Kingdom of Copper, S.A. Chakraborty
Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Historical, Epic, Action & Adventure
Length: 625 pages
Contains: language, LGBT relationships, suggestive content, and violence
Summary: Nahri’s life changed forever the moment she accidentally summoned Dara, a formidable, mysterious djinn, during one of her schemes. Whisked from her home in Cairo, she was thrust into the dazzling royal court of Daevabad and quickly discovered she would need all her grifter instincts to survive there.
Now, with Daevabad entrenched in the dark aftermath of the battle that saw Dara slain at Prince Ali’s hand, Nahri must forge a new path for herself, without the protection of the guardian who stole her heart or the counsel of the prince she considered a friend. But even as she embraces her heritage and the power it holds, she knows she’s been trapped in a gilded cage, watched by a king who rules from the throne that once belonged to her familyand one misstep will doom her tribe.
Meanwhile, Ali has been exiled for daring to defy his father. Hunted by assassins, adrift on the unforgiving copper sands of his ancestral land, he is forced to rely on the frightening abilities the marid, the unpredictable water spirits, have gifted him. But in doing so, he threatens to unearth a terrible secret his family has long kept buried.
And as a new century approaches and the djinn gather within Daevabad’s towering brass walls for celebrations, a threat brews unseen in the desolate north. It’s a force that would bring a storm of fire straight to the city’s gates . . . and one that seeks the aid of a warrior trapped between worlds, torn between a violent duty he can never escape and a peace he fears he will never deserve.
In honor of Empire of Gold‘s release (finally), I give you the second installment of the Daevabad Trilogy recaps!
For more Daevabad info, check out my City of Brass recap or S. A. Chakraborty’s quick Daevabad world guide.
…and we’re back!
Remember how Ghassan kicked his little boy out of the kingdom and sent him into the Outlands? Well, assassins were after him within a month. He’s rescued from the desert by some Geziris, Lubayd and Aqisa. Apparently, he made a mini-oasis while he was passed out, so they want to keep him around.
Back in Daevabad, Nahri and Manizheh “celebrate” their wedding night by exchanging some terse civilities and not much else. Neither are particularly happy with the arrangement, but they’ll make the most of it.
Meanwhile, Dara enjoys a peaceful death with his sister until he’s rudely interrupted by a random woman and three ifrit. He’s been “freed” from Suleiman’s curse. He has unlimited magic but looks rather beastly. He also can’t go back into Daevabad because of it. Oh, and that woman who saved him? It’s Manizheh, Nahri’s not-so-dead mom. Surprise!
Alright, now that we’ve gotten the prologue out of the way and are all caught up, let’s get down to business. Navasatem is approaching and daeva are coming from all over because they wish to go to the festival. After all, it only happens once a century. In the middle of the hectic preparations, Nahri and Zaynab slip away and discover an old Nahid hospital where three former slaves–Issa, Eshaia, and Razu–have been hiding since Dara’s death. Like Dara, they have neither heartbeat nor signs of insanity. The discovery has helped Nahri find a new dream–she wants to restore the hospital to its former glory.
She shares her discovery with Nisreen who already knows all about the hospital and its awful history. It was the site of Zaydi’s first conquest. He led the Qahtanis and the shafit in the indiscriminate slaughter of healers and patients. The young and the old fell victim to zulfiqars and rumi fire, a tar-like substance created by humans that can burn Daevas. TL;DR – it’s a place best avoided. We also learn that Jamshid’s body resists Nahri’s healing and that the king is rounding up anyone who speaks out against his new taxes on Daevas.
Out in the middle of nowhere, Manizheh orders Dara to capture some Geziri soldiers. When he brings the hostages back to the camp, he finds Kaveh waiting. They are not happy to see each other, but they have to work together. They plan to attack during Navasatem and use the marid to get Dara into the city. He wants to involve Nahri in the planning, but he’s overruled.
Out in the other middle of nowhere, Ali has literally made a home of sorts with the Geziris in his oasis, Bir Nabat. Just as things are going swimmingly, Musa, a distant Ayaanle relative, appears bearing urgent news from the general–things in Daevabad are bad: crime is soaring, the Royal Guard can barely afford to feed its soldiers, let alone provision them with proper weapons, shafit are being sold on the block, and none of his immediate family members are coping with his excel well. (His mom’s started a trade war with the capital). Musa doesn’t take rejection well because when Ali refuses to join him on his journey to Daevabad, he sabotages the people’s well and flees, leaving his cursed salt behind. Literally. It’s cursed, so that only Ayaanle can handle it, and it’s a delivery meant for the king. So Ali’s forced to go back home or risk the wrath of his father (again). At least he’ll have Lubayd and Aqisa with him. Can somebody say, road trip??
