I have already read The Kingdom of Copper, the second book in this classy sand and sorcery series, which is good enough that I wanted to backtrack and get hold of this one, before reading the final book, in order to do real justice to the series. I’m so glad I did…
BLURB: 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.
REVIEW: I thoroughly enjoyed Nahri as the main protagonist when I encountered her in The Kingdom of Copper, but discovering how she became that wary, stifled consort was a gripping journey that had me reading way into the early morning. I am a real sucker for this sub-genre, which tends to have a lethal set of magic around djinns and ghouls, a fast-paced story that often encompasses poetic descriptions of the desert and the fabulous cities that exist by life-giving rivers. Chakraborty hits every one of those necessary tropes and knocks them out of the field, by giving her own spin on the world, including a bloody backstory and long-lived demons with longer memories, who aren’t inclined to forgive and forget.
Who, or what, Nahri is becomes a major focus of the story. Yep – that trope, again… But there is nothing remotely clichéd or tired in Charkaborty’s treatment of this enjoyable, chippy character. I quickly bonded with her and found the ensuing adventure across the desert with Dara entertaining, though I did feel they should have arrived at the city just a bit sooner than they did. The steady growth of their relationship felt realistic and I was pleased the romantic thread wasn’t the driving force in this story.
I did find myself initially skimming some of the palace scenes with Ali, the conflicted younger brother, who is unhappy at having to witness the daily injustices inflicted on the half-human population in Daevabad. Idealistic and inexperienced, we realise that he is being manipulated by those around him, while still in his viewpoint, which is a tricky thing to pull off.
CONCLUSION: As I read on, I become more invested in the politics in Daevabad and once Nahri arrived, the pace picked up again and so did the momentum of the story. I didn’t see that ending though… And am now rereading The Kingdom of Copper, before I pick up The Empire of Gold – highly recommended for those who enjoy their epic fantasy gritty with sand and suffused with djinn magic.