Nahri is famed in her quadrant of the city for her talents with healing, when in actuality she’s a con-artist saving her money for real training in Istanbul, at least she was, until she accidentally summoned a Daeva warrior. Now he’s telling her that she’s a shafit, a mixed breed of human and djinn, specifically a Nahid, an extraordinary healer and the last of her kind, since they went extinct 20 years ago. Unable to escape his protection (and unwilling to escape her heritage), she agrees to follow him back to Daevabad, but it isn’t until she’s presented with a choice that she becomes unsure of her destiny.
Does she stay with Prince Ali of Daevabad who can finally show her heritage?
Or does she follow the Daeva warrior who has stolen her heart?
I liked this book. It had a complex world that Chakraborty had built, and it seemed really unique. I loved learning about Daevabad and its history along with Nahri, as well as following her explore her history, whether or not she was the child of a Nahid or the last of her kind that disappeared all those centuries ago. But, I really, really struggle with the ending. I have a hard time justifying it. It just kept seeming like it was desperate to be a Game of Thrones when that’s not at all what the story seemed to ask for.
Let me explain.
The two men that Nahri has fallen for includes the Daeva warrior Dara and Prince Ali of Daevabad, and where Dara’s is a natural affection, developed after traveling with him for so long, Ali’s is forced on behalf of his father, since they want to keep the Nahid family line back in the palace, where all Nahid’s traditionally belonged. But, then at the end, with both men desperate for her affection, Dara kills Ali, letting him fall into the lake. And here you expect him to die at the hand of the marid, but he climbs onto the boat, not exactly himself, and uses Suleiman’s seal to cut off Dara’s hand, the djinn’s access to the ring, where Dara then crumbles to ash. Now Ali’s banned from the court, not the man he once was, capable of being controlled by the Marid again, and Nahri has lost everyone.
Oh my gosh. Now the only character left is Nahri, and what kind of story is that?
WRITING STYLE 4
Everything was mystical. There is plenty of vivid imagery in the story to give you an idea of where the characters are at, which especially important considering we get to witness the magical city of Daevabad, which was said to be abandoned by marid, and then repurposed for the djinn. And, what I especially like is the world-specific vocabulary, created to build the history between four creatures: of earth, water, air, and fire. But, don’t believe me. Take a look below. Action–reaction–reflection (ARR).
Ali gazed around. He spotted a pair of tiny coffins across the room and turned away, his stomach souring. Regardless of how he felt about the fire worshippers, this was ghastly. Only the worse criminals were burned in their world, dirt and water said to be so contaminating to djinn remains that they concealed one’s soul from God’s judgement entirely. Ali wasn’t sure he believed that, but still, they were creatures of fire, and to fire they were supposed to return. Not to some dark, dank cave under a cursed lake.
Here, you can see how there is somewhat equitable balance of action-reaction-reflection, although at times, one becomes stronger than the other, the author favoring a swinging pendulum rather than a continuous balance. I will rag on the writing for a second though and say the vocabulary did become confusing at times. Like the mention of fire worshippers here. I couldn’t tell if this was a degrading word for Geziri or Daeva or djinn in general, especially since djinn were creatures of fire but the Geziri seemed to have a talent for fire?? Anyways, still liked the world building. Still liked the writing. Wasn’t poetic in nature, but it still had the nature of finely-tuned style.
Did you know this book has two main POV’s? Nahri, a healer and thief gifted with speaking in any tongue, considered to be the last Nahid alive of the Daeva djinn tribe. And Ali, the youngest prince of the Geziri royalty, who shows compassion for the shafit’s mistreatment in the city of Daevabad.
I can tell you at times, although I know the extensive history of Ali, I know barely anything of Nahri. Don’t get me wrong, on the scale of development, Ali is a 5. And, I know the whole purpose of not knowing Nahri is to discover her past, heritage, and full extent of her powers, but it’s almost annoying with the amount of hints placed throughout the novel that 1) Nahri is a shafit mixed with Nahid; 2) the next instant, she’s pureblood; 3) now, everyone is mistaking her for Manizheh; 4) but that can’t be because she must be the daughter of Manizheh, because the ages wouldn’t match; 5) and then at the end, the swear up and down she is Manizheh, which, how does that happen?!
I will still give it a 5 because all the characters are extensively developed, but somebody should make up their mind with Nahri by the second book because it’s more than frustrating. I will say this, though. I did appreciate the characters being introduced around the same time because I think it would have been more than awkward to learn about the royalty only until Nahri arrived in Daevabad, especially since that was maybe a little more than halfway into the novel.
There are only a few stories that contain the legends of genies that I know of: 1) Aladdin (I think borrowed from Arabian Nights?), 2) Ill Wind by Rachel Caine, and 3) I dream of Jeannie—an old sitcom I think my mother told me about once. I’m sure there’s spatterings here and there that I’ve seen once or twice, because I recognize a few more things when I peruse my Wikipedia search for genie, which always calls out the use as a mention or label, but never an in-depth or high profile character, so I would like to think this is rather a unique book.
The additional motifs aren’t necessarily unique: political unrest, discovery of self, slavery, etc. But, I think with this nice genie spin on these old motifs, it puts a nice new color on the story of the genie in the lamp.
Okay. This is an old theme: Self-discovery, and it’s more than obvious. Girl who recognizes that she doesn’t fit in is set on a life-changing discovery to learn of her abilities, culture, and family? Of course it’s self-discovery. Is it enough to keep me hooked?
Yes. It wasn’t a have-to-finish-in-one-night book, but it was still a I-couldn’t-stay-away book. I thinked it helped not only having Nahri’s theme of self-discovery but Ali’s theme of justice or revolution with helping the shafit find equality within the city. I think I would’ve gotten bored if those two themes weren’t mixed because Nahri’s starts slow in the beginning.
Chakraborty, S.A. The City of Brass. New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2017. Print.
4 elemental creatures:
Humans – earth
Daeva/djinn – fire
Peri – air
Marid – water
6 daeva tribes—once Suleiman split the djinn into 6
Turkaristanis – China
Agnivanshi – India, filled with illusionists
Geziri – Arabia, filled with fire worshippers
Ayaanle – Egypt, filled with coastal scholars and tradesmen
Sahrayn – Morocco
Devastana – Persia
Nahid – healer Daevas, extinct
Afshin – warrior daevas, extinct