The City of Brass: A Novel Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
Named one of The Best Books of the Year by Library Journal | Vulture | The Verge | SYFYWire
Step into The City of Brass, the spellbinding debut from S. A. Chakraborty perfect for fans of The Golem and the Jinni, The Grace of Kings, and Uprooted, in which the future of a magical Middle Eastern kingdom rests in the hands of a clever and defiant young con artist with miraculous healing gifts.
Nahri has never believed in magic. Certainly, she has power; on the streets of 18th-century Cairo, she’s a con woman of unsurpassed talent. But she knows better than anyone that the trades she uses to get by - palm readings, zars, and a mysterious gift for healing - are all tricks, both the means to the delightful end of swindling Ottoman nobles and a reliable way to survive.
But when Nahri accidentally summons Dara, an equally sly, darkly mysterious djinn warrior, to her side during one of her cons, she’s forced to reconsider her beliefs. For Dara tells Nahri an extraordinary tale: across hot, windswept sands teeming with creatures of fire and rivers where the mythical marid sleep, past ruins of once-magnificent human metropolises and mountains where the circling birds of prey are more than what they seem, lies Daevabad, the legendary city of brass - a city to which Nahri is irrevocably bound.
In Daevabad, within gilded brass walls laced with enchantments and behind the six gates of the six djinn tribes, old resentments run deep. And when Nahri decides to enter this world, her arrival threatens to ignite a war that has been simmering for centuries. Spurning Dara’s warning of the treachery surrounding her, she embarks on a hesitant friendship with Alizayd, an idealistic prince who dreams of revolutionizing his father’s corrupt regime. All too soon, Nahri learns that true power is fierce and brutal. That magic cannot shield her from the dangerous web of court politics. That even the cleverest of schemes can have deadly consequences.
After all, there is a reason they say to be careful what you wish for....
This audiobook includes an episode of the Book Club Girl Podcast, featuring an interview with S. A. Chakraborty about The City of Brass.
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|Listening Length||20 hours and 1 minute|
|Author||S. A. Chakraborty|
|Audible.ca Release Date||November 14 2017|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #9,156 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#125 in Historical Fantasy (Audible Books & Originals)
#159 in World Literature (Audible Books & Originals)
#220 in Cultural Heritage Historical Fiction
Reviewed in Canada on January 24, 2019
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Everything else, from the complex political intrigue, the class wars, the intricate lore and hidden histories with all of the spectacular world building is beautiful drapery that gives this wonderfully memorable character a place to let herself loose and work her own special magic and weave her next con. I cannot wait to welcome her back in the next installation.
I found this book very hard to get into. The beginning was a big info dump and it took quite a while for the pacing to start feeling appropriate to me. But the last 1/3 was so interesting and a frenzy of twists and new information. It definitely made me want to read book two no matter how difficult I found the first half to get through. I hope that the rest of the trilogy continues as this first one ended.
I really enjoy the world building here; there's a clear divide between worlds within the book, but their coexistence is explained simply and wonderfully. I found the characters rich and diverse, their motives interesting and less predictable than other novels of the same "found fantasy" genre, and though there IS a romantic subplot, it was not the main focus of the plot itself, and it didn't feel too forced.
Read this book if you enjoy character-based journeys in richly cultured fantasy lands, a little political intrigue, and a lot of magic. If you like other, similar fantasy novels, you will love this one.
The only thing that I didn’t love was the many names, terminology and a vast and confusing genealogical history. I was lost half the time as to was related to whom and who was from which tribe, etc. There is a glossary at the end of the book which I unfortunately only found as I finished. Would have been helpful at the beginning.
But hang in there! It’s worth the journey - can’t wait for the next book.
Highly recommended and well worth reading!
Top reviews from other countries
The City of Brass is another of those novels that disappointed me because I wanted to fall in love with it. Yet, sadly, I find that I am incredibly on the fence about whether or not I actually enjoyed reading this novel.
To begin with the positive, The City of Brass really stands out stylistically due to its setting and diversity. The novel is set in Northern Africa, moving from Cairo to the fantasy city of Daevabad. Because of this, it had a very different feel to your typical YA fantasy novel. The cast was entirely made up people of colour and the setting was deeply inspired by myths and legends of the East, from flying carpets, to wish granting djinni and fiery ifreet.
