Thank you to Harper Voyager and Netgalley for sending me this arc in exchange for an honest review.
This book was the absolute perfect conclusion to the most amazing trilogy I have ever read! This review will contain spoilers for the first two books so please don’t read this if you haven’t read the first two books. I have tried to keep this review spoiler free!
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Daevabad has fallen.
After a brutal conquest stripped the city of its magic, Nahid leader Banu Manizheh and her resurrected commander, Dara, must try to repair their fraying alliance and stabilize a fractious, warring people.
But the bloodletting and loss of his beloved Nahri have unleashed the worst demons of Dara’s dark past. To vanquish them, he must face some ugly truths about his history and put himself at the mercy of those he once considered enemies.
Having narrowly escaped their murderous families and Daevabad’s deadly politics, Nahri and Ali, now safe in Cairo, face difficult choices of their own. While Nahri finds peace in the old rhythms and familiar comforts of her human home, she is haunted by the knowledge that the loved ones she left behind and the people who considered her a savior are at the mercy of a new tyrant. Ali, too, cannot help but look back, and is determined to return to rescue his city and the family that remains. Seeking support in his mother’s homeland, he discovers that his connection to the marid goes far deeper than expected and threatens not only his relationship with Nahri, but his very faith.
As peace grows more elusive and old players return, Nahri, Ali, and Dara come to understand that in order to remake the world, they may need to fight those they once loved . . . and take a stand for those they once hurt.
Before I start my review let me just say, I love Alizayd with my whole heart and I will forever be thankful to Shannon for bringing him to life and giving me the complex nuanced Muslim rep of an apologetically practicing young Muslim I had been craving.
This whole trilogy is phenomenal and Empire of Gold was an absolutely amazing conclusion which simultaneously left me satisfied and yet left me craving more stories of all the amazing characters. The story starts where The Kingdom of Copper ends which was a nice surprise as I had no idea what to expect with how much time had passed. But The Empire of Gold starts exactly where book two ends so we see the aftermath of everything that happened in The Kingdom of Copper.
Shannon’s writing is extraordinary, I am completely immersed in the world that she has created, I can almost touch and taste everything and any and all food references left me craving it all. Her world building is absolutely phenomenal and in this book we get to explore new places that are part of the Daevabad world including Ta Nytry and all I want to do is go on holiday there, it sounds incredible.
This trilogy has some of the most complex characters I have ever read and they all make you see their side of the story which makes it more complicated as to who you want to root for. No character is perfect, they all make bad decisions, things they regret and they all have to deal with the consequences of these decisions. It made each of them more compelling to read.
We get the point of view of Nahri, Ali and Dara so we see what is happening both in Daevabad through Dara and outside Daevabad through Ali and Nahri. Through Ali and Nahri we see them trying to recover after ending up in Cairo and their chapters are much more light hearted and at times absolutely hilarious and it contrasts starkly with Dara’s point of view which is really dark and at times very difficult to read.
I found myself going back to reread Ali and Nahri’s chapters and their banter and awkward flirting and skirting around their complicated feelings and honestly it was a joy to read. The first half of The Empire of Gold has some of my favourite scenes in the whole trilogy, especially chapter nine. I love that chapter with my whole heart!
Nahri’s story arc was so wonderful to read. She goes from a con artist in the streets of Cairo to leading a rebellion and fighting for justice for all in Daevabad. I loved watching her grow throughout the trilogy. She has been through so much and because of her circumstances she finds it hard to trust people and open up to anyone in case she gets hurt but watching her slowly open up to Ali was so wonderful to see. She deserves to have someone in her life that she can trust and depend on and who won’t hold her back or dictate her life.
Ali is of course my favourite character in the whole trilogy, it’s no secret how much I love him and watching him grow from the naïve teenager to the man we see by the end of the trilogy was truly wonderful. He is still socially awkward and has the absolute worst timing but he learns and grows so much throughout the books. He is still unapologetic in practicing his faith yet he has learned that Islam is not black and white and there is a lot more nuance to the religion than he initially believed. He also learns a lot about his families past and heritage which also affects him in many ways. Especially in chapter thirty seven I felt for him so much. His story by the end is one of a man who will rebuild his home and care for it’s people and he is still driven by social justice but just like he is there for Nahri, Nahri is also there for him to ground him when he may get carried away with his ideas of change.
Dara’s story arc was fascinating to read, I really do not like him, he spends so much of the book saying how he has been made into a weapon, which is true and I hate how the Nahid council manipulated him into becoming who he is, yet it takes him far too long to learn and take a stand for himself. There is a scene where he is talking to Kartir about this and Kartir tells him to instead think of all those victims who died and to try to atone for his mistakes and I just wish he had learnt that earlier. I wanted him to realise that actually the shafit or jinns weren’t the ones who caused his life to become what it was it was in fact the Nahid council and to spend more time thinking about how to make amends for his actions. I felt like screaming ‘please Dara use your brain’ at him many times! It got to the point where it was very difficult for me to empathise with him anymore but there was a chapter that despite everything I truly felt for him and could not believe that Manizheh actually did that. But Shannon’s writing is truly exceptional that she created such a complex character that people see in so many different ways.
We learn a lot and have many questions answered that have been on our minds since reading the first two books and yet I wanted more. If Shannon had written a thousand page book I would have happily read it, I am not ready to leave Daevabad. I am especially not ready to leave Ali, Nahri, Muntadhir, Jamshid and Zaynab. I want to know more I want to follow their lives post Empire of Gold. I especially wish we had gotten to see Muntadhir’s or Zaynab’s point of view in this book. It would have been so interesting too see what was happening in other parts of Daevabad and these two siblings trying to work out how to save everyone from within.
I also loved seeing Ali and Nahri’s relationship develop over the trilogy. I loved how they were rivals and initially hostile towards each other and were forced to be around each other and ended up becoming friends and slowly we see something more. The fact that despite them developing more than friendship feelings for each other doesn’t stop them being friends was so wonderful to see. Ali is of course smitten (though he constantly denies this). Nahri slowly develops more feelings for Ali in Empire of Gold and when anyone points this out she also denies it but I really loved seeing such a healthy relationship in a book. Ali expects nothing from her, he knows that she finds it difficult to let people in and he lets her decide where their relationship goes. And of course the awkward flirting was absolutely hilarious to read. No smooth lines between these two idiots and I loved them for it!
Shannon ended the trilogy beautifully, it isn’t a happily ever after, instead we get to see a hopeful new beginning for all of the characters as they navigate their lives with all the changes that will inevitably happen. This trilogy will forever hold a special place in my heart and I couldn’t have asked for a better conclusion.
I have so much I want to know about their lives at the end but I also love the ending. I could talk about this book forever, there is so much more I want to say but I don’t want to spoil anyone so this will have to do for now.
PS. I will never be ready to leave Daevabad so I am praying that Shannon returns here one day but I am also very excited about reading her next series which will involve pirates!