Review of “The Empire of Gold” by S. A. Chakraborty

This review contains spoilers for The City of Brass and The Kingdom of Copper

It has been such a delight to revisit S. A. Chakraborty’s Daevabad trilogy and review it for the blog! I am sad to be sharing the third and final review, because it means saying goodbye to the series again, at least for the moment. However, I am happy that in the process of writing these reviews and discussing them on my social media accounts, I’ve been able to share what I love about these books with other readers.  

At the start of my review for The Kingdom of Copper, I lamented that it must be very hard to write the second book in a trilogy. Well, scratch that. Writing the third book in a trilogy has to be the hardest job of all. Giving a satisfying ending to the action that’s been built up over two books is a challenge. There’s readers’ expectations and two books worth of character development on the line here.

In The Empire of Gold, Nahri and Ali align to save Daevabad from the forces of Manizheh . . . as well as Manizheh’s commander, Dara. Meanwhile, Dara processes the horrible crimes he’s committed throughout his life, and contends with his long held reverence for the Nahids.     

As I held the book in my hands for the first time, I was scared to read it. I had counted down the days for its release, but in that moment I didn’t want to read the last few chapters I had with these characters and say such a final goodbye. What if I didn’t like the ending? Consequently, it was with a deep feeling of dread that I opened the book and began to read. I read and read and read (and then put the book down, got a meager amount of sleep, went to work the next day, got home, and then began to read again) and read and read until suddenly it was 3 a.m. in the morning and I was finished. I was tired, but relieved to know that despite all of the build up and expectation, I loved the book, and thought it was a very worthy conclusion to the series.

Chakraborty’s characterization is stronger than ever.

Throughout the series, characterization has been one of Chakraborty’s great strengths, along with worldbuilding. She has such a talent for conveying the essence of a character. I have written at length about the characterization of Ali in previous reviews, but I have to say that Nahri is really in her element in this book. In previous books, Nahri didn’t always have a strong sense of herself. This was understandable and realistic as she adjusted to the ways of Daevabad and court life. However, at the start of The Empire of Gold, and even more so as the book progresses, Nahri becomes more sure of herself, even as her situation grows dire. Nahri’s talent of knowing exactly who she is and what her strengths are really makes her shine throughout the book.  

The romance is poignant and slow-burn.

I am a fan of the way Chakraborty writes romance. I prefer it when characters take the time to get to know each other and fall in love gradually. It’s not that these two characters don’t love each other deeply. They just take their time reaching that conclusion, and they become great friends first. Their relationship is refreshing to me, and it stands out from other fantasy books where characters have soulmates who they fall deeply in love with the second they meet. Their relationship is one that I can realistically see growing between two people, born out of admiration and respect. 

The commentary on parental love is complex, and at times, moving. 

The idea of parental love is meaningfully explored in the book. There are horrible parents throughout the course of the book, as well as great parents. I appreciate that in the Daevabad trilogy, being a parent does not naturally mean that someone is nurturing or loving towards their child. Too often, books assume that all parents have their children’s well-being at heart. There are parents in the book who are cruel towards their children. There are parents who are rather mediocre. Some parents are absent entirely.

Chakraborty also delves into what it means when a parent’s love is unconditional. This exploration is one of the reasons I got so emotional at the end of the book. Love for a child can be ferocious and powerful. It can cause a person to make untold sacrifices and travel incredibly far. Sometimes the love of a mother or a father knows no bounds. Reading about the depth of that love in the book was so moving that it brought me to tears.

The story is very wide reaching, and the worldbuilding continues to improve.

Even while writing a book that has to tie up many loose ends, Chakraborty still expands the world and introduces more characters and mythology without overwhelming the reader. This is especially true in Ali’s marid storyline. The world of the marid is explored in The Empire of Gold where it has not been explored much at all before, but because of the foreshadowing in the past two books, the introduction to the world felt more inevitable than overwhelming.

Not all of the side characters got their due. 

This is always my biggest criticism of Chakraborty’s work. I don’t really blame her for giving some of the side characters the short stick when the novel totalled up to almost 800 pages as it is. However, I do think Chakraborty should have paid more attention to Ali’s siblings. Muntadhir and Zaynab have been side characters since the beginning of the series, and their presence in The Empire of Gold is more diminished than in other books. Due to the circumstances of the novel, they couldn’t be around the main characters a lot, and in that sense it’s understandable that they didn’t get much page time, but I missed their absence, and I’m sure other readers will, as well. After the amount of time that we spent with these characters in previous books, readers deserved a more developed conclusion for them both.

I highly recommend this book.

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