While it was this world-building that attracted me to the novel, it was not without issue. Chakraborty bombarded the reader with all manner of concepts. While the novel does contain a brief glossary in the back to explain certain words, it does not help the reader to keep track of the allegiances of the several daeva tribes, each with their own set of slurs to describe their rivals. I was over half way through the novel when I realised that djinn was being used both as an insult and the name of a religion, and that daeva was sometimes used to describe one particular tribe but other times to describe the race as a whole!
While some readers I am sure will dig how immersive and detailed Chakraborty's world is, I expect an equal number will find themselves very lost. Personally, I found the story to be a bit of a mess of subplots - many of which presently seem to be going nowhere and could really have been edited back to better streamline this first instalment.
Yet my biggest issue with the story was its pacing. For a debut novel, The City of Brass is very long and took well over 200 pages to find its feet. Nahri and Dara take a horribly long time to reach Daevabad and their journey becomes a repetitive cycle of bickering and the odd Ifreet attack. Although the novel rapidly speeds up in its second act, I felt that it then flipped too far the other way. A lot of character development occurs off-page, only to be related to the reader later, and Nahri and Ali's friendship is exposited more than it is seen.
The ending of the novel is rather abrupt, though did culminate in a rather surprising incident (no spoilers here) which left me curious to see what will happen next. Yet, at the same time, I was a little disappointed. The final battle really comes out of nowhere and seems to be sparked by the tiniest of arguments. It also leaves many loose threads hanging - especially with regards to the Ifreet who virtually fade from the plot after the half-way mark.
In terms of character, I was also left very disappointed. While Nahri initially seemed to be intelligent and self-sufficient, she lost all of this as soon as she left Cairo. In the second half of the story, she becomes a bit of a shrinking violent. Despite her high talk about scamming the royal family, she is virtually dependant on Ali and Dara, does not develop any new skills of her own and ultimately proves to be unable to hold her own against the wills of the male protagonists.
Ali and Dara had their own problems. While Dara started out more likeable than the stuffy, religious prince, this flipped once all characters were introduced to each other in Daevabad. While I did find the differing ways that Ali and Nahri viewed Dara to be interesting, he grew increasingly violent and detestable in the second act. While Ali was naive and prone to doing very stupid things, he was at least more likeable. However, I wasn't sure why every other character was so insulting of his religion. While he was described by others as being a zealot, this didn't really come across in the text.
Anyhow, I think that about covers it. While I am curious to see where this goes next, I was disappointed by this book. While The City of Brass was diverse and complex, the novel was badly paced and some of its themes were made more complicated than they really needed to be. Hopefully, the next instalment will iron out some of these issues.
The history in this world was just as thoroughly constructed as the setting. Throughout the book we are given different bits of information about the war that happened a very, very, very long time ago. Each bit of information usually makes you see things very differently, as you are given various characters thoughts on it. As always is the case in wars, everyone feels that they were in the right and that they were doing what was ultimately best for everyone. A lot of the politics in Daevabad stemmed from the war that their ancestors took part in centuries ago. In this, I think that the author beautifully showed that although a war may technically ‘be over’, the ramifications of it are always still present. This is most noticeable in the tension between the ruling family, the Qahtani family who belong to the Geziri tribe in the Daeva/ djinn race and how they deal with the ancestors of those whose city they now govern. The politics and general history in this can get a bit confusing at times though, for example the daeva race is also referred to as Djinn. Some of them started calling themselves Djinn as they learned that that is what humans dubbed them, they are essentially “souled beings like humans, but we were created from fire, not earth…all the elements-earth, fire, water, air-have their own creatures”.
Now, within the Daeva race there are six tribes: The Tukharistanis, The Agnivanshi, The Geziri, The Ayaanle, The Sahrayn and The Daevastana (Daeva). However, here is where it gets confusing, one of the six groups took the name of the entire race for their tribe name because they were in charge at the start, “What about your people?” “our people”, he corrected…”Daevastana,” he said warmly. “The land of the Daevas”. She frowned. “Your tribe took the original name of the entire daeva race as your own?” Dara shrugged. “We were in charge”. So, it’s basically like if within the Bird family you had, sparrows, crows, owls and then a group called birds. As you can imagine this was somewhat confusing at times, as I had to decipher whether someone was referring to the Daeva as a whole race or as that individual tribe. Then what made it more perplexing was that there were obviously different family names within those groups, and sometimes I kept thinking that they were the group name that person belonged to and not simply their last name. I did feel like I got to grips with this as I went along, but it did prevent this from being a full five star read.
