Today I am reviewing one of my most anticipated reads for 2020 and the final installment in the Daevabad trilogy – The Empire of Gold. I picked up this series when both City of Brass and Kingdom of Copper had been released, and devoured them in quick succession and I had been counting down the days for book 3 and it didn’t disappoint!
Daevabad has fallen.
After a brutal conquest stripped the city of its magic, Nahid leader Banu Manizheh and her resurrected commander, Dara, must try to repair their fraying alliance and stabilize a fractious, warring people.
But the bloodletting and loss of his beloved Nahri have unleashed the worst demons of Dara’s dark past. To vanquish them, he must face some ugly truths about his history and put himself at the mercy of those he once considered enemies.
Having narrowly escaped their murderous families and Daevabad’s deadly politics, Nahri and Ali, now safe in Cairo, face difficult choices of their own. While Nahri finds peace in the old rhythms and familiar comforts of her human home, she is haunted by the knowledge that the loved ones she left behind and the people who considered her a savior are at the mercy of a new tyrant. Ali, too, cannot help but look back, and is determined to return to rescue his city and the family that remains. Seeking support in his mother’s homeland, he discovers that his connection to the marid goes far deeper than expected and threatens not only his relationship with Nahri, but his very faith.
As peace grows more elusive and old players return, Nahri, Ali, and Dara come to understand that in order to remake the world, they may need to fight those they once loved . . . and take a stand for those they once hurt.
So, I actually read this the day after it was released, spending the entire day consumed by the book and the ending of a series that gripped me from the moment I first picked up The City of Brass last year. Eight Hundred pages flew by, and by the end of it, I knew two things, one that I loved it and two that I needed time to process before writing a review because this last book and especially the ending were beautiful.
One of the things I loved most about The Empire of Gold, is how it explored the impacts of a ‘rightful’ leader taking back their city. Often, this would be greeted with triumph and liberation, but that was not the case here. In part because of the methods being used, because of the history, but also because the plan had been to invade and win, with apparently little consideration for what was to follow. The loss of the Seal of Suleiman was not part of their plans, but I don’t think that would have changed everything, because while there were fear and dissent over the loss of magic, it wasn’t the only source of conflict – and in fact could have made things worse. I truly enjoyed seeing Dara and Manizheh struggle with ruling with what they had conquered, and that it didn’t just fall into place and the spiralling effects that came from that.
The Daevabad trilogy has always explored conflict, and how people no matter how good can-do terrible things in war, and how truth and peace are created by the victors on weak foundations. The Empire of Gold, built on that, and it brought the threads together – from the past conflicts, betrayals and secrets, and truth, to the current situation – in order to create a new future. Not a perfect one, but one on new, hopefully, stronger foundations.
However, saying that I do feel in places, this book was weaker than the previous ones for all that it wove the narrative threads and characters arcs together beautifully. I think this is in part to the fact that there was quite a different tone for most of the book between what was happening in the city with Dara and Manizheh – grim and dark, with escalating violence and betrayals – and the journey of Nahri and Ali, which for the most part felt a lot lighter and more adventurous. I enjoyed both sides – and Ali’s reactions to being in the human world were fantastic – and I loved that we not only got to see more of the world, including the home of his mother’s people. But that we got to learn so much more about the Marid and their relationship with Ali and Nahri. However, at times, it did feel as though it took the wind out of the sails after the chapters with Dara.
For me, Dara really shone in this book. I’ve enjoyed his arc before, but there were times when I struggled to connect with him, and maybe it’s because of my tendency towards darker fantasy, but his arc during The Empire of Gold really resonated with me and was possibly my favourite part of the book. We’ve seen what he is capable, both past and present, and how book two ended – but I felt as though we really ‘saw’ it in this book as Dara was forced to face the consequences of his decisions and beliefs both in the here and now, with the invasion of the city, and in the past. There was painful conflict, both internally and externally, and Dara grew so much because of it despite the shackles – literal and emotional – that bound him.
Ali has always been my favourite – and I was a little conflicted about him in this final book because it felt as though he lost a bit of himself when the conflict that had formed so much of his arc – with his family, his faith – being eased if not resolved. However, his delving into the Marids and his relationship with Sobek was fascinating, and I could honestly have read a lot more about it. Nahri has grown so much from the girl we met at the start of the City of Brass, and honestly, I cannot think of a way in which her arc could have ended any more perfectly. She remained true to herself, and who she has become over the course of the books, and the ending had me smiling and sad all at once.
The Daevabad trilogy certainly stands out for me as something different, and I have loved every minute that I have spent in Daevabad and beyond through its words, and the Empire of Gold was overall everything I wanted. Maybe not perfect, but a fantastic, triumphant end to a series that captured my heart and imagination.
The Empire of Gold (The Daevabad Trilogy #3) – S.A. Chakraborty (Published by HarperVoyager 11th June 2020) – ***** (5/5 Stars)
If you’ve read it, or read it in the future, please feel free to shout at me about this fantastic book.