Friday, June 8, 2018

Review: The City Of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty

There's not enough speculative fiction out there based off of Middle Eastern culture, especially non-Jewish culture.

S.A. Chakraborty's "The City of Brass" helps fill that gap. (Disclaimer: I did get the book for free, although not directly in exchange for a review).

It's the first book in a trilogy, so I can forgive the non-ending. Based off of Arab legends of djinn, the story relies on the familiar fantasy device of having one of the narrators (there are two) be new to the fantasy world and struggling with the transition. This is never a bad idea for a debut novel and for the first novel set in the world (I mean, I did it myself in Lost Guardians, in a sense).

The worldbuilding in this book is deft. I don't know quite enough about the mythology it is based off of to know if Chakraborty got everything right, but she did get the few things I know right and everything else felt as if it was made on a solid foundation.

Characterization is, slightly, the weak point, although that isn't to say the characters are wooden or one-dimensional, just slightly thinner than I would like. Chakraborty makes up for this, though, with her deft touch for plot and the fact that in Daevabad, nobody is quite who or what they seem.

Nobody. She avoids the unreliable narrator by having her narrators, Nahri, and Ali, be honest with the reader, just not with each other.

The City of Brass feels pleasantly alien to western readers, and gives a glimpse into Arab legends and Islamic sensibilities (I would not call it "Islamic fantasy" but it may be the closest to that I have read, although without drifting into the preachiness so sadly common in the Christian version).

Highly recommended and I look forward to the next volume.