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The Empire of Gold: A Novel (The Daevabad Trilogy) Paperback – Large Print, June 30, 2020
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"Chakraborty (The City of Brass) brings her epic fantasy series to a stunning conclusion. Rich details, familial ties, and magical politics sing in this lush world built from Middle Eastern history and imagination." (Library Journal (starred review))
"This mammoth finale is a worthy finish to a beloved series." (Publishers Weekly)
About the Author
S. A. CHAKRABORTY is a speculative fiction writer from New York City. Her debut, The City of Brass, was the first book in the Daevabad trilogy. You can find her online at www.sachakraborty.com or on Twitter @SAChakrabooks.
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This last book absolutely sticks the landing for both the characters and the plot - loose ends are tied up, a few more twists are put in stories you thought you had figured out, and everybody gets a satisfying ending. Old characters come back and there's a couple of fantastic new ones too. I laughed out loud a number of times, I held my breath a lot more, and now I need to go back and read the first two again to watch the whole story come together. I'll miss spending time with Nahri, Ali, Dara, and all their supporting cast, but I'm very excited to see what the author does next.
The book makes absolutely no sense and there are several developments in the plot that are cheap, made for shock value, and add nothing to the story. None of the characters act like real people or make realistic decisions.
Characters repeatedly and blatantly act against their own interests. We learn at one point that Dara committed the atrocities at Quizi because the Nahids told him to. Only when he returned the Nahids immediately banished him. You would think being betrayed by the very people he had done the unthinkable to serve would have made him stop serving the Nahids, that he might even have a grudge against them. But no. Throughout the story he continually acts as Manizhehs weapon, killing hundreds upon hundreds of innocents despite how deeply guilty he feels, because she's a Nahid. Then, when he finds out that she's been lying and manipulating him, it's still not enough for him to turn on her. When she refuses to listen to him and kicks him off the council, it's still not enough. No one faithfully and blindly serves someone who repeatedly betrays them and disregards them. Same for the ifrit. Manizheh didn't uphold her end of the bargain and yet they still helped her fight Ali and Nahri? Makes no sense.
And don't get me started on Nahri and her obsession with Dara. How are you still torn up inside about a mass murderer whom you had a crush on for a few months six years ago?! I'm sorry, but the first book did not do a good enough job of establishing their apparently deep and unparalleled emotional bond. They were never even in a relationship, how was she so deeply in love with him that she hasn't gotten over him even after learning he mercilessly killed thousands, kidnapped her, betrayed her, joined Manizheh, and despite not seeing him for SIX YEARS! Like I could see if this had been a long-term relationship and he was the love of her life but c'mon.
And this leads me to my next point which is the book wants you to sympathize with characters that are and always have been irredeemable. Dara was a mass murderer long before he met Nahri and yet these books have constantly made us believe there's still good in him. That he's not that bad a guy. Quizi wasn't his fault, he was just following orders. Like yeah, Nazis were just following orders too. They're still effing Nazis. Same with Manizheh. She's broken, they said. She would've been a great leader in another life, they said. She wasn't that bad until recently when she was forced to take over Daevabad, they said. Only we find out over 20 years ago she murdered her own brother, tried to kill his child, and then killed the mother of his child. All so she could have power. So, turns out, she's been an evil psycho for a very long time.
Furthermore, Nahri, Ali and co. are able to succeed by exploiting rules the series has never fully explained. Its one of the basic rules of writing fantasy novels. A great amount of suspension of disbelief is required to read fantasy, and that's fine. But it is the author's job to define the rules of his/her world, and once they do the characters should all stick to those rules. You should never break or exploit a loophole in those rules unless the ability to do so has already been established beforehand, you've foreshadowed that it's possible, and you have a really good reason to do so. It seems a lot of the magic in the Daevabad series derives from blood pacts, debts, and godly intervention. However, the author never fully explains how this works. For example, the random, ill-considered and ridiculous way Nahri outwits the peri's who have given her the means to save Daevabad. She stabs herself with the peri's magical knife, and says if they don't leave her alone they will be in debt to her people for a thousand years. But how? Why? We have no idea, because like many things in the book, it is not elaborated on. And even if that had been a loophole that was exploited, I found it out of character that Nahri, someone usually so shrewd, who is willing to make unsavory compromises for the greater good, would make an enemy of the super powerful peris. Did I mention she did all this because she refused to kill the mass-murdering Dara (in fact, she actually heals him from the brink of death). I was rolling my eyes the entire time. Also having the peris snap their fingers and instantly fix all of the djinns' problems was a complete deus ex machina and bad storytelling.
