I can’t believe that it escaped my notice that Empire of Gold had been released. How did that even happen? I gave City of Brass five stars (review here) in 2018, and then the following year Kingdom of Copper made my Best Books of 2019 list. And yet somehow I didn’t pre-order Empire of Gold or even realise that it was available. Obviously I rectified that as soon as humanly possible and cracked it open the second it landed on my doorstep… but was it worth the excitement!?
Plot summary for The Empire of Gold:
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.
Star rating for The Empire of Gold: I HAVE NO IDEA.
This is going to be a profoundly unhelpful review, I’m afraid. If this post were a gif, it would just be me shrugging my shoulders with a confused expression. I have such opposing feelings about Empire of Gold that I doubt this will be in any way informative so, to try and drag some order into this, I’m going to separate this into two sections:
Positive thoughts about The Empire of Gold:
- Oh my God, the effort that has gone into these books. The author has posted a list of her references and inspirations here, and it’s astounding. It shines through into the prose and it’s very evident (in a good way) where the nods to different cultures have affected the story.
- Possibly at least partly due to the above, the world-building is incredible. I must have mentioned this in my The City of Brass review. I have never read anything that even comes close to the amount of detail provided about Daevabad and the other communities Djinn. The hierarchies, backgrounds, alliances, etc, are all explained in meticulous detail. I don’t know how much of it is ‘borrowed’ from pre-existing sources, but it doesn’t really matter. These places practically jump off the page. You can pretty much smell the insense.
- All the main characters have grown and developed over the series – Nahri, Ali, Dara, etc. Whilst the focus of the books are definitely on the story and the settings, this is not at the expense of the characters. They are flawed and damaged, but ultimately realistic and likeable.
- The writing is lovely. Descriptive, but not overly so – it doesn’t half the flow of the story, and you don’t get bogged down in flowery descriptions of paving stones. Well, not too much. The dialogue is not clunky or stilted, and there are no gaping plot holes that I noticed; and that’s a feat with a plot that this level of complexity.
Negative thoughts about The Empire of Gold:
- I JUST DIDN’T LIKE IT, OKAY!? I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I’m aware of all the (truthful) positive points I have outlined above and I can objectively see that Empire of Gold is a good book. But when I look back, I gave City of Brass five stars, then four stars to Kingdom of Copper… and if I’m honest, I really want to give Empire of Gold three and a half. I was looking forward to this book so much, but I just couldn’t really get into it.
- I think one of the biggest sticking points for me was that I didn’t know what was going on half the time. There’s no recap and it is not an easy book to jump back in to when it’s been a year since you read the last book. I read a third party summary of the last book, which helped a little, but some gentle reminders wouldn’t have gone amiss.
- However, even halfway through Empire of Gold… I still struggled to follow. If you asked me to outline the plot now, only four days later, I’m not actually sure I could. Perhaps I was particularly stupid last week; it’s very possible this is my failing and not the author’s. However, there’s no getting around the fact that I had to keep rereading paragraphs, bit by painstaking bit, to try and make any sense of it.
- It’s too long. Way too long. I got to the point where I just wanted this to be done, so I could move on to something else. I felt very bogged down in the complex plot, and I started to really not care what happened, so long as something did.
See? Unhelpful. I did warn you. In short, Empire of Gold had everything required to make it a very good book indeed. Except I somehow didn’t feel that it was, and can’t explain why.
I’ve been reviewing books on this blog for ten years and this is the best I’ve got. You’re welcome everyone.