Another thing that prevented this from getting that 5 start rating was that in a book full of politics, naturally people had a lot of secrets. And as is the way, a lot of things came to light as the book progressed, however, sometimes I would think that something had already been revealed about a character, but then someone would bribe them about the entirety of the secret getting out, and I would be like, I thought people knew that already. I can’t go into detail without spoilers, but I just didn’t get how people didn’t work out someone’s full secret when they knew enough damning information about them. I could of just been mistaken, but I thought a secret had come out, but then there’d be a character using it as a bribe later on or confronting them with it, and so I didn’t see the big deal when they resurfaced. Despite those issues I had, the writing in this was exquisite, the author is without a doubt a very gifted writer, and so although this was quite a long book, it didn’t feel like I was sifting through mountains of text, it was very readable and I was fully absorbed the whole time.
Although I enjoyed the world building in this tremendously, my absolute favourite thing about The City of Brass, was the characters. I may have found my best female protagonist yet in Nahri, and I may be just a little bit over the moon about it! I loved Nahri from the first time she made her appearance, her very dry sense of humour is made apparent from the start when she makes a remark on the Franks and Turks fighting over Egypt, “the only thing they seemed to agree on was that the Egyptians couldn’t govern it themselves. God forbid. It’s not as though the Egyptians were the inheritors of a great civilization whose mighty monuments still littered the land. Oh, no. They were peasants, superstitious fools who ate too many beans. Well, this superstitious fool is about to swindle you for all your’e worth, so insult away”. She is the embodiment of sassiness, but she also shows many different sides to her throughout the book, she’s gutsy and determined, but still craves some sort of stability for herself. She’s the first one to tell herself that she needs to get it together, but also allows herself to delve into her emotions, especially when it comes to a certain someone with emerald eyes. Nahri may not always take life seriously and makes smart remarks whenever she gets a chance to, but she is also extremely cunning and shrewd and thank the lord, didn’t always make a ton of stupid decisions.
When Nahri first summons this djinn/daeva, much like Nahri, I didn’t quite know what to make of him. He was rightly annoyed that he’d been summoned by this human looking girl, who has no idea what she is doing and who turns out to be so much more than meets the eye. Initially the two don’t get along, but Dara feels like it’s his duty to his lost masters, to get what he believes to be one of their ancestors safely to the city of Daevabad, the city of brass. As the two embark on this journey to the Daeva’s homeland, they develop a sense of companionship and a physical attraction starts to build and build between them. Dara knows that enemies await him if he returns to Daevabad, but that sense of duty and this growing fondness for this “little thief”, as he likes to call her, drive him forward. I absolutely adore the relationship that these two have, especially the banter, “Ali?” He scowled. “You’ve nicknamed the sand fly?” “I call you by a nickname…wait.” Nahri felt herself starting to grin. “Are you jealous?” When his cheeks flushed, she laughed and clapped her hands in delight. “By the Most High, you are!…how does that even work for you? Have you looked in a mirror this century”. Dara has a whole host of secrets trailing behind him, which some were revealed (although I’m still a little confused), but I have a feeling that there are many more waiting to slither out of the closet.
Out of all the characters, I feel like Dara had the most development in the book, he was amusing in the beginning as he would often entertain Nahri’s verbal sparring competitions, however, once they got to Daevabad we got to see a whole new side to him, which I might have enjoyed a bit too much. Surrounded by the ancestors of his sworn enemies, just how dangerous and powerful Dara is truly comes out, there were some very hostile and intense sparring scenes that had me on the edge of my seat, it was so amazing. Dara really seemed to come alive once he set foot back in his homeland, “A grin like Nahri had never seen before lit Dara’s face as he gazed upon the city. His cheeks flushed with excitement”. I thought that Nahri had a smart mouth, but Dara’s may just be that much more superior, “And now here I am getting a rather informative tour of my old home”, I greatly enjoyed this side to him, it was immensely entertaining to see him getting under the skin of and generally unnerving his enemies, “Did I really break it?” he asked with an impish grin. “I thought so. His bones made the most pleasant sound…”. Dara is also ridiculously good looking, so I challenge you not to fall head over heels in love with him, “He was beautiful-strikingly, frighteningly beautiful, with the type of allure Nahri imagined a tiger held right before it ripped out your throat. Her heart skipped a beat even as her stomach constricted in fear”.
