City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty
“Step into The City of Brass, the spellbinding debut from S. A. Chakraborty—an imaginative alchemy of The Golem and the Jinni, The Grace of Kings, and Uprooted, in which the future of a magical Middle Eastern kingdom rests in the hands of a clever and defiant young con artist with miraculous healing gifts.”
On the streets of 18th century Cairo, Nahri does what she needs to survive—namely, swindling those looking for her supposed supernatural aid and healing. During a false exorcism, Nahri accidently summons Dara, an ancient djinn warrior, who insists Nahri is the lost half-djinn daughter of a line of legendary healers. He whisks her away off to Daevabad, an ancient eastern city protected by impervious magical brass walls, and during the journey, both begin to develop feelings for each other. Meanwhile, Prince Ali—Daevabad’s king’s younger son—becomes entangled in court politics, his loyalties divided between his faith, his family, and a group of freedom fighters he’s secretly been funding. To her surprise, Nahri is welcomed by the king in Daevabad, and becomes embroiled in the same mounting political, religious, and racial tensions as Ali, though both find themselves on opposite sides. As the story unfolds, both the thousand-year history of the war between the djinn tribes and Dara’s part in it are revealed, and it becomes clear that there is no easy solution, no easy answer to the problems facing Daevabad. Free one group of people, and it sets off a chain-reaction of ramifications. Do nothing, and contribute to the ongoing legacy of oppression.
This is a fascinating fantasy read that crosses boundaries of genre: it’s a historical fantasy set in the 18th century, it’s written in a voice more commonly found in urban fantasy or even YA fantasy of all stripes, with content and world-building of a complex adult secondary world fantasy novel. It’s a creative, fun, fast read, full of emotional highs and lows with a depth of fantastical storytelling that you’ll get lost in the pages for hours.