Goodreads: The Kingdom of Copper
Series: The Daevabad Trilogy #2
Published: January 8, 2019
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 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 maridthe unpredictable water spiritshave 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.
I noted in my review of The City of Brass that I primarily decided to pick up this sequel because of the final chapters of book one, where Nahri turns a moment of shame into a moment of defiance and notes that she “always smiles at her marks.” I was set to enjoy some incredible court intrigue full of scheming and power plays in The Kingdom of Copper, ready to watch Nahri come into her own and also see Ali decide where he stands: with his family or with the people. I was somewhat disappointed.
The Kingdom of Copper somehow managed to turn Nahri and Ali, the protagonists, into some of the least interesting characters in the book. Ali’s brother, sister, and mother were some of my favorite characters instead, people with depth and complex characterization. Queen Hetset seemed to be the only person who really had any idea of what was going on or what was at stake (I would have said that was true of Ghassen in the first book, but he kind of just becomes a caricature evil dictator in this book instead of a complex character trying to hold his country together while sometimes choosing between choices that are either “bad” or “worse”). I loved the cast of side characters–but it’s a problem that they outshine the main characters.
Nahri’s characterization was also a bit confusing here. There’s a five year gap between book one and book two that is largely glossed over (I guess not much of import happened) but which the author seems to be using as shorthand to describe some sudden changes in all the characters but Nahri in particular: she’s better at healing, suddenly believes in the religion of her people that she had no interest in during book one, and has developed a fierce loyalty to “her people” whom she was very distanced from in book one. Nahri’s fierce loyalty to people she didn’t even know existed for half of book one reads oddly here because readers don’t see it develop. She also develops strange, sudden attachments to people she didn’t care much about before based on new information she learns about them. (I realize that’s vague, but I don’t want to spoil the book.)
The main take-away here is that the characterization is lacking, particularly in Nahri, and Nahri is very passive, despite complaining at one point about being tired of scheming. She’s practically the only person in the book not doing much scheming at all. The plot sweeps along largely without her (and often largely without Ali). Things are interesting, but not in the way I expected or in the way book one hinted they would be.
I did finally feel as if the world building was starting to come together here, and I am less confused than I was during The City of Brass. I enjoyed the book and seeing what happened, and I care enough that I will probably read the third book and finish the trilogy when it’s released. I just think that the characterization for Nahri and Ali isn’t quite where I want it to be, in order for me to care about them in particular.