Prince Alizayd al Qahtani’s family currently rule over Daevabad, and the books chapters are split between him and Nahri. So we are following Ali around Daevabad whilst also on a journey with Nahri and Dara to get to the city, until their worlds eventually collide, I really liked how this was structured as it added a heightened sense of anticipation. Through Ali we get to see what life is like for those in Daevabad, and in particular – The Shafit, “What’s a shafit?” “It’s what we call someone with mixed blood. It’s what happens when my race gets a bit…indulgent around humans”. These people are treated very badly by their fellow pureblooded citizens and the ruling system. Ali is very sympathetic to the Shafit’s cause and he is desperately searching for a way to be able to help them have a better way of life, but he loves his family dearly, especially his brother and knows that any attempts he makes would be going against his fathers wishes. Ali is such an interesting character though, as he is constantly unsure of where his loyalties lie, as he doesn’t completely agree with any side. Again, the issues with the Shafit have links to the war, which Ali’s ancestors started in order to liberate the Shafit from the tyranny of the Nahid rulers, “I believe the shafit should be treated equally. That’s why our ancestors came to Daevabad. That’s why Zaydi al Qahtani went to war with the Nahids”, and yet today they may not be outright murdered, but they are still gravely oppressed. Ali truly believes that he can find a way to help them though, but he’s as clueless and self righteous as he is caring and wise, but his good intentions bring him a great number of problems, which he doesn’t deserve, “The shafit aren’t fools. They just want a better life for themselves. They want to be able to work and live in buildings that aren’t coming down around them. To take care of their families without fearing their children will be snatched away by some pure-“.
This was an amazing fantasy book that was filled with magic, politics, questions of morality, exceptional world building and an unforgettable cast of characters. This book constantly kept me guessing and I reveled in every second of it. The City of Brass is unlike anything I’ve ever read, most notably in the fact that it’s an own voices Muslim fantasy and is consequently filled with characters of every shade of brown. I have so many things that I want to learn more about in the next book, I’m still trying to figure out a couple of characters, as so many of them have such blurry lines concerning their morality. This uncertainty also spills into the war and therefore, whose side I lean towards in the book. Both sides of those involved in the war seemed in the wrong to me, so it would be great to learn more specifics in the next installment, especially since there were so many loose ends! I am more than eager to get my hands on The Kingdom of Copper and suggest that you pick this up immediately.
The book concerns a young woman hustling a life for herself in Napoleonic Cairo when she inadvertently summons a powerful dijinn who rescues her from persuit by, let us call them demon with an agenda. The dijinn is a serous bad arsed vegetarian hottie. He carries her away to the city of the dijinn ruled by the descencents of his ancient enemies in order to protect her from the demon (ifreet). They all discover (perhaps) that the girl is a descendent of the last healer dijinn. Much court intrigue follows along with a royal romance (ish) for the girl, lots of violence with added gore for the dijinn, long descriptions of clothes and more hocus pocus than a term at Howarts. The pursuit and the start of the court intrigue are great writing but then it all falls apart. The characterisation of the dijinn was never great but gets worse, so too the character of the king his portrayal as both ruthless and loving is fine but painting him as both wise and stupid does not work at all. The explanations of the wonderful mileu the author has created becomes more complex, increasingly poorly explained and hence hard to understand. Then there is dijinn religous scene which may be completely clear to the author but is a major irritation to this reader. Suleiman (Solomon) is the key figure in dijinn history and yet apparently no dijinn follow Judaism. Many of them follow Islam, many follow more ancient religions such as fire worship (I don't think this is Zoroastrianism but I am far from sure). I do not understand why the dijinn, some of whom are from India and China
would follow Islam and not the Buddha or Hinduism? Why do none of them follow the cross? It all comes across as a bit of a caravan wreck. There are a number of anacronisms in the milieu that really annoyed your pedantic reviewer but in truth they are not that bad. There is also some painfully anacronistic languge modern language which turns up far to often to ignore, it is really irritating. Worst of all an huge amount of padding began to appear which got in the way of the plot. I conjecture that at some point in writing this over long tome Chakraborty decided there were more spondoolies in writing a trilogy but she only had enough ideas for a single book? Hence more padding and less care and clarity in the explanations.
I have no intention of purchasing the next four, five, six, whatever books in the trilogy.
Lastly, the jaringness of anachronistic speach is far worse when reading the audio book than reading the text. This is no fault of the narrator's it is just that her clear voice and accent highlights the problem. So all in all three stars for a book I was hoping to give five to. I am a bit sad.