I reviewed the first book in this series, The City of Brass, in 2019. I was pleasantly surprised by the mix of fantasy, mythology, history, and the Islamic faith in the first book, and my interest carried over the second and third books. For the first time in a while, I was very excited to read the final book in a series. Though I wouldn’t say the series is perfect, and it isn’t one of my favorite fantasy series of all time, I had a really good time reading the trilogy. It helped me get out of a reading slump and escape into another world.
The trilogy takes place in Egypt as well as parts of the Middle East, and there is a mix between the real world and the world of djinn, magical humanoids who live alongside humans but are invisible to them. Nahri is an orphan from Cairo who makes her living by stealing, telling fortunes, and using her strange healing affinity. One night she is ambushed by creatures she thought were only in myths. She is saved and whisked away to a mythical city by another being she thought was only a fairytale, a powerful djinn named Darayavahoush (Dara for short). Dara introduces Nahri to the city of Daevabad where she finds out more about herself and her family, but she also gets entangled in political struggles and centuries-long feuds between the djinn. In books two and three she meets many more mythical beings and finds out secrets about herself and her new friends. Ultimately, Nahri must choose between a future in Cairo and a future in Daevabad.
That description really simplifies what happens in the trilogy, and it doesn’t really do the series justice. The worldbuilding is probably my favorite aspect of these books. The books combine Middle Eastern history and myth as well as the Islamic faith to create a vast, rich world. For example, the real-world political struggles in Egypt in the 18th century are also included in the story. Though it isn’t a main plot point, I found that it grounded my view of the magical world and was a good parallel to some of the problems in Daevabad. Daevabad itself has a long history, and I love when a there are elements of a fantasy world’s history that have been skewed or covered up past leaders and when there are long-held secrets under the surface. There are also different tribes of djinn with unique histories and cultures too. I would actually like to see more books set in this world, perhaps centering on the other djinn tribes. You can read about the world on the author’s website to get a feel of it before reading. I don’t think there are any major spoilers, but read at your own risk!
I enjoyed many of the characters in the novels. Nahri is headstrong (sometimes to the point of annoyance), but she sticks to her morals and is loyal to her friends. Alizayd al Qahtani, the youngest price of Daevabad, is devout to his Muslim faith and must deal with his family’s tumultuous past. I enjoyed the moments with Alizayd and his siblings, and I wish that we had had even more time exploring his siblings’ personalities, especially in the third book. And though it may be an unpopular opinion, Dara was my favorite character, though he wasn’t always respectful or kind to Nahri. Dara battled with his own terrible past and had a very complex emotional relationship with those close to him. Ultimately, I wished that some of the side characters got more time on the page just because I liked them, but many characters were well developed. I was not a big fan of the romance in the book, and there is a bit of a love triangle. It was obvious to me from book one where the love story was going, so I was disappointed that this aspect was largely predictable.
However, I did not find the plot predictable. There are several good twists, turns, and reveals throughout the trilogy. I wouldn’t say that the books are heavy with tropes, and the world building breathes fresh air into what some might consider a traditional fantasy storyline with chosen ones, alliances with enemies, or epic battles. The plot is filled with political maneuvering, action, and challenges to morality. The pacing of the novels was okay for me, but some might find book one slow as there is a lot of traveling. I also found the final book to be a little longer than necessary. At around 800 pages, I felt that at least 100 could have been edited down. Still, I really enjoyed all of the time I spent with the novels.
If you’re looking for a solid fantasy story that tries to do something a little different by incorporating history, myth, and cultures that aren’t often written about in this genre, I would recommend The Daevabad Trilogy. I rated the entire series four out of five stars.