Robyn Reviews: The Empire of Gold

The Empire of Gold is the final book in the Daevabad trilogy – a rare example of a series that gets better with every book. It’s everything I could possibly have wanted in the final book – brilliantly written with great character development, intriguing revelations, and an ending that’s both satisfying and, in some ways, unexpected. This series has become one of my favourite trilogies of all time, and I’m so happy that the final book exceeded my expectations.

The Daevabad trilogy is an Islamic epic fantasy series inspired by Persian and Egyptian mythology. It follows three primary characters – Nahri, an Egyptian woman with a talent for healing who turns out to be the daughter of a famous group of Daevas – or djinn – called the Nahids; Ali, Prince of Daevabad and trained from birth to protect his older brother Muntadhir; and Dara, a famous djinn enslaved for over a thousand years who has always served the Nahids. There are secrets, betrayals, uprisings, coups, weddings, and assassinations, but at the start of The Empire of Gold all three major players are still alive – albeit not very happy.

The Kingdom of Copper, the second book, is set five years after The City of Brass, the first. In contrast, The Empire of Gold starts immediately after the ending of The Kingdom of Copper. Nahri and Ali have fled Daevabad after an invasion, finding themselves in Cairo, where Nahri grew up. Dara remains in Daevabad dealing with the aftermath of the invasion – and the sudden, unexpected loss of all Daevabad’s magic (except his own). Nahri wars between settling down in Cairo and returning to Daevabad to save her people. Ali is determined to return to Daevabad but is struggling with the loss of those closest to him. Dara is on the winning side – but it doesn’t feel like a victory, and he’s struggling with morality and navigating politics he’s a thousand years out of touch from.

Nahri remains a great character. No longer out of depth in the djinn world, but nonetheless with many ties to the human one, she’s exceptionally strong and stubborn but also incredibly kind. She’s a shrewd game player but has clear moral lines and an absolute respect for the sanctity of life. It’s impossible not to like her and feel anguish every time something goes wrong. Her only ambition is to be a doctor, and it’s nice to see a character with an actual plan for the future beyond ‘take over this country’ or ‘kill the dictator’.

Ali is a fascinating character and one of my absolute favourites. It’s unusual to see a devoutly religious character in epic fantasy, and it’s great seeing how his religion shapes his actions and views of the world. Ali remains pure of heart and soul – far too kind and trusting for the world and position he’s in – but he’s forced to confront many of his prejudices and emerges a much stronger character for it.

Dara is the ultimate grey character, not truly protagonist or antagonist. The examination of morality and how far to go in pursuit of what you believe to be right is excellent and done exceptionally well. I can’t help but wonder if SA Chakraborty changed his ending – it’s not what I expected for him, although it fits very well, and I do love it.

This book branches out more than its predecessors into the world of the djinn, with the Marid and Peris playing a role. I enjoyed this peek at forces only briefly mentioned in previous books and loved how they were portrayed. Each book has expanded on the world further, and the setting created is gorgeous and thoroughly believable. This isn’t an area of history or mythology I’ve really read about before, and having read this trilogy I’ll definitely be seeking out more.

Overall, this is a fantastic book in an excellent series that I’d recommend to everyone. If you’re looking for an epic fantasy series, look no further. I can’t wait to see what SA Chakraborty does next.

 

Published by HarperVoyager
Hardback: 11th June 2020

Book Review: Deep Water

deepwater

Deep Water, by Lu Hersey, is a children’s novel (age 12+) set in Cornwall, England. Taking myth, folklore, witchcraft and ancient beliefs as inspiration, it weaves a contemporary tale about a group of teenagers caught up in a legacy of family secrets. Puberty is a time of change. What if that change also involved the mastering of mysterious abilities?

The protagonist, fifteen year old Danni, comes home from school one day to a cold and empty house. When her mother fails to return from work, and has still not appeared by morning, Danni knows that something is wrong. Such a disappearance with no explanation is out of character. Her mother fusses about the smallest of things and would not leave her only child alone for so long without contact.

Danni moves in with her father and starts to uncover clues as to what may have happened. She learns that the town in which she is now living is close to where her mother grew up. Realising that she knows little of her mother’s past she determines to find out more.

Danni encounters people who remember her mother and some of them react to her with hostility. She befriends her father’s assistant, an older teenager named Eliot, and discovers that he too comes from a family with mythical powers. As the town’s history is revealed Danni begins to understand why her mother left. She embraces her newfound knowledge but finds herself in danger. The inexplicable is regarded as a threat by those who seek power and control.

The writing is assured and original. The disconnect between adults and teenagers is well represented as are the relationships between the children. Although the story requires an acceptance of possibilities, it is interesting to reflect on those things in life which are given credence and those which are dismissed. The Christian church may be powerful and have written much of this island’s history, but there have always been other beliefs.

An enjoyable read and one which I would recommend to young teenagers. The what ifs may inspire some pondering.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Usborne.