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Literature / The City Of Brass

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The City of Brass, by S.A. Chakraborty, is the first book in the Daevabad trilogy, a series that breaks with the tradition of Medieval European Fantasy novels by being distinctly Middle Eastern. Most of the characters, even nonhuman ones, are devout Muslims, and much of the story takes place in a hidden magical city in the highlands of central Iran.

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.

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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.

The second book in the trilogy, The Kingdom of Copper, was released in early 2019. The third, The Empire of Gold, has a tentative release date of 2020.

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This work contains examples of:

  • All Myths Are True: Those tales of genies and magic that Nahri thought were just fantasy? Yeah, turns out they're the real deal.
  • Animal Motifs: Comparisons to cats seem to pop up a lot regarding the various otherworldly beings—Dara is likened to a tiger a couple of times, and the Djinn's and Ghoul's actions are sometimes described as cat-like. The Nahids are even said to have ridden winged lions into battle.
  • "Arabian Nights" Days: Despite being a story filled with genies, magic carpets, and the like, this trope is averted. It takes place in Egypt in the late 19th century.
  • Arranged Marriage: Ghassan plans to unite the Qahtanis and Nahids by marrying Muntadhir to Nahri.
  • Badass Gay: Jamshid is a badass archer.
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  • Bi the Way: Muntadhir.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Muntadhir towards Zaynab and sometimes Ali.
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: The Qahtanis. By the end of the first book, Ghassan is willing to have his own son killed.
  • Bodyguard Crush: Dara's job as Afshin is to protect the Nahids. He and Nahri fall for each other during their trip to Daevabad.
    • Muntadhir is in love with Jamshid, who is the captain of his guard.
  • Brainy Brunette: Economics nerds Ali and Nahri.
  • Cannot Cross Running Water: Played with. If they fly sufficiently high enough above the running water, Djinn can cross just fine.
  • Cassandra Truth: Nahri quickly learned to hide her healing powers when growing up in Ottoman orphanages in Cairo.
  • Celibate Hero: Ali, much to his brother's amusement.
  • Crapsack World: Both Cairo and Daevabad, the latter considerably more so.
  • Deal with the Devil: Trying to bind an Ifrit will usually end this way.
  • Deadly Decadent Court: Ghassan's court is a minefield.
  • The Dreaded: Dara. He's known as The Scourge. We find out why near the end of the first book, and the first time we see it in action is terrifying.
  • Fantastic Racism: Once we see the City of Brass, we discover that there's a huge divide between pureblooded Djinn nobility and those with human blood, with the former believing that the latter is incapable of powerful magic.
    • Dara isn't too fond of humans either, and there is intense animosity between some of the Djinn tribes.
  • Faking the Dead: Manizheh.
  • Fisher King: The palace was founded by Nahids and still responds to their emotions.
  • Flaming Blade: The zulfiqars are poisoned flaming blades.
  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: Muntadhir, the elder, is the foolish sibling, and his devout younger brother Ali is the responsible sibling. Played with, in that Ali is completely unprepared for court life, and Muntadhir is more clever than he seems.
  • Fortune Teller: Nahri plays this up in order to make a living.
  • Healing Hands: This is what Nahids are known for.
  • Heel–Face Revolving Door: Ali - he's torn between a family that he loves very much, and the atrocities that they allow (and encourage) towards those of mixed blood. And no one in Daevabad ever tells the whole truth.
  • King of Beasts: The Nahids once rode winged lions into battle, and still use a winged lion as their symbol.
  • Last of Their Kind: Nahri is, as far as anyone knows, the only living member of the Nahid family.
  • Long-Lost Relative: In The Kingdom of Copper, we find out that Nahri and Jamshid are siblings.
  • The Lost Lenore: Ghassan had unrequited feelings for Nahri's mother and there are hints that he sees her as this. However, she considered him an Abhorrent Admirer. And is still very much alive..
  • Magic Carpet: Dara can turn any carpet into one of these.
  • Making a Splash: Ali gains this power after the battle at the lake.
  • Our Genies Are Different: And HOW. The Djinn in this series are a race of obscenely powerful magical beings who live in a world separate from humanity, and exhibit extreme Fantastic Racism towards those who mix with humans.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: They're called ghouls here, and they're of a pre-Romero variety, primarily being dried out corpses of people who made contracts with the Ifrit in death. They can be very fast, however.
  • Really Gets Around: Muntadhir.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized: In The Kingdom of Copper, Manizheh is willing to wipe out an entire clan of djinn to overthrow Ghassan.
    • The shafit rebels bomb a peaceful Daeva celebration that includes children.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Ali, the Djinn prince who sponsors an Imam of the often put upon mixed blood peoples and joins him in his efforts to stop the enslavement and trafficking of his people by the nobility.
  • Sand Blaster: Dara and later Nahri.
  • Secret Test of Character: Ali faces several of these from both his family and his revolutionary contacts. He fails most of them miserably.
  • Settle for Sibling: A rare double example when Muntadhir and Nahri are forced to marry. She's attracted to his brother, and he's in love with hers.
  • Shapeshifting: More powerful Djinn are capable of this.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: Ali and Muntadhir.
  • Shown Their Work: The author put in a lot of research regarding Islamic folklore, and it shows.
  • Wham Line: The last line of The City of Brass reveals that Nahri's mother is still alive.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Ghassan and Manizheh will both murder children if it helps them.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: Ghassan is a master of it. Near the end of the first book, he comes up with two possible cover-up stories for the incident at the lake, implicating completely different people.
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