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