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Review: The Empire of Gold by S.A. Chakraborty

So - this is it. The concluding book of the spectacular Daevabad Trilogy, and I'm low-key sad that I've finished the series and will never get to dive into it for the first time again.

This series kicks off with The City of Brass, which starts with Nahri, a con artist and street hustler, surviving in nineteenth-century, French-occupied Cairo. She accidentally reveals herself as a mystical, magical healer to a lost djinn; finds out that she's the last known surviving descendant of the Nahids, an ancient ruling tribe of the magical world, and then is whisked away to Daevabad, a magical city hidden in the Persian deserts, where she is introduced to the bloody, dangerous politicking of the magical world, the rival tribes living in an uneasy, tense peace, and starts to learn how to use her healing magic.

This is a spectacular series - the world-building is lush and meticulous; the way Chakraborty interweaves detailed research on the history of the area she's writing in and Islamic mythology to create the magical world that dovetails so seamlessly underneath the human world; and also the characterization, the drama and detail of the interweaving and multi-layered plot line, and the narrative arcs that build so smoothly within each novel and also towards the climax of the series - I can't really go more into it than that because I want to avoid spoilers, but the writing, the pacing and the plotting, and the character development of these books are excellently well done. The writing is also good - melodramatic and gripping but without ever tipping into self-parody or cliché.

The storyline is massively gripping as well - I tore through all three books in record time because I just had to get to the end, find out how everything unravelled, how Nahri and Ali and Dara get themselves out of the increasingly complicated situations they find themselves in. And the situations aren't just complex because of supernatural powers and magical beings reawakening after centuries of dormancy - they're complex because they involve politics that are beyond just about everyone; every decision and argument carries historical weight; Nahri and Ali argue over philosophy and religion and forms of government; and there's even splashes of romance throughout the book (but what is so refreshing is that the romance isn't the central aspect of Nahri's emotional and magical journey, rather, it's the side plot - and her first romantic story doesn't end well!)

The one gripe I had with the third book is that, in the big final battle, the 'good guys' managed to get through pretty easily - and all the seemingly sacred and inviolable rules of magic that Chakraborty had spent two books building up did end up seeming rather easy to circumnavigate if you could just bluff your way through them well enough.

All in all, though, the concluding chapter of this trilogy felt satisfying, and it tugged on my heart strings in all the right ways, and the chapters depicting the magical battle scenes were so gripping and so well-done that I almost let my crumble burn because I could not physically tear myself away. The characters are also all so sympathetic, even when they're doing horrible things; and Chakraborty does such a good job of putting us in each of the characters' heads and really illustrating their internal monologues and their internal struggles. She never passes complete judgment on her characters, and never asks us to; but rather presents us with the entirety of their story, and trusts in us to be able to read the nuances and make our own decisions. There are elements of the author's childhood Catholicism in the way redemption and making pasts wrong right end up being such an integral part of the final denouement, and the ending is perhaps a bit too pat, but it all comes together in a way that feels both dazzling and intensely realistic, and makes you believe that even though justice is a hard road to fight, it might just be worth fighting for.

And it's such, such a good series - magnificent world-building, gripping storylines, wonderful characters, dynastic intrigue and politicking and magical historical mysteries, and some really excellent use of sarcastic dialogue.

Highly, highly recommend.

Happy reading,

Amélie xx

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I’m Amélie, I love books and reading, and I also love talking about them.

I’m incredibly lucky to be bilingual, so I read books in both French and English, and will talk about both of those on here – although I will do more in English, since I know that’s probably what the majority of the people who ever find this blog will be interested in!

I also like history, traveling, Shakespeare, coffee, cheese, musicals, Italian Baroque art, the ballet, Mock the Week and Have I Got News For You, flowers, makeup, high heels, and baking. Yes, I’m a walking cliché. I am aware.

Please do tweet at me with any suggestions/book recommendations/thoughts.

In case you’re curious – yes, Pride and Prejudice is my favorite book of all time.

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