Genre : High Fantasy, Historical Fantasy
Date Published : January 22, 2019
Publisher : Harper Voyager
For my first ever book review, I chose S.A. Chakraborty’s The Kingdom of Copper. It is the second book in her Daevabad Trilogy, an epic fantasy series set in an alternate eighteenth century Egypt. I read the first book, The City of Brass, after my sister Mary loaned it to me, and I fell in love with it immediately. After finishing, I loaned it to my mom, and as soon as she was done, I took it back and loaned it to Emory. And then, to complete the circle, Emory gave it back to Mary this past Christmas in preparation for The Kingdom of Copper being released. So it was that kind of book – the kind of book that you pass around, shoving it into someone else’s hands while saying, “You have to read this!” And The Kingdom of Copper did not fail to make me feel the same way. I reached out to all the people I knew had read the first book and asked for their thoughts – I needed to talk someone about this amazing series that reminded me of all the reasons I love fantasy so much.
The book begins right where the story left off, using the same alternating POV form that the first book introduced. If, like me, you haven’t read The City of Brass since it initially came out, you may find yourself a tad confused/unable to remember some key world-building details. Luckily, Chakraborty includes a glossary of people and terms in the front and back of the book, which I highly recommend for refreshing your memory. It brings you up to speed on the history of the six tribes of the djinn, as well as the reigns of different rulers in Daevabad – ranging from the human prophet Suleiman (who used a magic seal to subdue and control the djinn) to the current ruler, King Ghassan, who, well, is not a nice guy, to put it frankly. Now, onto the book! (Warning for slight spoilers for The City of Brass).
Chakraborty immediately catches you up with our three main characters, Nahri, Ali, and (kind of a spoiler alert, but also not, since it was heavily hinted that he’d be back) Dara. But as soon as you get re-introduced to everyone, the book jumps five years into the future, forcing the reader to quickly adjust to the new (and very bleak) realities facing the characters.
After a failed escape that resulted in losing both her lover and her closest friend (with one ‘killing’ the other), Nahri has been forced to marry the crown prince Muntadhir, aligning herself with the royal family that de-throned her own. Every move she makes is under scrutiny, and this makes her desire to help and protect the Shafit (beings of both djinn and human ancestry, who are treated as less than second-class citizens) near impossible. But of course that doesn’t stop her from trying. Ali, who has been exiled for treason, finds a new home deep in the desert where he explores the mysterious and increasingly dangerous powers he gained at the end of the first book. Dara, who now has his own chapters, has been brought back by Manizheh (the original Nahid) to help train an army to take back Daevabad from King Ghassan. This puts him once again at odds with Ali – since, you know, he’s the exiled prince and all.
We see the characters grow in their individual plots, making new alliances and friendships with beautifully developed side characters that we only got glimpses of in the first book. The alternating POV form allows us to see how none of the original three characters seem to be on the same side when it comes to the future of Daevabad. This forces the reader to question who is right and who is wrong, while simultaneously wanting all of them to be happy. I’m still not sure who I was rooting for! The three plot lines can feel like a lot to keep up with, and at times it feels like Chakraborty keeps the main characters apart (and unaware of each other’s fates) for too long – but when their storylines finally converge after all the build up, the payoff is worth it.
“Rage ripped through her. And just like that, her magic was there. The smoky binds that had dared to confine her – her, in her own damned palace – abruptly burst apart, and Nahri inhaled, suddenly aware of every brick and stone and mote of dust in the building around her. The walls erected by her ancestors, the floors that had run black with their blood.” (Chapter 38, page 565)
Keeping with the theme of familial bonds and betrayals, as well as exploring colonization, genocide, and the racial and ethnic prejudices present in her first book, Chakraborty raises the emotional stakes even more in The Kingdom of Copper to bring out the best and, unfortunately, the worst in her characters. At almost 650 pages, there’s a lot to take in, and it can feel overwhelming at times, but what kept me turning the pages was how invested I was in all of the characters. Nahri, in a refreshing development, is learning how to play the game of politics that is always afoot in Daevabad. We see her start to come into the full potential she has as the Banu Nahida (the title bestowed upon the female healer of the Nahid), while also discovering the true strength of her magical abilities. Ali flounders at times, still showing a lot of the naïveté that Nahri has lost since the first book, but he is endearing and has come into his own in a way that I want to see more of. Dara is the wild card in this book, making the most questionable choices, and yet the emotional turmoil he experiences and his feelings for Nahri keep him from becoming entirely unsympathetic.
Chakraborty ends her second book with what might just be her most noticeable trademark – an agonizing cliffhanger that leaves readers needing the next book in their hands as soon as possible. But with the third and final book, The Empire of Gold, not hitting shelves until 2021, readers will have a long time to wait. My suggestion until then? Pick up The City of Brass if you haven’t already, and then grab The Kingdom of Copper as soon as you finish. The books don’t disappoint.
7.5 Suleiman Seals out of 10