Review of The Daevabad Trilogy by S.A Chakraborty
I absolutely loved this series, beginning with the City of Brass, continuing with the Kingdom of Copper, and ending with the Empire of Gold.
Nahri, a thief from the streets of Cairo is sucked up into a mystical world, learning she’s from an ancient, deadly and enslaved line of healers known as Nahids. The story follows three key characters: Nahri, the Banu Nahida; Alizayd al Qahtani, one of the rulers of Daevabad, and the ancient slave warrior Darayavahoush e-Afshin, sworn to protect Nahri.
The people they interact with are mostly djinn, (fire elementals), where the marid are the water elementals, the peris are the air elementals, and humans are born from earth. To make matters more complicated, the djinn are split into several tribes, including Daevas, Geziri, Ayaanle, Tukharastani and Agnivashi, while shafit are half-human and often innocent victims, though they rely on 'human weapons' as guns make a continuous appearance as a counter against magic.
Nahri and Alizayd have a somewhat complicated history. Their families have been at odds since fourteen centuries ago when Dara was last alive. The war between the Nahids and Qahtanis left the Nahids all but destroyed, and the Qahtanis rulers of Daevabad. Their allegiances change and adapt as each work to achieve the best for the ones they love.
Nahri, Ali and Dara, along with an excellent and rich supporting cast, need to survive in this world brimming with magic and intrigue, dreaming of a better future for their people.
Spoilers abound below, beware!
Alizayd’s transition was one of the most impactful to me. His core tenet is his faith and unwillingness to change. He sees the world in black and white, and it takes a lot before he is willing to see it in shades of grey, and learns to accept others as they are, while still holding on to his faith. As someone who grew up in that kind of environment, it impacted me a lot. A lot of Tales of the Marked characters are deeply entwined with their faith—it makes them who they are.
I loved Nahri from start to finish. She seems to identify really closely with her background as an Egyptian. She’s proud and loves her people and country, but she also never forgets her history. Every time the phrase “Nahri always smiled at her marks” I wanted to cheer, as she is knocked down constantly, but she gets back up every time.
Dara, oh boy. He’s painted as a tragic hero, but I saw him the way that Nahri did. He’s at first a celebrated hero, but he’s twisted by his love for Nahri. He realises that it was an obsessive love and not worth celebrating, it was toxic, but he places his faith on the wrong side. He’s spent too much of his life as a slave, and torn piece by piece, with one foot in the grave permanently. But he was willingly blind when it counted, and caused so much chaos. In the end, he decided to chase the ifrit down to make amends and free any last slaves that he can. It’s a fitting end for the tragic warrior.
I thought the story dealt well with loss, political turmoil and what happens when you survive trauma. Eventually, you just get tired and want to be done with it, and do what makes you happy. I would have thought that Ali’s and Nahri’s burgeoning relationship would be more defined at the end of the book, but it seems strongly implied. I was also finishing it at midnight so may have missed it!
The Daevabad Trilogy is a refreshing and exciting series that kept me on the edge of my seat. I look forward to reading from S.A Chakraborty.