. And what happened to the ancient tribe that was chosen by Suleiman himself to rule, way back when.

There are magic rings, flaming swords, strange beings of diverse sorts, plots, battles, large scale and small, plenty of awful ways to die, without that being done too graphically. And there is even a bit of interpersonal attraction. Did I mention Dara being smokin’? There is also some romantic tension between Nahri and Ali. Add in a nifty core bit of history centered on Suleiman.

description

One of the great strengths of City of Brass is the lode of historical knowledge the author brings to bear.
It actually started not as a novel, but as sort of a passion project/exercise in world-building that I never intended to show a soul! I’m a big history buff and with The City of Brass I wanted to recreate some of the stunning worlds I’d read about while also exploring traditional beliefs about djinn. A bit contrary to Western lore, djinn are said to be intelligent beings similar to humans, created from smokeless fire and living unseen in our midst—a fascinating, albeit slightly frightening concept, this idea of creatures living silently among us, dispassionately watching the rise and fall of our various civilizations. - from the Twinning for Books interview

description
Zulfiqar - image from mere-vision.com

Chakraborty, our Sheherezade here, fills us in on much of the history of how the djinn came to build their human-parallel world, offering not just what is, but how what is arose from what was.
there’s a djinn version of Baghdad’s great library, filled with the ancient books humans have lost alongside powerful texts of magic; they battle with weapons from Achaemenid Persia (enhanced by fire of course); the medical traditions of famed scholars like Ibn Sina have been adapted to treat magical maladies; dancers conjure flowers while singing Mughal love songs; a court system based on the Zanzibar Sultanate deals justice to merchants who bewitch their competitors… not to mention a cityscape featuring everything from ziggurats and pyramids to minarets and stupas. - from the Twinning for Books interview
There are a lot of names to remember, words to learn, tribes to keep straight, and allegiances to keep track of. I found myself wishing there was a list somewhere that helped keep it all straight, and “Poof!” there it appeared at the back of the book, a glossary, rich with useful information. It could have been a bit larger though. I would have liked for it to include a list of the djinn tribes, with information about each, their geographical bases, proclivities, languages, you know, stuff. The information can be found in the book itself, but it would have been nice to have had a handy short reference.

description
image from upstaged entertainment

The City of Brass is both very smart and very entertaining. The richness of the world we see here gives added heft to a wonderful story. The world Chakraborty has created hums with humanity, well, whatever the djinn equivalent might be for humanity (djinnity?). You will smell the incense, want to keep a damp cloth at hand to wipe the dust and sand from your face, and a cool drink nearby to help with the heat. It probably wouldn’t hurt to post a lookout in case someone decides to try spiking your drink or inserting a long blade into your back. This is a wonderful, engaging, and fun read. It will not take you a thousand and one nights to read, but you might prefer that it did. The only wish you will need when you finish reading The City of Brass is for Volume 2 of this trilogy, The Kingdom of Copper, to appear, NOW!!!

description


Review posted – July 28, 2017

Publication date – November 14, 2017


When you finish this one, you will definitely want to read #2, Here is my review of The Kingdom of Copper

=============================EXTRA STUFF

Links to the author’s personal and Twitter pages

Interview - Twinning For Books

A link to a map with a key to the main places noted in the book

The M Word: Muslin Americans Take the Mic - a panel discussion including Chakraboty and two other Islamic women writers – hosted by Hussein Rashid

The City of Brass - from Arabian Nights, on Gutenberg

November 9, 2017 - City of Brass is among the nominees for Amazon's book of the year - Science Fiction and Fantasy
353 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read The City of Brass.
Sign In »

Reading Progress

May 2, 2017 – Started Reading
May 2, 2017 – Shelved
May 18, 2017 – Finished Reading
July 27, 2017 – Shelved as: books-of-the-year-2017
July 27, 2017 – Shelved as: fantasy
June 9, 2018 – Shelved as: fiction

Comments Showing 1-50 of 61 (61 new)


message 1: by Shalini (new)

Shalini M Hi Will,

From your review, this definitely looks interesting.
If you dont mind my asking, how did you get to read it? It says the expected publication date is November 2017.


message 2: by Cheri (new)

Cheri Fabulous review, Will! Sounds wonderful, and a must add!


Will Byrnes Thanks, Cheri. It is a real treat.


Will Byrnes Shalini wrote: "Hi Will,

From your review, this definitely looks interesting.
If you dont mind my asking, how did you get to read it? It says the expected publication date is November 2017."

My wife works at Harper Collins.


message 5: by Shalini (new)

Shalini M Will wrote: "Shalini wrote: "Hi Will,

From your review, this definitely looks interesting.
If you dont mind my asking, how did you get to read it? It says the expected publication date is November 2017."
My wi..."


You are extremely fortunate! You made a great decision earlier in your life ;-) :D


Will Byrnes It's like Christmas all the time!


