The Kingdom of Copper by S.A. Chakraborty. ★★★★
The Kingdom of Copper is an amazing follow-up to Chakraborty’s debut novel, The City of Brass. In fact, I may have loved it even more than the first book! If you haven’t read The City of Brass, please do so before reading The Kingdom of Copper. The rest of this review will contain spoilers for The City of Brass.
Five years after the events of The City of Brass, and Daevabad is in trouble. The shafit, those with human ancestry, are being treated worse than ever, and tensions between all major fractions are high. Plus, the city’s facing intense economic issues. Nahri’s now married to Muntadhir and living a highly constrained life, as her father-in-law barely ever allows her to leave the palace. Ali’s survived assassination attempts and has made a life for himself in a small, backwater village where his powers over water left to him by the marid possession of the previous book can mean life or death in the desert. Meanwhile… Dara’s back. He’s somehow been raised from the dead, and furthermore, restored to what the djinn were before Solomon’s Seal. And he’s not the only one who’s unexpectedly alive — so is Nahri’s mother, and she’s planning to reconquer Daevabad, no matter what cost.
I apologize for this, but I desperately need to get it out of my system — I hate Dara so much. So so much. When I saw he was back in Kingdom of Copper, I was like “urghhhh WHY.” I find Dara to be the possessive, alpha-male-character type who has all sorts of warning signs for abusive relationships and chockful of toxic masculinity. Also, he’s a literal war criminal, just throwing that out there. Frankly, he’s just the worst. But here’s the thing: the narrative knows Dara’s borderline abusive. While the narrative might have some sympathy for the horrible things that have happened to Dara, it doesn’t let them excuse the horrible things he’s done. I’m all here for stories holding shitty men accountable. But although this is my reading on Dara, a quick scan through Goodreads reviews reveals that I’m practically alone. Apparently, a lot of other reviewers really love Dara (this sometimes involves gushing about how “broody” he is)? And ship him with Nahri??? As much as I hate this, I guess it makes sense. So many stories treat abusive behavior as romantic (shout out to Naomi Novik’s Uprooted), so what I read as a deconstruction, other people might be reading as straight romantic. I guess it’s kind of like the Star Wars fans who ship Rey and Kylo. Yes, I did just call Nahri/Dara shippers equivalent to Reylo shippers. And I’ll stand by it.
Now that I’ve finished yelling about how we shouldn’t romanticize dudes down with genocide, let’s move on to another topic: just how freaking good The Kingdom of Copper is. I adored The Kingdom of Copper. I did not want to put this book down. Do you know how much self-control it took to put the book down to go to sleep or go to class??? So much. Also, I legit avoided people before class so they wouldn’t try to talk to me and interrupt my reading. I had to find out what happened! The plotting is just so exciting because you’ve got these multiple strands that are obviously all converging in the worst possible ways for our protagonists. It’s delightful.
The beginning of The Kingdom of Copper was a bit hard for me because I could remember so little from the first book. Mostly what tripped me up was remembering all the different divisions within Daevabad, but I figured it out eventually and was able to become really immersed from there.
Otherwise, what I loved about The Kingdom of Copper was also present in the first book: superb world-building, excellent writing, and characters I quickly grew attached to. Weirdly enough, I kind of like the idea of Nahri and Ali as a couple? That’s super unusual for me. I’m mostly more into fictional friendships than romantic relationships. I think it’s the whole Chaotic Good/Lawful Good dynamic they’ve got going.
Before I wrap up this review, let’s talk about queerness in The Kingdom of Copper! This series does acknowledge queer people exist and actually has two queer male characters who are in love with each other. One of whom is Muntadhir, Nahri’s husband. I was seriously scared that one of the two would die (this was a big fear in the first book too), and I am really hoping this series doesn’t involve queer tragedy. Spoiler: ( We keep almost getting a queer tragedy. Both with the ending of the last book, and some stuff in this one. Muntadhir was about to be fatally poisoned but got saved at the last minute. I really don’t know how I feel about how the narrative keeps edging up to queer tragedy because it stresses me out. ) On another point, I think Muntadhir may fall into the promiscuous bisexual stereotype. I guess my verdict on queer rep in this series would be that it’s not terrible but also not super great.
I’m really thankful I got the chance to read an ARC of The Kingdom of Copper (thanks specifically to Pam Jaffee at HarperCollins), and I can’t wait to read the third and final book in the trilogy. This is not a series you want to miss, and I highly recommend it!
I received an ARC in exchange for a free and honest review.