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

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The final volume of S.A. Chakraborty’s Daevabad Trilogy substantially ups the stakes for the main characters. Nahri and Ali are stuck in the human world without their djinn magic, and it’s becoming increasingly obvious that Ali’s marid-granted powers come at a cost. Meanwhile, Dara is becoming ever more conflicted and disillusioned with his sworn ruler Manizeh.

With the stakes being so much higher, it’s no surprise that the conflicts are bigger. There are some truly jaw-dropping action sequences and a few stunning plot twists. But Chakraborty doesn’t lose sight of the importance of character. There are quieter moments that show the characters coming to terms with these revelations, and the denouement features one scene that made the room get rather dusty.

In addition to resolving the arcs of the main characters, a couple of new players are introduced. At first, I was skeptical of the idea of bringing in new plot-relevant characters so late in the story, but Chakraborty did a great job developing them. I especially enjoyed Fiza, to the point where part of me was hoping she’d end up with Ali.

One of the Daevabad Trilogy’s major themes has always been the difficulty of resolving longstanding conflicts. The Daevas and the other djinn tribes have been fighting for so long that neither side’s hands are clean anymore, and both sides have some legitimate grievances. The narrative in Empire of Gold makes no bones about the fact that this situation can’t be resolved easily or quickly. It will take work and require both sides to listen and make compromises. And since most of the action is of course being driven by the main characters, this will require them to make some changes as well. The culmination of Nahri, Ali, and Dara each gradually learning to address the traits that have held them back occurs here, and sets the stage for a hopeful ending to the trilogy. In addition to providing a satisfying conclusion, it makes The Empire of Gold a book that, despite its fantastical setting, speaks to our present moment in the real world.

I’ve enjoyed the fun and moving ride that the Daevabad Trilogy has been. Chakraborty has said that her next book will likely be a more grounded historical fiction novel, but I hope she returns to the world of Daevabad someday.

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