Do I need to tell any of you why Ali means so much to me? He has wormed his way into my heart and made himself at home. I have never loved a character as much as I love him and honestly I will never truly be able to express it properly no matter how many essays I write.
I know I have previously written an essay which you can read here but you know what here is another one because I have now read The Empire of Gold and the extra scenes Shannon included on her website and I now have a lot more to say.
Alizayd grows so much throughout the trilogy. From a young age he is motivated to help the poor and oppressed because one of the core beliefs in Islam is social justice. He may not always do it in the best way but that is what makes him fight against even his own family to do what is right. It’s one of the things I love most about him. Every time he fought for justice my heart swelled with love for him. In The City of Brass he is more idealistic but by the time we see him in The Empire of Gold, he has grown wiser and while still idealistic he is also more realistic in what he can achieve and what can be accomplished and it was incredible to see how he told Nahri that this may be something that they don’t even get to see the fruits of but they still need to build a city that is just to all.
One of my favourite scenes is his very first chapter where we see him wake up to find himself in the apothecary and realise all that he has lost and that he cannot help anyone at that moment. The despair he feels was so raw and it left me a mess. This was one of the lowest points for him and in his moment of need and despair he turned to Allah to ask Him for help and guidance. He sat in prayer all day in prostration to Allah turning to the only one who can help him with everything he is feeling. This is a scene that means so much to me. A scene where I truly related and saw myself and how I felt in some of my most difficult times in life. Shannon wrote it beautifully and it left me in tears to see this in a fantasy book. The type of rep I had been too scared to even hope to see in books.
When he is in Egypt we see him completely fall in love with being able to experience the human world like he’s always wanted to and that wonder and excitement was contagious. I really loved seeing him nerd out and completely lose it over toy chickens because when we see characters who are devout, they are often shown in their stereotypes of broody, strict and not really having a personality beyond being the haram police and so to see him be fully fleshed and complex and that he is your average guy even though he is doing his best to practice his religion. It humanised him and even though we shouldn’t have to bear the burden of that it was truly wonderful to see how much he loved seeing everything and his giddy excitement.
Another of my favourite scenes in The Empire of Gold is when he is in Ta Nytry and Hatset tells him to establish himself as king there instead of going to fight Manizheh. He tells them that this isn’t the answer. They need to help those trapped in Daevabad and that him being king isn’t right. There needs to be a democracy where everyone’s voice is heard. That Islam stands for justice and we need to stand up for what is right and be a witness to this. They cannot stand by and watch people being murdered and enslaved.
In this book we see him and Nahri also having to navigate their growing feelings for each other and I know that people have mixed feelings but I personally really loved seeing him try to navigate this as it felt real. Muslims aren’t perfect and so to see a “perfect” Muslim character wouldn’t really work in this trilogy. We see him battle his desires and his conviction to his faith and what we are all taught when it comes to relationships. That a relationship outside of marriage isn’t allowed. This was something that he tries his best to adhere to, we see him literally fight himself when he starts thinking about Nahri and reminding himself that he cannot do anything.
We see him kiss Nahri in a moment of utter despair and longing and neither of them knowing whether they will survive after this. And then he realises that he cannot do this and stops himself and it felt so realistic. We have feelings, we have emotions and you know what we will make mistakes, we will slip and I actually liked seeing that he slipped but that he stops himself and draws a line saying to Nahri that this cannot happen again. And we see that he doesn’t cross that line again. I feel like a lot people can relate to this moment and how easy it can be to give in to those feelings even for a moment.
He spends a lot of this book learning about his own family history and coming to terms with realising that those he looked up to may not be as incredible as he thought they were and that there is a lot in this world he still does not know and it made him a better person and leader. He doesn’t make as many rash decisions like he used to and thinks about the consequences and how it can affect others. I just loved seeing him grow into an incredible leader and pillar of the community.
Later in the book he also leads prayer and again finds solace and comfort in praying and turning to Allah for help. We see how he stays there talking to everyone and making sure everyone is heard and tries to help as many as he can while he is in Ta Nytry. It shows how much he has grown instead of doing what he thinks is the right way to help the people he listens to them and what they want.
The scene when he goes to meet Tiamat and the other marid and he realises he may die here but he won’t go down without a fight and will do whatever he can to protect all those he loves. I feel like this was such a pivotal moment for him. When he realises the price of being able to save his loved ones and Daevabad is to give up the thing that he loves, his jinn magic, his fire magic, and he will even lose the one connection he shared with his father, his grey eyes, I truly felt for him and it shows what a huge sacrifice it is for him to have to give this all up. But he does it, he does it because his love for Daevabad and his family and friends is more than how much he cherishes his magic. He knows that this may make him an outsider to his own people but he still does it. It made me love him even more.
It’s safe to say that I have never loved a character more than I love Alizayd and honestly I have no idea how to move on from these books because of him. His character arc was incredible and I loved seeing all the small details from him being a total nerd, completely hopeless when trying to talk to girls and how he hold on to his faith throughout everything. His activism in fighting for social justice and his strong moral character and just doing whatever it took to save his people even sacrificing his jinn magic made me fall in love with him again and again.
It also helps that he is…well formed and endearing. I will leave you with one of my favourite Alizayd quotes:
Our faith prioritises justice. It tells us to stand for justice no matter what. We are to be a community that calls for what is right, that stands as a witness.
Please everyone go read this incredible trilogy!