I recently decided to try out a subscription book box called Page Habit. It is based in America but ships internationally. What drew me to this subscription company was the fact that they give subscribers new releases that have annotated notes from the author plus all sorts of bookish goodies to enjoy. I also love that they donate part of their proceeds to support literacy initiatives in African countries. I was super stoked to receive this beautiful fantasy novel, especially after hearing lots of positive reviews about it on Goodreads. Here is my review:
Nahri has never believed in magic. She knows she is an unusual woman; on the streets of 18th century Cairo, Nahri is a remarkably good con artist. But she knows that it’s all a matter of learning the tricks of the trade – nothing magical about it. But when Nahri accidentally summons a dark and mysterious djinn warrior to her side, she is forced to accept the existence of a world she thought only existed in fairy tales. For the warrior tells her a new story: 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. But the city is not the beautiful paradise it appears to be. The six djinn tribes that reside behind the brass walls are not content with each other. As old resentments begin to surface, Nahri finds herself caught in the dangerous web of court politics. And no amount of scheming will protect her from the deadly consequences. After all, there is a reason they say be careful what you wish for . . .
This was a beautifully written story with wonderful descriptions of Muslim culture and history. I loved how thorough the author was in researching and incorporating all of the different religious, historical, and mystical elements that are a part of Muslim culture because it really made the story come alive. The novel is told from the very different perspectives of two people: Nahri, the con artist; and Alizayd, Prince of Daevabad. While Nahri’s chapters are all about her journey to this new place and her reluctance in believing in djinn (and herself), Ali’s chapters are about his torn loyalties between his family and his country as he tries to do the moral thing at all times. Of course, we also get a glimpse of the djinn warrior Nahri summoned, who goes by the name Dara. I found his character to be very mysterious and I loved any opportunity where we got to know more about his past. Out of these 3 characters, the one that I felt developed the most in the story was Ali. He really changed as a person through his experiences in the novel, which I really loved – I only wish Nahri had developed, too. Her character remained pretty much the same from the beginning to the end, and while I understand that certain aspects about her needed to stay that way, I wish she had gotten smarter and more aware of what was at stake. I also thought that the novel was extremely slow in pacing. Even though Nahri was being transported from Cairo to Daevabad, the journey itself was not too memorable (save for the sparse moments where there was some action). The events in Ali’s life, while having a bit more action than Nahri’s, were also more muted than I had hoped, filled more with his indecision than any decisive behaviour. It took a long time before these two characters met and while the author did a decent job of showing their friendship develop, it didn’t help the story move along any faster. The last 50 pages of the novel were action-packed and full of intrigue, and as is the trend these days, ended on a cliffhanger. It had all the hype that I was hoping to find in the entire novel – but that I didn’t actually get. To be frank, the entire novel, while beautiful in description, just felt like a lot of world-building. There was a lot of heavy content and politics and terminology that could sometimes be hard to keep track of, and that made it hard to keep track of the plot. Overall, this novel had beautiful descriptions and interesting characters but a slow pace that dragged the plot. The first 50 pages and the last 50 pages really redeemed this book for me, and that is why I’m giving it a 3/5 stars. I am intrigued enough to give the next book in this series a try – but hopefully it will be a lot more action-packed and a lot less heavy on the details!