Zheng Yang Chun thats amazing


jayann and jayden every one plzzz text me back


Tracy I’ve put this on hold at my library. It looks wonderful.


message 10: by Will (new) - rated it 5 stars

Will Byrnes Quite an adventure, and with more to come


message 11: by Carolyn (new) - added it

Carolyn Sounds fabulous, and love your review! Definitely picking this one up.


message 12: by Will (last edited Nov 10, 2017 07:43AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Will Byrnes Thanks, Carolyn. I quite enjoyed the book.


message 13: by Kevin (new)

Kevin Ansbro Wow, one of your trademark comprehensive reviews, Will. Super job.
You inspired me to search for a special lamp in my attic, but all I found was a portrait of myself that appeared to make me look a lot older than I currently am!


message 14: by Will (new) - rated it 5 stars

Will Byrnes Thanks Kevin. Sounds a lot like the painting I keep in an undisclosed location.


message 15: by Shampa (new) - added it

Shampa Paul Thanks for your amazing review. Added it in my shelf.


message 16: by Will (new) - rated it 5 stars

Will Byrnes Thank you, Shampa. It is a truly fun read.


message 17: by William (new) - added it

William Sounds to be great fun, Will. Thank you for the review.


message 18: by Will (last edited Nov 12, 2017 10:59AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Will Byrnes Thank you William, a fun read.


message 19: by HBalikov (new)

HBalikov Thanks for all the careful touches, Will. I really appreciate a well-crafted fantasy. Having anointed her "our Sheherezade," I am considering going the audiobook route.


message 20: by Will (new) - rated it 5 stars

Will Byrnes Can't speak to the audio, but the ink on paper version was pretty good.


message 21: by Lata (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lata Thanks for the review; now I know I HAVE to read this :)


message 22: by Will (new) - rated it 5 stars

Will Byrnes Thank you, Lata


message 23: by Chris (new) - added it

Chris Whoa. WICKED review Will! Awesome.


message 24: by Will (new) - rated it 5 stars

Will Byrnes Thanks Chris. It is a pretty impressive book.


message 25: by Christine (new) - added it

Christine Amazing review, Will! Tantalizing. I will definitely read this. Glad you enjoyed it!


message 26: by Will (new) - rated it 5 stars

Will Byrnes Thanks, Christine. Definitely a fun read.


message 27: by Mike (new) - added it

Mike Your 5 stars, and a fantastic review, say it all for me, Will. Poaching this one for Mount TBR.


message 28: by Will (new) - rated it 5 stars

Will Byrnes Thanks, Mike. tCoB definitely deserves a place on your TBR.


Tracy I just finished this. Loved every word. Thank you for this great review.


message 30: by Will (last edited Jan 03, 2018 09:14PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Will Byrnes Thank you, Tracy. And there's more volumes to come!


Maryam I'm half through and I already love it. The only negative thing I can say is that, lost of words she's used are from middle eastern folklore but in the glossary she hasn't mentioned to the roots of the words at all.


message 32: by Will (new) - rated it 5 stars

Will Byrnes Not sure I agree about the need for etymology, but one can certainly wish for enhanced reference section, including an expanded glossary.


Maryam Will wrote: "Not sure I agree about the need for etymology, but one can certainly wish for enhanced reference section, including an expanded glossary."
I know, it's me always looking for more information about myths/ words/folklore used in a book.


message 34: by Will (new) - rated it 5 stars

Will Byrnes You might drop a tweet on her Twitter page, see if she has such a background document available somewhere.


Maryam Will wrote: "You might drop a tweet on her Twitter page, see if she has such a background document available somewhere."

Good Idea, thanks Will.


message 36: by [deleted user] (new)

does TBR stand for ' to be read'?????


message 37: by Will (last edited Jan 05, 2018 09:06PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Will Byrnes Yep


message 38: by Chris (new) - added it

Chris Re-read this review, so had to re-comment. You always make good books sound so...darn...GOOD! This is getting a bump up on my list. Thanks Will for all your quality reviews.


message 39: by Will (new) - rated it 5 stars

Will Byrnes Thanks, Chris. I calls 'em likes I sees 'em.


message 40: by William (last edited Jan 07, 2018 02:59AM) (new) - added it

William I read the Amazon sample chapters and was not moved to spend £10 on it.

The prose reads as Young Adult in the sample. Did you find that?


message 41: by 8 Mïchæl 8 (new) - added it

8 Mïchæl 8 Hi Will,

Your reveiw sounds very intresting!


message 42: by Will (new) - rated it 5 stars

Will Byrnes William wrote: "I read the Amazon sample chapters and was not moved to spend £10 on it.

The prose reads as Young Adult in the sample. Did you find that?"

I did not have any issues with the writing. While the fantastical and coming of age elements would certainly have a natural YA appeal, the depth of Chakraborty's cultural knowledge and degree of creativity give it a wider appeal.


message 43: by Will (last edited Jan 07, 2018 09:03PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Will Byrnes Michael Mu wrote: "Hi Will,

Your reveiw sounds very intresting!"

Thanks, Michael. I found it to be a very interesting book.


message 44: by Adina (new) - added it

Adina Excellent review. i just read about this novel the other day and wasn't sure if i wanted to read. You convinced me to give it a try.


message 45: by Jaidee (new)

Jaidee Enjoyed the review but will be passing on the book !

I love your reviews as they give me such a good taste of books that I will never get to :)


message 46: by summaya (new)

summaya Fabulous review, Will! Sounds wonderful, and a must add!


message 47: by summaya (new)

summaya Will wrote: "Shalini wrote: "Hi Will,


message 48: by summaya (new)

summaya every one pzzzz text me back


message 49: by summaya (new)

summaya Sonds fabulous, and love your review! Definitely picking


message 50: by Will (new) - rated it 5 stars

Will Byrnes NISHAR CI wrote: "Fabulous review, Will! Sounds wonderful, and a must add!"
Thanks, Nishar


« previous 1
back to top