Empire of Gold is the third book in the Daevabad trilogy and, with so much that happened in the previous novel, and so much that went wrong before, this book really gives Chakraborty the chance to put the epic in fantasy.
Title: Empire of Gold
Series: Daevabad Trilogy #3
Author: S. A. Chakraborty
Publication Date: 11th June 2020
Rating: 5 stars
First off, this is the third book in a series, so this review might contain spoilers for City of Brass and Kingdom of Copper, but I’ll try and avoid them for this book in my excitement for Empire of Gold.
After unleashing a terrible punishment on the city, Manizheh and her weapon, Darayavahoush, ostensibly have control of Daevabad. Nahri and Ali have fled with the seal of Suleiman and have ended up back in Egypt, with no magic and no idea not only how to return to Daevabad, but also had to take back their city. That is, if Nahri even wants to.
This was the ending to a series that I loved that just felt so incredibly satisfying. I often get to the end of fantasy novels and have a vague sense of dissatisfaction – either things are wrapped up too ‘happily ever after’ or a little too neatly. But the way things were left here was completely the right decision. We’d reached the end of the story that we needed and we could trust the characters to do the best they could without us.
And let’s talk about those characters for the moment. The books have always been about Nahri, Dara and Ali, and have always been written from their POV. They’ve effectively been the love triangle of this story, but it has always been written in the most mature way. That means that at times it is nasty, and manipulative, and unreciprocated. In this book, it feels as though Chakraborty has finally decided what stance to take on this and, by delving deeper into the characters than before, how they will react to these changes.
And it’s no different here – at the end of the previous novel, Dara was left in Daevabad, and Nahri and Ali were whisked off to Egypt. Dara finally takes on the role of being an important player that’s been denied him before, and he’s such an essential voice and eye for what’s happening in Daevabad. And what’s happening there is dark and nasty and a slow spiral out of control with Dara trapped in the heart of it. He’s been a hard character to like at times, but this whole arc means that he is at least easier to understand.
Yet, despite Nahri and Ali basically spending most of the novel together, every single chapter from either of these characters is just perfection (for me). The previous book, Kingdom of Copper, showed the beginning of tentative bonds and mutual respect between the two, which only solidifies here in the third book. The attraction is there too, but it doesn’t dominate the story. Which is even more important as Ali’s character just couldn’t permit that and Nahri couldn’t allow herself either. They have also gone through something incredibly traumatic together and are helping each other to heal – even if there are some complaints that the romance wasn’t really there previously, it doesn’t mean it can’t result from that shared experience. And it doesn’t matter what they do or do not become beyond the end of the book – it’s just the genuine perfection of their bond that matters throughout – they mean that much to each other.
And finally the story itself. In some ways it gets even more complicated than the previous book, with the marid and the peris having slightly more bemusing levels of involvement. And ones that I’m not convinced all the characters fully understand by the end of it. But it didn’t feel like we were missing out – it just felt like we were experiencing the slow reveal of Daevabad’s own confusing history.
I loved that we got to see more of the world outside of Daevabad too. By slowly introducing different parts of this complex world and geography book by book, you really gain a feel for the detail and sheer imagination that has gone into this. However, I would have liked for the Turkharistanis, Agnivashi and Sahrayn to have had the opportunity to play a greater role in all of the books, not just this last one.
There’s something about this book that has a lot more weight behind it that the previous ones. And I think part of that is a much clearer concept of faith and belief. And how faith and self-identity are very much entwined, and not just for Ali, but for Dara too, with his belief in the Nahids. It felt like there was a lot more poured into this book, and it really made so much of what the characters felt and experienced come to life.
So much of this book is such a slow burn, and I imagine some people would find it just a bit too long but, because I didn’t want the story or the characters to end, I was there in mind and spirit for the whole journey and so satisfied with those unexpected conflicts towards the end and, finally, that ending itself.
Now I need to clear some shelf space so I can buy the physical copies…
I received and ARC of this book from NetGalley and from HarperVoyager in exchange for an honest review.