He snatched up the reins again, holding her tight. There was nothing affectionate or remotely romantic about the gesture; it was desperation, like a man clinging to a ledge.
I’m going to be straight up honest with you folks. I picked this book up as audio on Audible on a whim when I had a very long drive ahead of me and didn’t want to listen to kids music the whole trip with my daughter. I knew nothing about it or how many people were thrilled with it being a magnificent example of own voices Muslim fantasy. When the narrator started I genuinely had no idea what I was in for.
This book like nothing else I had ever read before.
We are quickly sunk into a world of a young woman, Nahri, struggling to make ends meet, make something of herself when she started off from nothing. I felt for her and appreciated her willingness to go to great lengths to further herself. Nahri also has a gift, she is able to sense illness or a change in health in others, long before they themselves are aware of it. She can even heal, or at least delay the further decline in health, many of these people…for a price. Nahri doesn’t know why she has this ability but it is about to get her into a whole lot of trouble.
Here I have a dilemma. The premise of the book sounds amazing (check out its Goodreads page for the full synopsis) and Nahri quickly hooked me within just a couple pages. Then, proceeded to bore me at great length for chapter after chapter. I won’t get into the full details because, you know, spoilers, but she goes on a great journey to save her own life with an enigmatic djinn warrior in an attempt to get to the mystical city of Daevabad.
The journey was long and ridiculously boring and whatever positive vibes I had for Nahri quickly vanished. Her djinn (daeva) guide, Dara, is more of a broody mess than the great warrior he is supposed to be. What he needed was a good slap upside the head for his antiquated prejudices and surely behavior.
Now, I understand that this is a Muslim own voices novel and I will be the first to admit that I have no knowledge of the Muslim culture or anything that goes with it. Maybe this kind of behavior from Dara is expected, I don’t know, but that wouldn’t make it annoy me any less. Moving on…
To keep this short and simple I will tell you that the duo makes it to Daevabad after encountering many obstacles along the way. However, Daevabad was also dull. More antiquated views and prejudices and, something I hate most of all, women (or a specific woman) being ridiculously petty while pretending to be kind and welcoming to your face.
My thought was, okay, so these people/djinn/daevas/whatever are from a very old society set in its ways and I shouldn’t be so judgmental. Maybe Nahri was brought here to try to change their minds, that could be fun!
Nope. She just hops on board the train and it keeps chugging down the tracks.
Let me get to the point, this book bored me relentlessly. The only thing that kept me going was that, despite not enjoying the story itself, it was beautifully written. The storytelling was simply phenomenal. Rich details, depth of character, and stunning scenery were not in short supply. You can not enjoy a book but still enjoy the storytelling.
But what really saved The City of Brass for me? The ending. The last few chapters are simply amazing. You experience anger, love, loss, betrayal, cunning, and the promise of more adventure to come. While I didn’t enjoy most of the book I will be picking up the next one on the strength of the ending of this one alone. It was fantastic.
So, in a nutshell, most of the book was ho-hum and the ending was a Fourth of July fireworks display in Washington DC. It was Hatshepsut ruling Egypt. It was Washington crossing the Delaware. It was Churchill giving hope in a hopeless war. THAT ENDING!
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