Series: Daevabad trilogy #3
Publication date : June 30th, 2020
Publisher : Harper Voyager| Harpercollins
Genre : Adult | Fantasy
Page Count: 766
Synopsis : 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. (from goodreads)
CW: graphic description of medical procedures, genocide, mass murder, violence, death.
(Spoilers for the first two books)
I have been procrastinating this review for *checks calendar* two months now because I’m genuinely dreading sitting down and trying to put my thoughts into words, because I simultaneously have to much to say and don’t know what to say. There are so many things about this conclusion I loved, but quite a few things that also made me want to pull my hair out. There’s also the fact that writing this review means that the series is really over. The last book in my favorite series is written, published, read and reviewed. But now the book is releasing today so there’s no more pushing it away. Let’s do this, shall we?
You know, for someone who’s read the first two books quite a few times each, I don’t understand how the writing still manages to catch me by surprise because of how gorgeous it is. The way Chakraborty manages to convey emotions, the way she paints a vivid and lush scenery with her words that make the world jump out of the page will never cease to amaze me. The writing pulls you in and the story keeps you going. The Empire of Gold picks up right after then end of The Kingdom of Copper and follows our three main characters after their world has fallen apart as they knew it, with Ali and Nahri in Cairo with no idea how they got there and Dara back in Daevabad dealing with the consequences and all consuming guilt of this actions.
And as such, let me tell you that Dara carried this book on his back. His chapters were intense, emotionally charged and most of the time quite frankly painful to read, so whenever I read from his perspective I felt like the story had aim, like we were getting somewhere instead of waiting for something to happen. Because even when the plot is at a standstill, Dara’s inner turmoil kept the story moving. From book one, Dara has been the most complex character, the most fascinating to read about, but let me tell you, in this book he has lost every single one of his braincells before recovering one. One braincell. But that’s enough for me.
All jokes aside, Dara is the representation of what happens when people are brought up and brought out to be weapons. Indoctrinated from a young age to do the Nahid’s bidding, to never question their decisions and orders, made to be a genocidal murderer at 18 then being enslaved for over a thousand years just to be released back into a world he’s a stranger to. No wonder this man is so fucked. So it’s an understatement to say it pains me when he’s painted as a remorseless cold-blooded war criminal. Because yes, he’s a war criminal, yes, by all accounts his actions are inexcusable. But we can’t forget the major role the revered Nahids played in shaping him into the Djinn he became. And yet from start to finish, he was the only one to bear the burden of all those crimes, the one whose had it weight on his conscience and eat at him, the one who was demonized for them while the same people who ordered those actions were worshiped.
Long story short, I am trash for Dara. and even more so after the events of this last installment, and how masterfully well the author handled his character arc. I think Dara’s character becomes even more interesting when put in stark contrast with Ali’s. Because no matter how different they may seem on the surface and despite the fact that they’re on two opposite sides of history, the two of them are more similar than people realize. Yes, I said it. Both of them are righteous and strong in their beliefs to the point of being inflexible at times. Both of them have crossed some lines for what they believed was right. And you know what made Dara a war criminal while Ali was able to become a scholar and a warrior? Their circumstances. Plain and simple. Where one was designed and shaped to kill, never taught to read or write, never given the luxury to have much of anything, the other was given books, teachers, proper education and power. I am a firm believer that if the tables were to turn, Ali would have done the same things Dara did and burned the same bridges.
Maybe in different ways, but both characters are way more complex than people give them credit for.
Speaking of Ali, what I’m about to say will probably sound contradictory to the above statement but hear me out. I really wasn’t a fan of Ali in this conclusion. Whereas I loved him in The City of Brass and The Kingdom of Copper, here, he seemed to be a shell of himself. Once taken out of Daevabad, and once his personal motives were taken away (as in protecting the Shafit and butting heads with his father) he just came across as very…aimless. His arc didn’t seem to have any specific endgame to get to and as such, very often, his chapters felt superfluous, especially since he spent most his time with Nahri so their POVs overlapped. Now that Ali is taken out of Daevabad and all the conflict he had in the first two books left behind, he’s flat and spends his time pining over Nahri. What’s up with the thirsting over her wrists though? I know he’s a repressed boy, but her WRISTS? Sir. Avert your eyes, please. And for that reason, most of the parts narrated by Ali were a pain to get through, which is sad to say because I previously genuinely enjoyed his perspective.
I didn’t care about anything other than a strong friendship between Ali and Nahri. Their friendship was one of my favorite things about the series, which means that I strongly disagreed with the shift towards a potential romance between them, this became even more alarming when Nahri seemed to start reciprocating, but as I read on, I quite frankly didn’t see any type of romantic feelings from her side, she never thought of him as anything but a friend and I really just came to understand that after losing her home and everything and everyone she loved, he was the only familiar thing, her lifeline in an evershifting world, and they went through hell together so her feelings for him got muddied. I wrote a whole post about how I don’t think their relationship is romantic if you want to read it.
I honestly could not care less about Nahri getting a romance at all. I actually prefer her not getting any at all. Maybe it’s the aro in me, but Nahri healing from 20+ years of trauma, surrounded by her found family, working at her hospital is all I’ve ever wanted for her so having her be shoved with every elligible male character in the series was less than ideal for me and a weird narrative choice. Nahri has been and will always be my favorite character in the series, and The Empire of Gold didn’t change that. Seeing her inner struggles too, as well as her digging into her history, the history of her people, etc…was such a satisfying thing, especially the way it all tied together to make a complete picture.
I will forever be in awe of how subtly badass Nahri is, how much she’s done with every single man’s bullshit and how lazer-focused on her goals she can be. The more I read about her the more I loved her, which says a lot because I have adored her from page one of the City of Brass.
I actually really enjoyed the journey type storyline her and Ali had, especially when we got to see her reunite with Yaqub in Cairo. But like I said, with the both of them being together at all times, more often than not, it felt like a lot of the story development happened through Nahri’s lens while Ali’s was mostly pining. Mostly. So I thought a few of Ali’s chapters could have been cut and it wouldn’t have changed much to the overall plot. The one thing I loved in Ali’s chapters is that we got to take a deep dive into the history of the Ayanle and the marid and got many questions that the first two books raised answered.
Moreover, The Empire of Gold really digs deeper into the themes explored in the previous two books. It’s full of political intrigue, but at a much larger scale since we’re out of Daevabad and we get to visit different places and cross paths with Marid and Peri. It really shows how every single species is for its own and has its own agenda, only helping each other when the agendas align or it somehow furthers theirs. They’re basically all selfish and think they’re the superior species. Which, of course. The book also goes into detail in the consequences of generations of violence, and how just because a war is seemingly over doesn’t mean its consequences are as well, and how there’s no clear-cut hero, no clear-cut good side or winning side. Everything is in the grey zone. And I think that that’s what makes this series as a whole my favorite.
Despite my issues with the book, the ending. That ending was everything. It made up for everything that previously made me doubt I’d love the book. It left me in tears: tears of joy, sadness, grief and a bit of…loss, because it’s the end. But what a worthy end. Chakraborty managed to wrap every single loose end just right, giving every character the appropriate outcome for their arc. I could write a whole essay about the ending but I’ll just say that it put me at ease before I turn this into a sobfest, and leave it at that.
Do I recommend?
I mean…if you read this far in the series, then yes I recommend finishing it lmfao.
That’s it until next time.
Did you read The Empire of Gold? If so, what did you think?
Hope you enjoyed, write to you soon.