Book: The Empire of Gold (Daevabad #3)
Author: S.A. Chakraborty
Narrator: Soneela Nankani
BECHDEL TEST: PASS-Nahri and Hatset talk about Manizheh.
Content Warnings: Murder, war themes, mentions of torture and graphic injury, graphic surgery descriptions, slavery, blood, violence, racial supremacy (in a fictional context), mass terror/genocide, suicidal ideation/self-harm
SPOILER ALERT: This review will contain some unavoidable spoilers from all three Daevabad books. If you haven’t read the series already, stop reading now.
The Daevabad trilogy has been one of my favourite discoveries of 2020, it’s such an immersive, complex fantasy world and the characters are brilliant. This finale of the trilogy had a lot to live up to, and it did….mostly. As an end to a series, the conclusion was satisfying, though it took a lot longer than it probably needed to get there! Here is a short synopsis of the book:
The final chapter in the bestselling, critically acclaimed Daevabad Trilogy, in which a con-woman and an idealistic djinn prince join forces to save a magical kingdom from a devastating civil war.
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.
As with all of the other books, this book suffers with its pacing. It takes a long time for the real action to start and it feels like much of the beginning of the book, up till Ali and Nahri get to Ta Ntry is largely treading water. It’s a VERY LONG book at almost 29 hours for the audio, and could probably have been trimmed a little without losing the essence of the story. Once again, some of the chapters were incredibly long, there was a chapter that was almost an hour and a half toward the end of the book.
Having said that the book doesn’t really pick up till Ali and Nahri get to Ta Ntry, I did appreciate that Nahri returned to Egypt in this final book, it felt right to revisit where she came from and it was lovely to see Ali so enthralled by the human world.
Okay, the Ali/Nahri romance, probably one of my biggest bugbears with this book. They had such a beautiful platonic friendship, and it really sucks that Chakraborty had to go down that road, especially when it felt super out of place them lusting all over each other when their city was on the brink of war. I appreciate that it ends in a place where they’re not married and simply working together as partners and exploring their relationship but I kind of wish she’d just left them as friends.
I’ve been very critical of Dara over my reviews of this series, and that doesn’t entirely change here, his POV works better than it did in Kingdom of Copper because he is our eyes into what’s happening in Daevabad here, but he still does some pretty heinous things over the course of this book. I felt a little cheated that Dara’s arc didn’t end in the way I thought it should, but the eventual resolution did work out well, with an ending that both fitted his character but didn’t give him undeserved redemption for his crimes.
There’s quite a bit of focus on both Nahri and Ali discovering their heritage in this book, which was really great. There’s a lot of similarities between them in this respect, they both straddle two distinct worlds (Ali with the Marid and the Djinn, Nahri with her human and Daeva heritage) so it was interesting to see them embracing the sides of their heritage that they’ve not necessarily ignored but been unable to explore fully up till this point. Nahri’s parentage has been a long running thread throughout the series, and it was resolved in a really satisfying way here.
The Daevabad trilogy up till this point has been largely confined to either Daevabad or Egypt, so it was pretty cool to get to see Ta Ntry in this book and discover more of the world Chakraborty has created here. Ta Ntry sounded amazing as well, I would love to live in a palace by the coast with an enormous library! I also really enjoyed Nahri and Hatset’s interactions in this book, they have a very interesting dynamic.
It was lovely to see Nahri and Jamshid bond even more in this book now that they know their true relationship to each other.
I wasn’t massively keen on the out of the blue return of the Peris in this book, I get that Chakraborty had introduced them in the first book and wanted to do something with them, but it seemed to come out of nowhere.
I still really enjoyed S.A. Chakraborty’s writing style, there’s something brilliant immersive about it.
I kind of missed Zaynab and Muntadhir in this book, they had a surprisingly small role here considering how important they were in the last book and I missed their sibling antics with Ali as they have such a great dynamic together.
It did feel like more of the main cast should have died? I don’t want to be too spoilery here, but for a book with a high body count generally, it seemed strange that more of the main characters didn’t end up dying.
Though it does take a while to get going, there are some really great action scenes later on in the book, the whole final battle against Manizheh is incredibly intense, and there are plenty of twists and turns especially towards the end of the book.
The ending was ultimately satisfying, without getting into spoilery territory, I appreciated that it fitted with the overall story and there was no everything gets wrapped up in a big neat bow, all the characters end in a good place but it’s clear that there is still a long way to go before Ali and Nahri’s vision for a united Daevabad comes to pass, which I felt was very realistic for this world, the tribes aren’t going to abandon their beliefs about the other tribes overnight.
Overall this was a really great series and I can’t wait to see what S.A. Chakraborty writes next!
My Rating: 3.5/5
My next review will be of Not Even Bones by Rebecca Schaeffer.