The magical peri dagger was one of many plot developments that added absolutely nothing to the story, but added significantly to the page count (Chakraborty could have and should have cut about 150-200 pages of this very long book). Another thing that added nothing was all the unnecessary and cheap plot twists. Let's first talk about the most egregious one. Dara over the course of this series gets resurrected three or four times, twice in this book. Resurrection is a trope that should only be used once max in a series, and again, only for a very good reason. There was absolutely no reason to keep Dara alive. He was by far the most boring character in the entire series. His chapters, for part of the second book and 90% of the third, all went something like this: "I feel so bad for killing innocent people, but oh well, I guess I'm ordered to so I'll have to stoop to murder yet again, woe is me." It was impossible for me to sympathize with a character who whines about his situation, but does absolutely nothing to change it. Someone who goes on and on about how he feels so guilty for what he's done, and then does exactly the same thing again. But back on topic, the multiple resurrections was stupid. So was the whole mystery surrounding Nahri's family. Having one twist about your orphan characters family is Ok. Having three and four is excessive and unoriginal. First Nahri's dead mother turns out to be alive. Then it turns out her husband's boyfriend is actually her brother. Then it turns out Manizheh isn't her mother she's her aunt and Jamshid is her cousin. First Nahri is shafit, then she's not, then she is, then she's half shafit and half djinn. Like c'mon. It's like Chakraborty keeps using the same type of twist over and over again. And all the misdirection adds nothing to the story, in fact, it detracts from it. The last "twist" that struck me as really strange is the fact that Ali has to change his appearance and basically turns into a human crocodile. It made it hard for me to root for Nahri to be with someone more marid than djinn. Don't get me wrong, I love the fact that Ali had to sacrifice something to the marid in order to receive their help, but making it change his appearance that drastically was weird to me.
Lastly, the book is full of cliches. The whole hero-in-love-with-the-bad-guys-henchmen cliche, the whole henchmen-turns-on-his-master cliche, the long-lost-family-member cliche, the whole I-can't-kill-the-bad-guys-or-I'm-just-as-bad-as-them cliche, and on and on. The ending makes no sense. After establishing that Manizheh, the ifrit and their side are depraved psychopaths, who will always stoop to lower and lower depths to defeat their enemies, it doesn't make sense that three naive djinn who have stupid moral qualms about killing bad guys, could possibly defeat the bad guys. Chakraborty overpowered her bad guys to the point that it made it unrealistic and unbelievable when the good guys succeeded. And what's worse is Nahri and co didn't have to make any sacrifices or cross any lines in order to win. In this world it's been established that everything comes at a cost, yet there was none required to defeat Manizheh. The one good thing the book did was make Ali sacrifice something for the sake of getting the power and aid he needed to help Nahri. But none of the other characters had to.
END OF SPOILERS
Overall, this book was much too long and didn't earn its page count. The characters acted in ways that were completely unrealistic and the opposite of the way humans (or djinn) actually act. People made out of character decisions at a moment's notice, and the plot suffered from unnecessary unforeshadowed twists and many plot conveniences. I expected better from such a talented writer. Reading it was an intensely frustrating and disappointing experience. If I had known it would be this bad I would have skipped it entirely.
At first glance, Nahir appears to be an average girl. Take a second glance, and you will probably notice her eyes--they're unnaturally black. If you take the time to take a closer look, however, and really see her, you'll notice there is nothing average or ordinary about her.
Nahir lived on the streets of Cairo from the age of five speaking a language no one else knew or had ever heard. She didn't remember much about her parents or where they hailed from. Living on the streets, she survived anyway she could. She could smell a con from a mile away because she'd used most of them. Six years ago, however, everything changed. While attempting to hold a zar, a traditional ceremony meant to deal with djinn possession, she decided to sing one of the songs in her native tongue (thinking it would sound unusual and eerie) when a disembodied voice responded to her in that same language--the one no one else had ever known.
