I listen to a lot of audiobooks (really, a LOT), so I’ve been thinking of starting a weekly feature specially for books that I enjoyed listening to.
Last week, I finished this series on audio. I have a tendency to drag out my reading of book series, but not with this one: I listened to the first book in February, immediately put the second on hold at the library and listened to it in March, and then waited patiently for the release of the final book in June. If I am compelled to read a whole series, especially a fantasy series, this quickly, it’s usually something special for me.
Book 1: The City of Brass, 2017 Harper Audio. (~20 hours) Goodreads
My gorgeous Book of the Month hardcover of this book had been on my shelf since it was published, so naturally I listened to the audiobook 2+ years later. This is just how I roll.
I had immediate heart-eyes for this book. Really well-written fantasy with amazing world building and great characters (more on them later in this post). This first book is labeled as YA on Goodreads, but I didn’t roll my eyes at all, so not sure YA is accurate labeling. 😉
This book has djinn, folks. Flying carpets. Magic. An actual Prince Ali. Political intrigue, societal issues, and tons of backstory. It was long, but I was hooked. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Book 2: The Kingdom of Copper, 2019 Harper Audio. (~23 hours) Goodreads
Sometimes in a fantasy trilogy, the second book can be disappointing. Not so with the Daevabad series. This book was a really strong follow-up to The City of Brass… My heart-eyes love affair with Chakraborty’s world and the characters in it continued.
The writing is very strong, and the action and political intrigue don’t let up. I didn’t quite love it as much as the first book, but I think that was likely due to not enough Dara/Nahri togetherness. I can be fickle sometimes. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Book 3: The Empire of Gold, 2020 Harper Audio. (~29 hours) Goodreads
It took me a day or so after finishing the trilogy to gather my thoughts and write a last review. I loved this series, including The Empire of Gold. As I noted previously, the world-building is incredible, and Chakraborty’s blending of Arabic mythology with fresh fantasy and lots of political intrigue makes for addictive listening. But the best part of the series for me was definitely the characters.
Nahri is a perfect heroine: she has a mysterious, lonely back story as an orphan on the streets in the ‘human world’ of Egypt, and is suddenly swept into the magical world. She’s a gifted healer in both worlds (some of my favorite scenes were Nahri learning her medical skills), and she’s a badass magic wielder. She’s independent and tough and does what needs done, but she’s still relatable as a human who is conflicted and sometimes has trouble making decisions.
I wasn’t crazy about Ali in the first book, but he grew on me in the second and became a strong favorite in this last book. He’s the perfect good guy, best friend, younger brother. He’s got his own conflicts, but he led by his faith and his desire to good for all. Every good fantasy series needs an Ali.
Then there is Dara; the quintessential tragic character who has lived thousands of years of enslavement, loneliness, and brutality as a hated, feared, and abused djinn. He definitely had the most character development throughout the series, and his arc broke my heart over and over.
The supporting cast of characters are all well-drawn as well; the baddies are really bad. You feel for the various peoples of the magical world.
As much as I was hoping for a different ending for one character in particular, I am a grown-up woman and I can appreciate that Chakraborty ended this fantastic series the ‘right’ way. For much of this book, it felt like a 5-star read for me, but ultimately I gave it 4, only because these books are all so long (and get longer as they go along), and because I didn’t get my ideal ending. Yes, it’s all about me. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
The narrator for the whole series on audiobook is Soneela Nankani, and she is masterful. Nankani does a great job differentiating the voices of the three main POV characters as well as the supporting characters and her reading style really brought the story to life. I felt like I was watching a gorgeous, colorful movie in my head. Her well-paced reading of the book kept me interested. With super long books like this, I often find that a good audio production helps keep me from giving up, and I appreciate that: the narration of all three of these books definitely helped the story flow for me.
I especially loved Nankani’s pronunciation of the mythological names and Arabic words. Maybe someday I will stop saying ‘Darayavahoush’ in my head for no apparent reason, but I’m fairly certain that won’t be for a while.
I enthusiastically recommend this series to anyone who appreciates intricate fantasy worlds with politics galore. Although the first book was billed as YA, I do not consider these books to fit that label at all. They are sophisticated and magical, and a true delight to listen to on audio.