Back to our lucky bird inside a gilded cage, Nahri catches a safit man stealing from her garden and learns there’s a doctor hiding in the city, treating patients. She manages to get a name and address — Subhashini Sen, the house with the red door on Sukariyya Street. She also spies on her husband and Jamshid arguing about politics and their relationship (or lack thereof). Awkward. Since they’re kinda bonding, Nahri decides to tell Muntadhir she’s got a dream. He quickly shoots it down saying tensions between the shafit and Daeva are too volatile for her to be thinking about working with them right now. Also because he dad just told him Ali’s coming home.
Dara begins preparing the young Daeva warriors Manizheh scrounged up from who knows where. He forces Abu Sayf, the oldest Geziri hostage, to spar with his little soldiers. He and Manizheh go on a little trip to visit the ifrit. They don’t take Kaveh with them because Ghassan’s daddy tortured her brother to punish her and it taught her to keep secret boyfriends secret. Apparently the peris have left the clouds to sing their warnings on the wind. They say the marid have overstepped. That they broke the rules and are to be called to account—punished by the lesser being to whom they owe blood. They owe Dara a blood debt for killing him (not really sure how that works, but okay,) and it’s time to pay. The ifrit tells Dara to kill a human marid worshiper to anger the seapeople and lure them out from their hiding place. He’s supposedly the only one who can do it without fearing retribution from the marid because of the blood debt and everything. At this point we learning that there’s power in worship and the marid have lost most of their fangirls. We’re also reminded that the marid used to be friends with the Anahid and helped the build the city which I’m guessing will be important at some point. Anyway, the angry marid appear and make the dead human look like the puppet Ali was when he killed Dara (apparently that was a “mistake” and they broke the rules). There’s some vague talk about history before they finally talk business. The marid’s mysterious talk pricks at Dara’s conscience, but he gets over that because the Nahid must be obeyed. The marid will let Dara cross their lake and take down the Citadel tower, and the blood debt will be paid. Speaking of the lake, Ali crosses it and hears voices. They deliver the salt just in time to see shafits being sold. Ali offers up his zulfiqar as payment and announces to the whole world Prince Ali is back. A bunch of his daddy’s guards come to greet him. One secretly lets it slip that many of the Royal Guard are still loyal to him. His brother is less happy to see him, but daddy sends him away. He gives Ali Dara’s dagger as a welcome home present and tells him to stay until Navasatem is over. He leaves him his zulfiqar, along with papers documenting the shafit sale. He goes to visit Nahri, giving her the dagger as a peace offering, but she’s still pissed. Her day goes from bad to worse when she tries to heal Jamshid and ends up in an argument with a drunken Muntadhir, leaving her feeling helpless and homesick. Ali, on the other hand, finally gets a genuine welcome home from his sister who takes him to see mother dearest. Queen Hatset is a scary lady, but at least she adopted the shafit family that keeps being sold and resold to the Qahtanis? She claims the Tanzeem conspiracy was the work of a cousin and that when she found out, it was off with his head. She lectures him about how to save the city and then realizes he has marid scars. He tells her the whole story, and she tells him her people only see these marks on corpses, so I guess he’s special. Hatset promises to help him hide his secret and find answers. After all, mother knows best. At his welcome home banquet, Ali gets poisoned. Nahri saves him, discovers Ali’s scars, and gets on Hastset’s good side. All in a day’s work. She and Ali have a little heart-to-heart. He tells her about his nightmare in the lake–including a vision of Dara returning into his true form.
Dara and Abu Sayf chat, and we get the vibes that something shady’s going on. Apparently Manizheh has been taking the captives blood and their relics. Dara is getting annoyed by all her secrets. The two men trade war stories tinged with regret.Nahri tricks Ali into taking her to the secret doctor who’s a shafit woman practicing human medicine. Nahri’s in awe and tries to recruit Subha to join her in restoring the hospital. She tells the two to get the king’s approval and some money and some plans before she’ll consider it. which makes sense because otherwise she and her family might, you know, die.
