The Kingdom of Copper has a touch of middle-book syndrome, but still delivers beautifully


As the second of three books, The Kingdom of Copper doesn’t really do much in the way of resolving anyone’s stories, but it’s still a worthy read.

Any trilogy ever struggles with the second entry. Although the goal is to tell a story on its own, there’s always a sense of lingering unresolved business and something like a lack of narrative tension. Of course, if you want to solve the tension issue, then you need to do something shocking (freezing Han Solo in carbonite and Darth Vader’s paternal reveal in The Empire Strikes Back both come to mind). The Kingdom of Copper tries to thread this needle as best as possible, but after the strong debut of The City of Brass, something’s just a bit lacking — though it’s still a worthy follow-up.

Part of that may stem from S.A. Chakraborty’s timeline issues. Not only does the book jump forward five years, but it’s also mostly concerned with an event that, at the start of the novel, is another eight months away: Navasatem, which is a massive celebration in the city of Daevabad. Nahri, now married to Ali’s older brother Muntadhir, is caught in the politics of the city; Dara is alive despite himself; and Ali comes back to Daevabad midway through. The City of Brass was already a fairly slow book, with long sections dedicated to exquisite descriptions, but The Kingdom of Copper slows things down further, asking a reader to wade through pages upon pages of political maneuvering and angst, occasionally punctuated with bursts of action.

Additionally, to return to the previously-made Star Wars points, there are some reveals towards the end of the novel that could be construed as shocking, yes, but they don’t hit with the same punch as “No, I am your father” or the Empire actually freezing Han. One is basically telegraphed throughout the entire book, and one is revealed not once, but twice, thanks to different characters learning this fact at different times. (No spoilers here, thank you.)

However, if you like political maneuvering and think there’s nothing better, this is the book for you. Chakraborty skips over a lot of the finer points of Nahri’s growth into someone extremely savvy in a world that she wasn’t born into, but what things we do get to learn about her changes make sense with the character. Nor does it ever feel like Nahri is completely in control; she’s still a heroine with struggles. She has her moments of emotional introspection, but they’re snappier and end up fitting her character well.

Dara and Ali, however, are not so lucky. It seems like Chakraborty is trying to parallel them in their experiences after The City of Brass. This is a worthy goal; they’re pretty much always at odds anyway. However, because they’re both having extreme crises of faith, their sections can drag more than Nahri’s do. Additionally, the book suffers a bit from not having everyone together as much. Although there are a few new side characters, and standouts like Zaynab return from the previous book, the interplay of the three main characters made The City of Brass stand out, but it’s missing in The Kingdom of Copper.

Next. 19 books we can't wait to get our hands on in 2019. dark

Ultimately, The Kingdom of Copper is still a good read. Chakraborty earned a lot of praise for The City of Brass, and much of it still applies here. But what’s weaker here is weaker than The City of Brass‘ downsides.