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“The Kingdom of Copper” by S.A. Chakraborty

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S.A. Chakraborty’s debut, The City of Brass, was one of my favorite books of last year. I was eager to read the sequel, The Kingdom of Copper, as soon as it came out. The sequel more than lived up to my expectations, but most of what I want to discuss requires spoilers, so proceed with caution.

Throughout the first book, Nahri was caught in something of a love triangle between Dara and Ali. Kingdom of Copper adds another vertex to this with Muntadhir. Neither he nor Nahri wanted to be married in the first place, but after the timeskip that opens the book, they seem to have at least come to an understanding. But their hard-earned amity starts to fray around the edges when Ali returns to Daevabad. One of the things I liked about this book is the way it gives additional depth to Muntadhir. Despite his outward appearance as a happy-go-lucky, wine-women-and-song hedonist, we increasingly see him portrayed as a trapped man. On some level, he’s aware that the things Ghassan does are wrong, and he doesn’t want to become that kind of man, but he genuinely doesn’t see any other way to keep the powder keg that is Daevabad from blowing sky-high. On top of that, the royal duty to produce an heir means that the man he loves can never be more than a clandestine affair. One of the most enjoyable scenes in the book is when Muntadhir, Ali, and Zaynab agree to try and check their father’s power. Seeing them all on the same side for once, even if temporarily and in a limited way, was great.

I also liked learning more about the marid. The descriptions of them and their possession of Ali were both evocative and eerie. There have been a few hints of the peri being involved as well, at least as messengers/prognosticators, and I’m hoping we see more of them in the future.

Kingdom of Copper also continues examining the political and philosophical questions raised in the first book. How does a country or a people move on from a conflict in which neither side can claim the moral high ground anymore? Where does the line fall between justice and vengeance, and where are the bounds of loyalty?

My one complaint was with the revelation that Jamshid is Manizeh’s son, and thus Nahri’s brother. One implication of this is that Kaveh—whom Nahri was at odds with by this point—is her father. One would expect this to provoke some complicated feelings from Nahri, but we don’t really see that in the story.

Overall, I enjoyed this installment in the Daevabad Trilogy just as much as the first. It will definitely have a spot on my Hugo nominations ballot next year. The final volume, The Empire of Gold, is due out in 2020, and I’m confident that Chakraborty will be able to bring the story to a satisfying conclusion.

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