The City of Brass

S.A. Chakraborty

About the Author:
S. (Shannon) A. Chakraborty is an American writer of speculative fiction, whose debut novel, The City of Brass, was published in 2017. Chakraborty was born in New Jersey and now makes her home with her husband and daughter in Queens, New York City, New York.  The City of Brass, the first book in the planned "The Daevabad Trilogy," takes place in the 18th-century Middle East. The manuscript made news when it was purchased for somewhere in the "high six-figures" by HarperCollins. The publisher admitted to haven been taken by Chakraborty's ability to create "this wonderfully rich world" of the "Mughal Empire, the Sunni-Shia conflict, and Persian and Indian folklore." While "relevant to current events … it’s action-packed, delicious escapist storytelling at its best."
When she's not pouring over books on Mughal portraiture or Omani history, Chakraborty is active in the Brooklyn Speculative Fiction Writers’ Group as one of its organizers. Hiking, knitting, and cooking "unnecessarily complicated medieval meals" at home, occupy whatever spare time is left. (Adapted from the Bath Novel Award and the author's website)


Nahri has never believed in magic. Certainly, she has power; on the streets of eighteenth-century Cairo, she’s a con woman of unsurpassed talent.  But she knows better than anyone that the trades she uses to get by—palm readings, zars, and a mysterious gift for healing—are all tricks, both the means to the delightful end of swindling Ottoman nobles and a reliable way to survive.  But when Nahri accidentally summons Dara, an equally sly, darkly mysterious djinn warrior, to her side during one of her cons, she’s forced to reconsider her beliefs. For Dara tells Nahri an extraordinary tale: 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 birds of prey are more than what they seem, lies Daevabad, the legendary city of brass — a city to which Nahri is irrevocably bound.  In Daevabad, within gilded brass walls laced with enchantments and behind the six gates of the six djinn tribes, old resentments run deep. And when Nahri decides to enter this world, her arrival threatens to ignite a war that has been simmering for centuries.  Spurning Dara’s warning of the treachery surrounding her, she embarks on a hesitant friendship with Alizayd, an idealistic prince who dreams of revolutionizing his father’s corrupt regime. All too soon, Nahri learns that true power is fierce and brutal.  That magic cannot shield her from the dangerous web of court politics. That even the cleverest of schemes can have deadly consequences. After all, there is a reason they say to be careful what you wish for. (From the publisher.)

Discussion Questions:

  • Describe Nahiri: she has special abilities but also lacks authentic healing powers. As the novel develops what do we come to learn about those powers, as well as Nihiri's unfolding history and personality?
  • What does the ifrit see in Nahiri, and what does Dara see in her? What brings both of them forth during Nihir's attempted exorcism?
  • How much do you know about Djinns (also spelled Jinn)? How fully does the book explain their beginnings (and parallels to Judeo-Christianity), their functions and powers?
  • Who was Suleiman and what was his seal?
  • Discuss Daevabad? What are its many amazements that dazzle Nihiri? More pertinent to the novel's plot, what are the political, religious, and racial divides in the city? What injustices are evident to Nihiri?
  • Were you confused by Daevabad's numerous tribes, families, and their alliances? If so, did you eventually come to understand the multiple factions?
  • Talk about Dara's own tangled past? What was his role as an Afshin warrior?
  • What is Alizyd's role in fueling violence in Daevabad? What does he hope his efforts will accomplish?
  • Talk about S.A. Chakraborty's ability at world building. Has she been successful in creating a vibrant yet credible parallel world in The City of Brass? Are you looking forward to the next installment in the series?