We learn that Ali’s secret poisoner was…drum roll, please…Jamshid! Apparently he found some of Manizheh’s old notes about poisons and was not happy Muntadhir was not happy with Ali’s return and here we are. Nisreen is the only one who’s discovered the truth and sends a message to Manizheh she’ll take the blame if Jamshid is discovered. The Nahid and Kaveh continue planning, leaving out they key details even though Dara is supposed to lead the charge or whatever. Ever the dutiful, honor-bound servant, he doesn’t ask too many questions even though all the alarm bells should be going off right now. He has a depressing chat with Kaveh about guilt and violence and love. Dara leaves thinking about the seemingly never-ending bloodshed and vows to end the war once and for all. At the Qahtani family breakfast, Ali and Nahri present their hospital proposal. Apparently one of the men there is an eccentric relative of Hatset (you know, that odd uncle who, well, maybe let’s let that pass). Their goal is to create a hospital-school combo. They manage to convince the king it’ll be a good show of support for the Daeva and the shafit. Everyone’s onboard except Muntadhir, but Nahri is beyond caring. They have a lot to do if they want to open by Navasatem, so she recruits an excited Jamshid as her first student, but Nisreen is not as excited. Nahri starts scoping out her hospital. Ali makes an allusion to a dark and tragic past before the massacre, but says Nahri is better off not knowing. That seems to be the theme for the book.
Dara decides they’ll stage their attack on the second night of Navasatem, hoping most of the city will be too hungover to respond. The Geziri must sense they’re running out of time because the Abu Sayf decides to try to stage a jailbreak. He manages to kill Mardoniye before he’s stopped. Manizheh calms the angry Afshins by letting in on her little experiments. She’s been trying to perfect the poison Jamshid’d found. It’s attracted to Geziri relics, grows upon consuming them, and kills its bearer. She uses Abu Sayf as an example and the men watch him die a painful death. It also kills the rest of the captives. Dara and Kaveh are a little weary of Manizheh’s ruthlessness, but the show must go on. The Grand Wazir leaves to get things ready back in the city, when Dara realizes the poisonous vapor has stretched as far as the eye can see. He goes to talk to his master who already knows. Apparently she’s been trying to find a way to contain it and make it less powerful, but they’re out of time and she still doesn’t have an answer. Oh well. She doesn’t seem too bothered by the fact that she’ll probably kill every Geziri in city by trying to kill their king. Angry, Dara tries to stop Kaveh from releasing the poisonous gas, but Manizheh blackmails him into staying. Also, Jamshid is her secret son, and Dara kinda, sorta almost killed him.
Ali and Lubayd go to shut down the shafit selling business and then find out it was run by Muntadhir’s cousin. Unfortunately, the awkward confrontation is also a public one. No warm fuzzies for these brothers. Muntadhir tries to drown his sorrows in alcohol, but nothing helps. Since he’s out of commission, his siblings go with Nahri to Daeva Quarters to present their plans to restoring the hospital. Jamshid helps Nahri convince the elders to support her new dream.
Ali and his mom go to visit crazy uncle Issa to pick his brain about the marid. The marid asked for his name so they could make a pact:
“If a marid accepts your sacrifice, you’re brought under its protection. And they’ll give you almost anything you could desire during your mortal life. But in the end? The acolyte owes their lifeblood. And the marid possess them to take it.” His eyes swept over Ali. “You don’t survive such a thing.”
Be careful what you wish for. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have much information about Ali’s newfound water
bending abilities. Hatset admits “a very slight affinity with water magic” runs in the family, but it usually goes away when the child reaches their teenage years, kind of a reverse puberty. Hatset promises to give Issa all the scrolls she can find in exchange for answers.
Ali then goes to bond with the other side of the family. Ghassan tells his oldest to hurry up and make some babies to secure the peace between the Geziri and the Daeva. Just when you think things couldn’t get any worse, a Daeva woman comes begging for help. She claims the shafit camped outside the hospital killed her husband. Ali suspects she’s in cahoots with Kaveh, but he’s overruled by the other two who tell him to leave it alone. He drags Nahri into the mess and the two go to the hospital where they find tents burned to the ground and bodies everywhere. Nahri and Subha heal the shafit. Ghassan punishes Ali for his disobedience by grounding him. He has to stay in the hospital to continue the work and can only communicate with Nahri using a messenger.
