Title: The City of Brass
Author: S. A. Chakraborty
Genre: Young adult, historical fantasy, high fantasy
Series: The Daevabad Trilogy
Yay or Nay: YAY
Movie adaptation: No film rights have been sold yet but, oh, the movie it'd make...
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5. There were good elements... But there were not-so-good elements, too.
Synopsis: Nahri, a con artist living in Cairo, Egypt, has perfected every sleight of hand and lives off palm readings and the guise of a healer. Taken in by her uncle after the death of her parents, she scrounges every penny she earns in the hope of leaving the country to forge a new life for herself. The superstitions carried in the air mean nothing to her. She disbelieves. Until she summons a djinn who forces her to believe in a magical world she thought false. She learns of a far, hidden city, teeming with magic and creatures unfathomable. And she's tied to it.
Soon, she find herself sucked into a brutal world of politics and power, well aware that one wrong move will see her fall.
Review: The City of Brass (CoB) is no doubt a lovely novel and gets you hooked from the get-go. It's written in a 3rd person narrative with multiple POVs. To many, it would warrant solid 4 stars. Not to some, though. Heavily based on Arabic culture and marketed with a tag that reads 'Muslim Representation', it seems a diverse read and likely to be eaten up by the YA reader community. However, the flaws are apparent.
CoB is peppered with various Arabic words and phrases that someone who is either Arab or is familiar to the culture would greatly appreciate. However, it would most probably go right over the heads of anyone not familiar with the Arab world. As someone familiar with Arab culture, I understood many of the phrases and thought it added depth and colour to the book. I see now that flipping back and forth between the glossary and page 1 might have been too tedious a task to bother with.
Note that down: people familiar with Arabic culture: 1, foreigners: 0.
Another let down was the fact that the author made a few characters don hijabs and classified it as 'Muslim representation' when only one character was portrayed as a Muslim. Moreover, that one character was seen as an overly-religious oddball when Islam as a religion is much more complex than a pious person versus one who's laid back. Again, to non-Muslims or people unfamiliar with the faith, this wouldn't have been an issue. It would be seen as a lovely bit of diversity. However, it didn't sit quite well with Muslims who saw their faith as being portrayed by either extreme religiousness or just... not.
Now, onto the more technical details. Best summarised in one of my usual lists:
Overall, The City of Brass had a lovely plot that pushed me to read on and ended on a good note, but its flaws held it back from grabbing those five stars. An enjoyable read.