With The Empire of Gold, S.A. Chakraborty wraps up her Daevabad trilogy in a thrilling, bittersweet finale that’s full of both triumph and heartbreak.
Someone famous once said that you know a story has a good ending when no one’s really 100% happy with it. Because that’s how you know it’s real. The Empire of Gold, the conclusion of author S.A. Chakraborty’s rich, magical Daevabad trilogy is just such an ending – one that will leave readers very happy and very sad by turns, but utterly satisfied all the same.
It’s difficult to succinctly summarize the story thus far for those who haven’t yet read the first two books in this series, The City of Brass and The Kingdom of Copper. Chakraborty’s world is rich and vividly imagined, featuring magical creatures, complex political factions, and a long and bloody history of conflict between the human world and the world of Djinn.
The story follows Nahri, a young thief who discovers she is only half human, thanks to the intervention of Darayavahoush al-Afshin, former protector of her ancestors, the Nahids, in the magical Djinn city of Daevabad, which had been taken over by the al-Qahtani family after much bloodshed.
After two books’s worth of adventures, betrayal and political conflict, The Empire of Gold picks up right where Kingdom of Copper leaves off. Banu Manizeh is alive and has taken over Daevabad. Nahri and al-Qahtani prince Ali have fled the city to the human world, and Dara is torn between his loyalty to the mission he has always believed in, and the woman he betrayed to support it.
So, you know, drama all around.
The Empire of Gold is split between three primary POVs – Nahri, Ali and Dara. And while the Nahri and Ali chapters tend to be more adventurous, as the duo navigates the world of human Cairo and searches for supporters that can help them reclaim Daevabad, Dara’s are decidedly not. The novel’s Dara-focused chapters are dark and difficult, as he must wrestle not only with his present loyalties but his past actions, many of which are cruel and violent. Dara has many sins to answer for, and that process begins here. (And will apparently, continue well beyond this book’s final pages.)
Elsewhere, the Ali-focused chapters focus on the young prince’s connection to the mysterious marids, as well as his growing romantic feelings for Nahri.
To be fair, the stark tonal shifts between the Dara chapters, with their despair and torture, to the more adventurous feel of the Ali/Nahri stuff does take a bit of getting used to. Forewarned is forearmed and all.
Additionally, of the three Daevabad novels, Empire of Gold is the one that has what most feels like a love triangle, even though Nahri and Dara don’t spend much of its pages anywhere near one another. But what was between them looms large as Nahri and Ali start to imagine a new future for Daevabad and what their lives might look like – together or not – in it. For me, and I’ll fully admit that I generally prefer the tragic air of doomed couples like Nahri and Dara, the Ali and Nahri stuff felt kind of unnecessary, but I can at least understand why they’d be into each other. (But YMMV of course.)
However, Chakraborty finds a deft way of wrapping up that aspect of the story in a way that will make every ready feel satisfied, no matter which pair was your personal favorite. This statement is actually true of much of the story, as a whole. There are choices in this novel – from both a plot and a character perspective – that I don’t necessarily agree with or particularly like. But I absolutely understand why they happen, and they make sense within the world of the story.
The Empire of Gold is a fully satisfying conclusion to this series, even though there are definitely moments that many fans won’t like for whatever reason. But, as a whole, what matters is that this feels like a complete ending to the story, and one that is both deserved and earned, for both good and ill. And that is something to be celebrated .
The Empire of Gold is available now.