Emo Dara prepares for battle. He gives a rousing pep talk to the younguns even though he doesn’t really support the plan. (He doesn’t even have a girl worth fighting for anymore). He overuses his magic in his “mortal” form and tries to transform into his “true” state when…
The heat came … but it wasn’t fire that wrapped his limbs. It was an airy whisper of nothingness.
And then Dara was gone. Weightless. Formless, and yet more alive than he’d ever been. He could taste the buzz of an approaching storm on the air and savor the comforting heat from the campfires. The murmur of creatures unseen seemed to call to him, the world glimmering and moving with shadows and shapes and an utter wild freedom that urged him to fly …
He can fly, he can fly, he can fly, he can fly. It’s the best feeling ever. He wants to float away and never come back, but he remembers Manizheh’s threat and the need to protect Nahri in case the plan goes wrong and returns to earth. He learns that that is the daevas true original form. He has a chat with Vizaresh, the irfrit who enslaved him centuries ago, who hints that there’s more to their history than what’s commonly taught. Supposedly, Suleiman’s curse wasn’t just punishment for playing with the humans and the marid have their own version. He alludes to bargains and debts and marids jealous for worship, but Dara isn’t clever enough to put the pieces together. Dara broods some more and thinks about how he doesn’t belong in this world.
Our prince locked away in a
tower hospital gets a surprise visit from an old Tanzeem leader. She tells him his father murdered shafit orphans while he was away. She tries to guilt him into telling everyone about the hospital’s secret past. Big Reveal™ time!
Once upon a time, the Nahid Council built a hospital where they experimented on shafit and created a poison. They put the poison on their Geziri soldier’s weapons and sent them on their merry way. What was this poison you ask? It killed shafit but not purebloods. The soldiers went home to their shafit-filled city and accidentally killed their family. The end.
Ali claims he’s tired of the neverending vengence, but the old lady says she’s simply come to warn him that there are rumors that a group of shafit–even more radical than the Tanzeem–are planning to attack during Navasatem. He tries to warn his dad who says he’ll tell the Qaid, but doesn’t comit to much else. Apparently father dearest is torn between declaring him heir to the throne and having him executed. Poor unfortunate soul. The solution he’s come up with is to send Ali back to Am Gezira after the festival where, after renouncing his titles and cutting ties with the Ayaanle, he can spend the rest of his days living the poor provincial life. It’s what he’s always wanted. Too bad Ali’s just learned his father is a tyrant who needs to be taken down. He decides it’s time to rest when he has a vision through the eyes of the marid. He sees daeva swarming a beach, led by Anahita, a so-called healer who stole the marid’s human worshippers. She’s somehow able to speak their language and has a star symbol burned into her cheek. She burns up their water and builds an island, commanding them to help build her city and forcing them to into a small lake. Apparently, Ali is seeing everything through the eyes of the god of the river of salt and gold. He wants to fight back but tentacles pull him back, telling him to hide and find a way to save the marid because they davea are coming back. Lubayd and Aqisa wake Ali up from his nightmare. Apparently, they’ve known about his little secret since they found him, but they’ve kept quiet because they’re not things to be discussed. Aw, frands.
Happy Navasatem! The big day is finally here. For the first time in forever, they’re opening up the hospital doors. She and Ali bond when he gifts her with a
library office. He tells her about the threat (which the king conveniently forgot to mention) and about his impending banishment and his treasonous thoughts.
Ghassan tells him he’s planning to marry Zaynab off to a wealthy merchant who lives an ocean away. The news is a surprise to Muntadhir, too, but Ali can’t keep his big mouth shut and accidentally insults him too. He challenges Ali to an archery competition and publicly humiliates him. It’s more than he can bear, really, because as soon as they’re alone, they get into a fist fight. Their sister stops them before they can kill each other. The siblings argue about how to save the city when Ali suggests overthrowing the king. Unfortunately, Muntadhir tells them that’d require getting Suleiman’s seal which is in his heart.
Nahri is being paraded around dressed as Anahid when shafit men attack using guns and bottles of Rumi fire. Jamshid’s back gets burned badly and magically heals before their eyes. Nahri uses her magic to summon sand to put out the Rumi fire. Nisreen dies before she can tell Nahri something. Ali tries to comfort her, but she sends him away so he goes to the Citadel. The Qaid is gone, but the soldiers tell Ali he’s troubled by the king’s orders to destroy the shafit neighborhood even though the shafit behind the attack were found dead. He stages a mini-mutiny (there are only like three soldiers who aren’t loyal to him) and commands the rest of the guards to keep the peace.
