I have been dying for more Daevabad content ever since I finished The Empire of Gold and Shannon certainly delivered! This book was everything I wanted and more!
Rating: 5 out of 5.
Synopsis from Goodreads:
A prospective new queen joins a court whose lethal history may overwhelm her own political savvy…
An imprisoned royal from a fallen dynasty and a young woman wrenched from her home cross paths in an enchanted garden…
A pair of scouts stumble upon a secret in a cursed winter wood that will turn over their world…
Now together in one place, these stories of Daevabad enrich a world already teeming with magic and wonder. From Manizheh’s first steps towards rebellion to adventures that take place after The Empire of Gold, this is a must-have collection for those who can’t get enough of Nahri, Ali, and Dara and all that unfolded around them.
I am completely enthralled by the Daevabad trilogy and so it was bittersweet when I finished The Empire of Gold but then Shannon blessed us with these stories. Stories of love and hope and even the darker parts were balanced with lighter elements. A perfect collection to see so much more of the world and characters in these stories.
So first about the audiobook itself, I love listening to the trilogy and was so glad that the same narrator was narrating this too. I love listening to her and how she brings the story to life. I think that even if you aren’t a huge fan of audiobooks this will be okay to listen to especially as we are already familiar with the story and characters.
Some stories Shannon had shared before on her website so I was familiar with some but some were brand new and I especially loved Duriya and Hatset’s stories. How these women carved a place for themselves in a world that barely made space for them. That they showed strength and bravery and fighting for something better. It was amazing to see these glimpses into the past, the younger versions of the characters we all know and see how they may have been different and what may have caused them to become the characters we see in the books.
My favourite stories were of course the ones of Alizayd, the scene we see set just before The Kingdom of Copper was so funny and we get more of a glimpse of him using his abilities and just more of him trying not to implode when girls throw themselves at him which is always hilarious to read.
But my favourite scene was of course that last story that Shannon had vaguely hinted at before and it was everything I wanted and more. It was such a beautiful story about love and taking that step to be vulnerable with someone you love even if it terrifies you. It’s about trust and respecting each others decisions and boundaries and it is about building something on a strong foundation of friendship and care.
It was the perfect story to end on especially as this is the last story we will be getting of these characters and we end on a note of hope and joy and love.
I have already listened to it multiple times especially that last story and I know that I will be coming back to these stories time and time again.
I think it’s a well established fact that I adore The Daevabad Trilogy and I could truly talk about all the different things I love about it. I do, in fact, have a whole section on my blog dedicated to the trilogy, which you can find here. Today I want to talk about specifically why I love Ali and Nahri and why their relationship means so much to me.
As a reader I have of course many ships like all of us do, characters who’s relationships we love because of the way they develop and the angst and the romance so much more. But Ali and Nahri came along and completely took my breath away at just how real and relatable they were to me. I haven’t read another book with a couple quite like there’s and how much of myself and my husband and out relationship I saw in them. I have said it before but one of the reasons why I fell so completely in love with Ali is because he reminds me of my husband in so many ways.
Nahri is someone I saw myself in a lot. She has lived a life where trusting people is difficult, she can only truly rely on herself to get through and I felt that. So opening up and trusting someone is incredibly difficult for her and when she finally does, he breaks her trust so spectacularly that she completely closes herself up to prevent the hurt and betrayal she felt happening again. That hurt and betrayal was so real to me, it takes a long time to overcome and does it ever truly go away? How do you overcome a lifetime of not being able to trust anyone and being hurt again and again.
I also find it hard to trust people and truly I related to Nahri so much in this especially, how she was so hesitant to build anything between her and Ali because she had been hurt so many times. Keeping him at a distance was safer for her heart, she can’t be hurt again if she doesn’t build an attachment to him beyond him. But he was something so wholly unexpected that despite herself she ended up becoming attached anyways. He was the one real friend who accepted her completely and entirely for who she was, human appearance and all. So much so that despite not being able to see him for 5 years her feelings had not diminished in the slightest.
