Traditionally, fantasy sequels take an excruciatingly long time to hit the shelves. Fans of George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series have waited almost a decade for The Winds of Winter. Devotees of Patrick Rothfuss' The Kingkiller Chronicle series have waited just as long for the follow-up to that series' second installment. Maybe it's the page count, since they usually clock in well past the 600 mark. Or maybe it's a delicate task making sure not to contradict the mythos of the previous novels. Fantasy fans are, after all, notoriously eagle-eyed when it comes to spotting inconsistencies.
Whatever it is prolonging the process, author S. A. Chakraborty seems not to have gotten the memo. The Empire of Gold (Harper Collins), the third and final installment in the Daevabad Trilogy, is due to be released June 30th, just three years after Chakraborty's debut with The City of Brass. And for all the speed with which the young author has completed her story, its conclusion is no less satisfying.
- Melissa C. Beckman
- S. A. Chakraborty
Chakraborty's Daevabad Trilogy follows the Egyptian con artist and amateur healer Nahri, who learns, much to her surprise, that she is the long-lost heir of the magical city of Daevabad's original rulers. In the trilogy's first two installments, Nahri goes from a hustling healer to royal physician, straining against the ancient customs and royal and religious expectations of Daevabad all the while.
The Empire of Gold picks up immediately after the events of the second instalment in the Daevabad series. Nahri and Ali, the second son of King Ghassan al Qahtani, have halfway succeeded in thwarting Manizheh's attempted coup of Daevabad. Manizheh has control of the city, true, but Nahri and Ali have stolen Suleiman's seal, the magical ring and symbol by which the ancient prophet-king Suleiman controlled the djinn, and whisked it away to Egypt. Unfortunately, Ali is injured in the process, and by removing the seal ring from Daevabad, it appears the two unlikely heroes have somehow broken magic.
As in Marlon James' Black Leopard, Red Wolf and Patrick Rothfuss' The Name of the Wind, much of the Daevabad Trilogy's intrigue is fueled by the hidden history of the djinn world. Daevabad's citizens are still acting out feuds and alliances dating back to the magical city's earliest days. A misinterpretation of Suleiman's prophecy is the primary argument in support of the cruel but legal segregation of the half-djinn Shafit. It's a plot device that syncs nicely with the current moment, when information is increasingly politicized and there exists a growing call to address centuries-old systems of inequity. As in the real world, the thorny social ills of Daevabad have deep and tangled roots.
"You and I are not the worst of our ancestors. They don't own us. They don't own our heritage," Nahri tells Ali. The Empire of Gold finds them on a voyage of discovery, untangling their families' histories, and at last learning more about the ancient magical beings that have previously existed primarily in the margins of Chakraborty's magical lands.
It seems a tricky proposition to keep much of the mythos of a fantasy world occluded until the final installment of a trilogy, but Chakraborty makes it work — and work for her. The tension between what Nahri and Ali know and what they suspect about their ancestors — and the ancient god-like elementals with which they made pacts — works as a substitute mystery to the politics and palace intrigue that drove The Kingdom of Copper.
The Empire of Gold pays off all the promises made in the trilogy's first two novels. Where The City of Brass introduces readers to the world of djinn and The Kingdom of Copper complicates the morality and gives the characters greater depth, the final installment of the Daevabad Trilogy is a nonstop rollercoaster of reveals, magical action, and long-awaited reunions.