The City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty. A fantasy story about a young woman? Please. And she gets swept into the magical world, having to survive by her wits? Yes. Not the typical European-style magical world. Even better.
I wanted to love this book. The premise was great, the plot is actually pretty intriguing, the characters well developed (especially the morally conflicted Ali). Even the secondary characters shine – from the servant who tries to help the main character, to the prince and even the princess gets a moment near the end of the book in which we understand her more fully. There were a lot of reasons why I wanted this book to be exceptional.
Unfortunately, despite the good points, it did not live up to my hopes. Despite an overall writing style that is concise and functional, the descriptions were too much. The same buildings and places were described multiple times from different characters perspectives – but with the exact same voice, the exact same flowery language, and the exact same result: skipped.
The plot was fairly unpredictable – until secrets started being revealed. Then I could see exactly where the story was going, and it lost some of it’s allure. Now this is a point that isn’t necessarily bad – sometimes it is fun to be proven right. However compared with the other points, it was a bit of a disappointment. And I will add, some of the “historical” plot points were a little confusing when it came to a certain group of people. Maybe I missed something, but it seems like if everyone hates one group, there isn’t a real reason for conflict over their treatment.
I really enjoyed getting a bit of non-European fantasy. I think if this book were marketed as a YA novel my expectations would have been different, and they would have been met. So if you are looking for a book for the fantasy-loving teen in your life, this is definitely one to consider. And I recommend reading it even if you aren’t a teen, just adjust your expectations.