Among the bustling markets of eighteenth century Cairo, the city’s outcasts eke out a living swindling rich Ottoman nobles and foreign invaders alike.
But alongside this new world the old stories linger. Tales of djinn and spirits. Of cities hidden among the swirling sands of the desert, full of enchantment, desire and riches. Where magic pours down every street, hanging in the air like dust.
Many wish their lives could be filled with such wonder, but not Nahri. She knows the trades she uses to get by are just tricks and sleights of hand: there’s nothing magical about them. She only wishes to one day leave Cairo, but as the saying goes…
Be careful what you wish for.
What a brilliant book. I had to kick myself for putting this off this long. If you like a well written low fantasy with lots of political/social intrigue and good characters, dive right in!
After finishing, the freshest impression in my mind is that of the spectacular worldbuilding. The middle eastern setting is done just perfectly and Daevabad is just as perfectly woven as a top class tapestry from that era. The way the culture is described sans the mundane actions is something I found refreshing. Every page, I actually got to live in Daevabad and it sure was a wonderful experience. At the end, it certainly was a disappointment to have been pulled away from the rich desert city and back into my tiny apartment.
The plot moves at a sedate pace initially as we get to know the world, the characters, the history all woven into the tale with not much overt info dumping. The creatures and races are fascinating and the interplay between them takes much of the first half. The second half takes places solely in the city of Daevabad and it’s all about the political dynamics within the city and how the introduction of our protagonists rock the delicate balance. It certainly is done very realistically and I can see the same dynamics play out even in today’s modern world.
All leading to one of the most engrossing and dramatic climax I’ve read. The way the events played out and politics sucked everybody and everything in a unstoppable whirlpool that I might have even stopped breathing during the read. I’m usually a fast reader, but this book made me savor each and every word without wanting to miss even a single one.
There are a lot of similarities to the Djinn city and society that parallel our own, with problems that are very relatable. But then doing it fresh without bring your attention back to our mundane reality is something I really enjoyed….all thanks to the brilliant prose!
Djinns, Marids…I loved every one of the them. They all are unique and the way they are portrayed is very realistic. The intentions behind each of their actions are solid, and their characters have been etched in a way that those actions are entirely believable. Nothing I hate in a book more than people acting out of their characters and thankfully that is not a problem in this book.