The City of Brass - S.A. Chakraborty

Recently, I seem to be bouncing off (or at least struggling with) books that other people really love and The City of Brass is sadly no exception to that rule. First off, it's a hefty tome even in paperback and it felt like it was taking forever to read because the first half of the book really dragged, to the point where I considered putting it down permanently.

 

It's a real odd mix of a book, in my opinion - fantasy but one where the main (supernatural and otherwise) characters are Muslim, set in a geography that is essentially (in parts) the Middle East and Central Asia of the 19th century. So we start off in Egypt as ruled by the Napoleonic army and end up in Daevabad, the djinn city of the book's title, then it's all sprinkled heavily with as much terminology for local colour as we can manage - nobody gets to wear a robe, it has to be a dishdasha, and so on.

 

Anyway, the story is told from the point of view of two characters, Nahri and Ali, the former once a street urchin now turned hustler and the latter the second in line to the djinn throne. When Nahri sticks her nose in somewhere it doesn't belong once too often, she ends up running for her life with another of the djinn, who reluctantly agrees to take her to Daevabad since he's actually a historic enemy of the folks who now rule there. Meanwhile Ali is trying to better the lot of the half-djinn in his city despite everyone telling him it's a bad idea and discovering just how little head he has for politics. 

 

I'm still not completely convinced as to whether The City of Brass is YA or not, especially since Nahri in particular is a teenager, and also because of the incipient love triangle. At least that wasn't overwhelming but it was also pretty hard to ignore and it doesn't really do much for me at the best of times, especially when one of the participants is a mass-murdering war criminal. I know girls like a bad boy but that seems a bit extreme. Unfortunately, Nahri as a character leaves something to be desired when it comes to sensible decision making anyway, which gets worse as the book goes on, so I guess it's in keeping with the rest of the things she thinks are a good idea!

 

Anyway, I finally finished it, the pacing issues started to work themselves out towards the latter third of the book though I still think it could have done with a tighter edit in places. It will come as little surprise that there's a sequel coming out (The Kingdom of Copper) at some point next year. Hopefully the author will sort out some of the first book issues but I have to say I'll probably be looking for a library loan rather than laying out cash.