Nahri is a pragmatic person so to have suddenly developed these feelings for someone who could hurt her in so many ways would have been terrifying. Admitting these feelings even more so. When I finally admitted I maybe had some feelings for my now husband I shook so hard and trembled for ages after. I can see why Nahri took so long even admitting these feelings to herself let alone anyone else, especially to Ali. Ali who could hurt and betray her because of who his family is. Ali, who’s family don’t like Nahri for the most part and who’s father uses her for political gain. Admitting to someone like that, that you have feelings for them is no small thing.
Alizayd al Qahtani is a character who I truly thought had leaped out of the pages in the form of my husband. Like Ali he is oblivious when it comes to speaking to women, social skills aren’t his greatest asset and he has no filter when he speaks. He also is someone who tries to follow and practice Islam to the best of his ability while also sometimes having tunnel vision and not always seeing that things aren’t as black and white as he assumes. Younger husband was exactly like Ali when it came to being uncompromising in his beliefs, he has now realised there is more to Islam than just a list of yes and no answers.
When I met my husband my immediate thought was that he is very tall and bless his heart for the sort of almost there beard that he is clearly desperately trying to grow. And then almost 10 years later reading Nahri’s first impression of Ali to be so similar to mine?!
It was however his complete inability to speak to girls that first endeared him to me. How excitedly he would talk about things he loved and how completely flustered he became when a girl did try to flirt with him. It has actually been over 6 years since we’ve been married and he still gets flustered when I, his wife, flirts with him. I love that about him though because when he does say something, I know he isn’t sugar coating or before we were married just trying to sound good. That was just him being him saying exactly what he felt. Can you see how he is so like Ali in so many ways? And why Ali would mean so much to me? He is my husband with pointy ears and water magic!
Oh lets not forget how just like Ali my husband has no clue how to dress up, he is most happy in his thobe and dressing up nice requires outside assistance from his wife. But when he does well lets just say I feel Nahri when she thinks about how well formed Ali is. Ali may not be the best with his words when it comes to expressing how he feels but he does show it through the things he does for Nahri. From getting her favourite Egyptian food made to building her office to look like Cairo and just supporting her in what she does and truly, completely accepting her for who she is. My husband may not know how to express himself but he does it through bringing me tea in bed at the weekends and holding me up so I can walk to the bathroom when my pain is at its worst to the forehead kisses. When we got married the day after the walima I was in tears because I missed my family and he drove me home to see them because he literally cannot see me upset. He is still like this now too.
Their tentative friendship which became something more and that neither of them saw that coming was something so completely relatable. When I met my husband I was not at all in any way interested in meeting a guy, I wanted to get my degree and work on my career as a Physiotherapist and yet Allah had other plans when He sent my husband into the same class as mine and had me sit in front of him in that Monday morning lecture.
We were friends for a while before we realised that maybe there was something more (also friends telling us that we did in fact like each other which we vehemently denied). I was the one who decided to take the risk and say something and we also had to deal with our families who did not like each other when they met and were against us marrying (it took 5 years for us to actually get married after we told our families) and now we have been married for 6 and a half years and have our own little shedu called Sherlock. Seeing Ali and Nahri and reading their journey and how their relationship progressed through the years and how so insanely similar it was to ours probably made me love them even more than I do for any other characters.
I will forever be thankful to Shannon for bringing these characters to life in a way that I made me completely fall in love with them individually and together. Reading about their relationship and the way it grew slowly and hesitantly into something more was so deeply relatable and I saw me and my husband in them in a way that showed me things about us that I hadn’t even realised. From why it was so terrifying to putting my trust in him and more.
And if you haven’t read this trilogy I highly recommend reading it. You can also find more posts about the Daevabad trilogy on my blog here.
I don’t know if anyone even wants this but you’re going to get it. This is a playlist of acapella covers that I love that give me Daevabad vibes. I will share each song and who it reminds me of. I hope you enjoy!
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.