Book Review: The Kingdom of Copper by S.A. Chakroborty

It’s a little impossible to describe this book without spoiling it, but I’ll try my best to do so. The Kingdom of Copper is the second installment in the Daevabad Trilogy and must be read in line with the first, The City of Brass. Believe me when I say, it is somehow bigger and better than the first book. The writer has managed to take all the thing I loved – the world building, the power games, the history, magic and folklore – and spun it into a story that evolves at a nerve-racking speed.

The prologue picks up sometime after the events of The City of Brass but then immediately jumps five years in the future. Daevabad has taken a turn towards the worst. The economy is suffering, the king appears to be much more crueler and the power play a lot more complicated. Given the condition of the shafit and the prejudices of the surrounding djinn tribes, it doesn’t take much to connect the scenes with modern day refugee crisis. It’s a classic scenario of the rich getting richer and poor struggling to meet ends. Historical irony is another recurring theme of this novel and there’s a continuous build of events that portray how the ruling class have lost their way and forgotten the very people – reason – for whom they came to the city. The Geziri’s supposedly invaded to save the shafit’s from Nahid’s atrocities and while they succeeded militarily, emotional, political and cultural biases very much remain. Again, like book one, very much similar to modern day Middle East crisis.

Our three main characters – Dara, Nahri and Ali – have had some major setbacks and upgrades in their life and while they’re still very much the same people we left in book one, their character development is both, dramatic yet believable.

Nahri is now married to Muntadhir, the undeserving heir to the Daevabad throne. Five years of political marriage and emotional blackmail have taken their toll and she’s a lot more pragmatic and guarded. She also understands both, power and the consequences of it and thus, is willing to play the game but not without learning all odds. Hence, we see her much better equipped for the position she currently holds in the Daevabad, and willing to compromise to gain favors. She’s still in love with Dara – a fact I have a hard time digesting – but she’s not immune to Ali’s charms, either.

Ali has been forced into exile but due to seriously mysterious magical capabilities – courtesy of the aftermath of events of book one – is now doing what he does best, helping people. Five years of running from assassins have taught him a lot and the young, naive prince is not so naive anymore. That being said, his brave recklessness is still very much a part of him which puts his relationship with his siblings, one of the major highlights of this series, at crossroads. As the story progresses, we see these bonds evolve and shape, affected by the seeds of resentment and anger have taken a hold inside Ali.

Dara is back from the dead – again – and enslaved by none other than the women we were waiting to meet, Banu Manizeh. One added bonus this book has over the first one is that we get chapters from Dara’s POV, albeit less in number than Ali and Nahri and oh, that was mighty fine with me. Having seen the world through his mind, my previous grievances with this character have considerably lessened but it will be a long time before I can say I love him. That being said, I did enjoy reading the conflict of his conscience and the way his character sort of portrays Ali’s in a way that both of them were raised to be weapons for people in power- Dara for the Nahid’s and Ali for his brother.

The three characters spend a better part of the novel separate from each other – though Nahri and Ali meet up a lot sooner – and represent the three major plot lines of this book: Nahri working towards rebuilding an ancient Nahid hospital, Ali trying to salvage his relationships and bring justice to the city, and Dara building an army with Manizeh to attack Daevabad. Added to this mix are countless other secondary characters and their own political and emotional agendas and grievances. I kid you not when I say the action doesn’t stop and I was forced to take a break between chapters just to absorb the events and keep my alliances straight. Thankfully, there’s a neat little appendix at the end to help you if you get lost in the names.

I have to say, the politics of Kingdom of Copper is a lot more nuanced than I expected it to be. The conflicts between the tribes appear more real, tangible, historical baggage crisscrossed with concepts of political motivations and divine will. The world of Daevabad appears a lot bigger, the secrets more dangerous and the relationships more complicated, so much so that its hard to keep track who knows what and who supports who. However, despite so many characters, the writer does not take the easy way out and makes it decidedly difficult to resolve who stands on the higher moral ground between right and wrong, so major points for that. There’s also a lot more humor in this one than book one, and also a lot of deaths – I’ve been mourning one favorite secondary character, hence the delay in writing this.

I can’t very well end this review without paying homage to the magic because, oh my God, the magic of this world is beyond fantastic. For one, the architecture of the royal palace and hospital is sort of, well, alive. It responds to certain characters from a particular bloodline! Then there’s the Sulemaniya Seal and the marids and djinns and it’s enough to fill any magic lover’s heart.

The Kingdom of Copper is a fast-paced fantastical read I thoroughly enjoyed. The last five chapters alone had me sitting on the edge of my couch, biting my nails and praying. Though be warned, the book ends on a cliffhanger of sorts with the fates of many characters hanging in the balance. Which is why I wish it was 2020 already because that’s when the third book comes out. I know I’ll be first in live for it!

Rating: Spectacular 5/5

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