The Kingdom of Copper by S.A. Chakraborty

I received an ARC of this book from the publishing company HarperCollins in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Here’s my review for the first book of the series, The City of Brass.

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 Daevabadand 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 family and 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.

To say that The Kingdom of Copper doesn’t suffer from a sophomore slump would be a hell of an understatement. This sequel took everything I loved in The City of Brass and turned it up: more magic, more characters complexity, more political plays, and also, more heartbreak.

In this new book, we’re back to Daevabad, where Nahri was defeated and forced to marry the elder son of her enemy, her Afshin taken from her. Defeated but never broken; even after bitter disillusionments, the young woman is always ready to fight for what she believes in. Her role as a healer and as a guide to her tribe is not always an easy one, and we see her struggle to make the right choices under the watchful eyes, and oppressing thumb, of Daevabad’s king. Nahri gave us a few epic Classic Nahri moments which were my cue to scream, “YES YOU GO GIRL”.

We’re also back to Prince Ali, who was most certainly not in his family’s good graces after the tumultuous ending of The City of Brass. The exiled prince grew on me as a character. He also served us some very typical Ali-ness, which made me groan, but never in annoyance. I was expecting him to grow, and he did, while keeping his signature mix of fervour and naivety that makes him such a compelling character. Ali has now to contend with openly hostile family members and dark, unpredictable powers.

And this time we have a third point of view, Dara’s. I… don’t understand what was wrong with me to be so taken with this character in TCoB. I blame the green eyes? In this new book, the Afshin did his best Mitchell and Webb impression with a beautiful rendition of “are we the baddies”. With enough angst to make both Jon Snow and FitzChilvalry Farseer go “daamn, son”, he tried to justify his less palatable actions with his blinded devotion to a long-gone ideal. To be completely fair, nothing like a few centuries of slavery to screw with your moral compass, but Dara is definitely edging closer and closer to the dark side of the force.

At its heart, The Kingdom of Copper is about good and justice and loyalty, and how difficult it is to reconcile these values. Can revenge really be called justice? Or “Will the blood we shed begin an endless / Cycle of vengeance and death with no defendants?”, to quote Lin-Manuel Miranda? For centuries, Daevabad stewed with prejudice and hatred, and this sequel shows us what the simmering point looks like.

This new book was often grim and cruel. We got to see new players coming in, notably an antagonist who is threatening to wreck havoc in the already on-edge City of Brass. Surprising reveals are made. And the ending, just like with book 1, left me dizzy and entranced. I want more, but I’m also afraid of what Chakraborty will do next to her enchanting world and endearing characters.

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