Monday, December 11, 2017

The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty

The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty. Harper Voyager, 2017. Hardcover. 528 pages.

This was quite an ambitious book, and I have to say that I was very impressed by it!

The first thing that I have to say about The City of Brass is that the diversity in this novel is fantastic, and I truly appreciated reading this own voices Muslim fantasy. Chakraborty has invested so much time, effort, and authenticity into this world. It was so unique and such a breath of fresh air. That being said, let's move into the content of the book!

The City of Brass centers on two main characters, Nahri and Ali, whose perspectives we switch back and forth between. Nahri is portrayed as being in her early twenties and living in Cairo, Egypt; she uses her mysterious magical ability at healing to help others during the daylight hours, but acts as a thief at night. I personally expected that to be a larger aspect of the novel, but it's actually a fairly short part of the beginning. Nahri does not know where her magical affinity comes from, but during one particular healing ceremony she attends she accidentally summons a djinn/daeva warrior named Dara, which is where her part in our story truly begins.

Ali is a young djinn prince who lives in a magical called Daevabad. Ali has an older brother named Muntadhir, and it is Muntadhir who is next in line for the throne. Ali, on the other hand, is being trained to become a sort of body guard/protector to Muntadhir, which essentially means that his life will be fixed solely on his own family, rather than creating his own. He also becomes extremely religious and lives his life in a devout manner. I found Ali to be an intriguing character, but not one that I was particularly fond of.

The relationships between all of the characters--and there are many characters!--vary greatly, and there is much tension at play between just about everyone. Although most of the characters were played in a consistent manner, I found Nahri's actions slightly inconsistent at times, as she seemed to go back and forth quite a bit with her actions and overall personality. Her relationship with Dara was probably one of the character relationships that I enjoyed the most, as I felt that there was a lot of intrigue between the two of them. In fact, I think that Dara is probably the character that I found the most interesting in this entire novel. 

One of the main conflicts featured in this story is that of the injustice and oppression of different cultures and peoples because of blood status and purity. At heart, this is a common conflict that we can all probably understand from our own experiences in our world. This aspect of the novel is written extremely well. The violence and is incredibly--and unfortunately-- very real. The rest of the overall plot and goal of this story is one that I won't go into in more detail about because, for one, I don't want to accidentally spoil anything, and two, it's far too complex for me to even attempt.

Where my main issues with this novel began was with the world itself and the various blood groups, political issues, the histories, stories, cultures... Look, I love when an author puts a lot of thought and detail into a novel, but Chakraborty made this too complex. This story didn't need that much complexity, and even if it did, it simply wasn't done in a great manner. There was too much information thrown around at various times and I couldn't keep up with it at all. The writing just felt a bit messy and disjointed, and the pacing was extremely off. At times this novel flew by and I was completely hooked, but that was intermixed with far too many slow, explanatory parts that took away from everything else. 

On the whole, I ended up enjoying this novel in the end, but there were far too many parts that I didn't like for me to give this a full four stars. It was beautifully written at times and I was able to see Chakraborty's writing skills soar, but then I felt as if she just got lot in this large, complex world at other times and reverted to a less-engaging style. 

Overall, I've given The City of Brass three-and-three-quater-stars! Despite the faults, I would still recommend this to anyone looking for an exciting fantasy that features more diversity and a more unique overall setting.

Buy the book: Book Depository | Amazon

*I received an ARC of City of Brass courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This has no effect on my rating of the novel.*

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