cover image The City of Brass

The City of Brass

S.A. Chakraborty. Harper Voyager, $25.99 (544p) ISBN 978-0-06-267810-2

The familiar fantasy theme of a young person learning of a hidden supernatural legacy is given new life in this promising debut novel, set in late-18th-century Egypt. Twenty-something Nahri, who has the ability to sense illness in others and to heal some ailments, supports herself as a fortune-teller and con artist in Cairo. Her routine, if precarious, existence, is shattered when a girl she is trying to help is possessed by an ifrit. Nahri only avoids being killed through the intervention of Dara, a djinn, who reveals that Nahri is from a family of magical healers. Chakraborty combines the plot’s many surprises with vivid prose (“The cemetery ran along the city’s eastern edge, a spine of crumbling bones and rotting tissue where everyone from Cairo’s founders to its addicts were buried”), and leavens the action with wry humor. There is enough material here—a feisty, independent lead searching for answers, reminiscent of Star Wars’s Rey, and a richly imagined alternate world—to support a potential series. Agent: Jennifer Azantian, Azantian Literary. (Nov.)