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 trade she uses to get by—palm readings, zars, healings—are all tricks, sleights of hand, learned skills; a means to the delightful end of swindling Ottoman nobles.
But when Nahri accidentally summons an equally sly, darkly mysterious djinn warrior to her side during one of her cons, she’s forced to accept that the magical world she thought only existed in childhood stories is real. For the warrior tells her a new 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 hawks are not what they seem, lies Daevabad, the legendary city of brass?a city to which Nahri is irrevocably bound.
In that city, behind gilded brass walls laced with enchantments, behind the six gates of the six djinn tribes, old resentments are simmering. And when Nahri decides to enter this world, she 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 be careful what you wish for
I am really surprised to say this, but this book just wasn’t for me. I went into it fully expecting to love it because of all the amazing reviews that it has, yet that just wasn’t the case. However, there were many parts that I did appreciate and I will outline those first (good before bad). Nonetheless, I couldn’t give this any more than three stars because I found myself not wanting to pick it up as I was reading it.
The good thing about this book was how much thought went into everything. It is easy to tell that Chakroborty knows every detail about the world and has managed to make it very politically complex.
The plot was really original and unlike anything that I have read before. All the characters are extremely gray (meaning they aren’t only good or bad) and the plot was filled with unexpected plot twists (especially towards the end).
Now, onto the bad. Throughout the entire book, there were so many different names of groups, people, etc. that I couldn’t keep things straight. This made my whole reading experience a bit confusing. I’m still not completely sure how to feel about most characters or things that happened in the story.
To be fair, I think a big part of the book was meant to have the reader not be sure who was on whose side or what the motives were behind things. However, I feel like the story left too much out in these aspects so that the reader is forced to go back and reread multiple passages. It’s not enjoyable for me when I end up having to do this with a book.
I found the characters to be very complex and I enjoyed reading from Ali’s perspective the most. The entire book alternates between Nahri and Ali’s narratives.
The ending made it feel like there is going to be a second book, but I don’t think I will be picking it up if there is one. This is due to the fact that I didn’t find the story riveting until about the last 200 pages of the 526-page book.
Before reading this, make sure that you are ready to think hard and expect to be confused at times. I would recommend this book to people wanting very detailed world building with complex politics and characters.