Kaveh rushes to find his son and Nahri because “Muntadhir collapsed,” but they’re stopped by the Qaid and royal soldiers who have orders to take Nahri and Kaveh in chains and bring Jamshid with the soldiers.
Ali is faring much better and manages to get a Geziri to sing his song — Ghassan al Qahtani asks that you abide the slaughter of our shafit kin / Zaydi al Qahtani asks you to stop it. Before he can celebrate his victory in the Citadel, the lake turns into a giant monster.
Ghassan’s discovered Kaveh faked the shafit attack on the Daeva man and accuses Nahri of encouraging Ali’s coup. That’s when he decides to spill the big secret–he’s known about Manizheh’s secret son all along. Apparently the seal helps him see a shadow of Suleiman’s mark on every Nahid. Surprise! He’s using Jamshid as leverage to try to get his father to confess he’d faked the camp attack and armed the shafit who attacked the parade and his sister as Ali bait. Since they’re running out of time, Kaveh releases the poison and kills Ghassan. Long live the king.
Muntadhir comes to save his wife, but it’s too little too late. Nahri manages to push him out of the way and convinces him to take out his relic before the poison kills him too. They run away from Kaveh in case he tries to kill them too and go off to look for Muntadhir’s siblings, warn the other Geziri, and find Jamshid. It’s gonna be a long night. They manage to find Zaynab and Aqisa and give them a cliffnotes update. They’re going to go warn more Geziri (apparently Aqisa has been giving Zaynab secret fighting lessons), and the royal couple decides to go back for the seal.
For the second time, Ali wakes up in the middle of the lake during a climatic scene. This time there are ghouls flying around and bodies everywhere. He rounds up what’s left of the soldiers and gives a rousing speech before they set off into battle. Ali uses his magical water powers to help him fight through the attackers. He sees an ifrit murder Lubayd, and then runs into Dara. Reunited and it feels so good.
Dara finds out Ali killed dozens of his best men and loses control, revealing his true form. Before another Qahtani can be killed, Vizaresh convinces Dara to take the path of vegence and is about to make Ali a slave when Dara comes to his senses. Unfortunately, that’s also when Nahri and Muntadhir come to save the day. (They were actually coming for his father’s heart so the seal could form into a ring and trap Muntadhir in the city forever, but they find this happy little scene instead). Nahri attacks Dara, thinking it’s an ifrit trick, until he manages to convince her it’s really him. It’s a terribly awkward reunion.
“The things they say about you are true, aren’t they?” she asked, her voice thick with rising dread. “About Qui-zi? About the war?”
She wasn’t sure what she expected: denial, shame, perhaps overly righteous anger. But the flicker of resentment that flared in his eyes—that took her by surprise.
“Of course they are true,” he said tonelessly. He touched the mark on his brow, a grim salute. “I am the weapon the Nahids made me. Nothing more, nothing less, and apparently for all of eternity.”
With his usual poor timing, Ali chose that moment to speak. “Oh, yes,” he croaked from where he sat on the floor, leaning heavily against his brother. His gray eyes were wild with grief, standing out starkly against his blood-covered face. “You poor, pitiful murdering—”
Muntadhir clapped a hand over Ali’s mouth, but it was too late.
It’s too late because the marid take control of his body again. Dara uses his magic to stop Nahri from interfering, and there’s going to be a big fire-and-water showdown. Muntadhir throws himself between the battle to save his brother and gets hit by a zulfiqar and Nahri uses her magic to stop Dara from killing anyone else. Muntadhir sends his wife and brother to get the seal and distracts Dara with some arrows.
While they’re busy fighting over who should wear the ring/take Suleiman’s seal, Ali and Nahri are interrupted by Manizheh who’s like “surprise! I’m your mom!” She then begins torturing Ali for information on the seal. She claims Nahri is a shafit, and the seal’ll kill her if she tries to take it even though Suleiman was a human. Nahri uses her old con artist skills to pull a bait and switch on her mom, frees Ali, jams the ring onto his finger, and pulls him into the lake with her. (Apparently the marid are gone now).
Also, the Daeva can’t conjure up fire, Muntadhir’s wound stops leaking poison, the sky is falling, and Daevabad has no more magic anymore.
Just kidding, there’s an end credits scene.
Nahri and Ali wake up in Cario, and now we all have to wait until we can get our hands on book 3.
Heavily or totally inspired by the words of S.A. Chakraborty