Since that fateful day, her life has been caught up in a series of twists and turns, ups and downs, and life altering decisions. She'd been whisked away to a magical hidden world and discovered djinn, magic, and wonderfully terrifying magical creatures she could never have conceived of were real. She also learned she was somehow a part of it all.
Now, just as Daevabad, the magical city Nahir had been spirited away to, finds itself in the middle of civil unrest, she finds herself back in Cairo faced with another life altering decision--should she stay or should she go back? Yet, the decision is not entirely hers alone. Somehow she and Ali, the djinn prince, were transported to Cairo together, and Ali is not doing all that well.
"Do you know how many times I've had to do this? Forget healing; my specialty should be having my life destroyed and then being forced to rebuild from nothing." (...)
"I'm so tired," she said, her voice cracking.
"Everything I build gets broken. My life in Cairo. My dreams for Daevabad. I give everything--everything--I have. Only for someone to come along and smash it. It's all for nothing. Nothing."
>>>>>My Review: <<<<<
This is the third and final book in the Daevabad Trilogy, and I am very sad to see this tale end. If you haven't read any of the previous books do not start with this one. It begins where the last book left off, and the events in each book build upon those in the last. If you don't read the previous books you'll find yourself utterly lost and won't enjoy the tale as much as you should. That said, I always worry that when the last book in a series comes out that it won't keep up with the momentum and bookish goodness of the previous books before it. I am happy to say this one passed the test and delivered a wonderful and magically delicious ending. I absolutely loved it. While I tried to devour this one in one sitting, it boasts nearly 800 pages, sadly, I had to take some time to sleep before continuing through to the end of the saga. If you can manage to hold out to the end, however, your sacrifice will be well worth it.
It's been six years since Nahri was whisked away to Daevabad, and a lot has happened. Her skills as a healer have become stronger, she's gained friends and family, but could it be her forever home? Orphaned at an early age and living off the streets in Cairo she'd never truly felt she fit in anywhere, but Daevabad has been the closest she's ever come. Not all she's experienced in Daevabad has been pleasant. She's been lied to, betrayed, used as a pawn, but she's also grown in so many ways. She's stronger and wiser than when she first arrived, and now, she finally has the chance to decide her own fate. She'll have to do it, however, without her magical healing abilities. For whatever reason, magic is gone, and she and Ali will have to survive using nothing but their wits and resourcefulness. If they decide to return to Daevabad, they'll have to travel halfway around the world just as regular humans would. There will be no shortcuts.
There is no doubt that the kingdom of Daevabad is in trouble with Manizheh vying to be the kingdom's next ruler. Nahri and Ali have been granted a reprieve from the chaos, but eventually Ali, if not both of them, will need to return. What I liked about the situation in Daevabad is that it mimics life. Someone can seem like they'd be the perfect leader, but until they come into power you truly don't know how they'll handle things. They may have a hidden agenda that will be revealed only after they take control. Promises may be broken. Still, people will follow them because they won't believe the person they believed in is capable of doing whatever it is they do. Some will never be able to wrap their head around it. The story also captures the complex emotions that motivate people to do things they'd never think themselves capable of doing whether that be for the better good or bad. I must say I enjoyed the contrast between Nahri and Manizheh. They found themselves in somewhat similar situations, but handled themselves in very different ways. In many ways I felt they were two halves of the same coin, but, oh, how their perceptions on things varied.
I couldn't help but give this one 5 out of 5 roses. The story started out slow and steady, but consistently gained momentum like a wave until it crested and everything came crashing down. The world building was phenomenal. I felt like I'd stepped into another world that I didn't want to leave. The characters were relatable, complex, and multidimensional. Twists and turns were thrown at you from all directions keeping things interesting and ensnaring the reader under the tale's beguiling spell. If you're looking for a story to escape reality for just a little while, this may just be the trilogy for you. I absolutely loved it and HIGHLY recommend it. While there is a little romance in this novel, it is not the focus of the story, therefore, I'm forgoing my romance rating on this one. Did I mention I loved this trilogy? lol Definitely in my top 10, maybe even 5 trilogies/series. If you're wondering--Yes, I bought this one. I couldn't help myself, but originally I was given an eARC loan from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. That in NO way altered or affected my review or rating. The Daevabad Trilogy is definitely a keeper that would make for an excellent book club discussion.