I came across S. A. Chakraborty’s book The City of Brass after seeing a couple of reviews on it from other bloggers in the blogosphere. It had been a while since I’d read a fantasy novel, so I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly Chakraborty transported me to the new worlds she’d created.
The story begins in 18th century Cairo where we meet con artist Nhari. It soon becomes clear, though, that the story will not be restricted by the confines of the human-inhabited world. Later on we are introduced to Ali, a prince living in the City of Brass, a place which Nhari must reach before she is caught by the terrifying ifrit.
The story is told through Nhari and Ali’s eyes; as they learn about the world and the characters that inhabit them, so do we, the readers.
Chakraborty paints a vivid picture of the magical world she has flawlessly built. It is particularly refreshing to read a book rooted in Middle Eastern and Islamic folklore as opposed to fantasy that starts from a Western foundation.
The author does not shy away from words which will be new for many readers, and that is laudable. This is not an arduous read by any means, but (for Western readers at least) the use of words like djinn, shafit, zulfiqar and dishdasha means you should be expected to do a little homework to settle yourself in to this new world.
This is one book where the Kindle comes into its own. Like many bookworms, I prefer to have a real book, with pages that you can actually turn. The Kindle, however, is a wonderful convenience. For The City of Brass, it proved itself particularly valuable, as it allows you to highlight and search for words in the dictionary and Wikipedia. Chakraborty has also included a handy glossary at the back.
The City of Brass is the first in the Daevabad Trilogy. The only reservation I have in recommending it is this: the next one isn’t out until January 2019 and the wait is excruciating!
As a final note, the author has written a reading list on her website. If you’re interested in learning more about the history and historical research involved in writing the book, this is a great resource.