S.A. Chakraborty’s Daevabad trilogy—The City of Brass, The Kingdom of Copper, and The Empire of Gold—is a rich, vividly imagined historical fantasy full of epic adventure, complex politics, and a long and bloody history of conflict between the human world and that of the djinn, most of which takes place in a magical city known as Daevabad. This story is beautifully written and densely plotted, mixing questions of faith, family, conquest, and identity in a tale that offers no easy answers or glib platitudes to the complex questions it raises. And the trilogy’s ending is fantastically bittersweet: deserved, and earned, to be sure, but full of both triumph and heartbreak.
The River of Silver takes us back to the world of Chakraborty’s Daevabad, offering an anthology of fifteen tales, snippets, prologues, and cut scenes that enrich the world of the novels, provide fresh new insight into many of the series’ characters, and give additional context for some of the events we’ve already seen unfold. Best of all, almost all of the entries focus on characters who are not Nahid heroine Nahri or her thousands of years old Afshin, Darayavahoush, allowing various supporting and background figures from the larger world of the trilogy to take center stage at last. (Though one the few that do, including Dara and Nahri’s initial journey through a human market to Daevabad and a scene from early in her marriage to the emir Muntadir, are two of the book’s best.)
The stories within The River of Silver vary in length and tone, and many (most?) are as deftly bittersweet as Chakraborty’s larger trilogy. Some fill in emotional gaps from the novels, while others feel almost as though they could be standalone adventures that just happen to take place in the same universe. And still more occur in the spaces between the books, giving us a glimpse at what happened to various characters during the breaks between each novel, detailing events that had only been previously referred to in throwaway lines of exposition.
Each segment is named after the POV character it focuses on and thankfully includes a brief explanation of where it fits in the timeline in relation to the rest of the trilogy and which, if any, of the three books it contains spoilers for. Not only is this an excellent tool for those that haven’t finished the primary books yet, but it’s also a good refresher for those that have read them about where certain characters are in their various emotional, political, or sometimes physical journies.
We see Hatset’s arrival in Daevabad, in which she meets a much kinder, more tender Ghassan, and begins to lay the groundwork for their marriage. (Which starts off far better than any of us probably would have predicted, particularly when contrasted with his vicious behavior toward others elsewhere.) A Manizeh chapter gives us a more intimate understanding of the fury that drives the former Banu Nahid. A Zaynab story finally allows the princess of Daevabad a POV of her own.
Relationships are another primary focus of these smaller tales—several of them focus on the complicated love story between Muntadir and Jamshid, the son of the Grand Wazir, and allowing us to see the POVs of both men adds new and complex layers to their bond. (We even get to see when they meet for the first time. There’s also a super sweet story about Nahri’s parents, the human Duriya and the Nahid Rustam, which may have been my favorite in the entire thing. And Nahri and Ali shippers will undoubtedly be over the moon about a couple of these extra scenes presented here.
Perhaps what’s most interesting about The River of Silver is the stories that work as standalone tales. A fairytale-ish installment sees Prince Ali rescue a missing girl from the bottom of a river and finds a kingdom frozen in time. In another, a pair of Royal Guard scouts discover a legendary figure in a cursed wood, in a story that offers a welcome exploration of some of the further reaches of the lands outside Daevabad and fills in an important hole in the story between The City of Brass and The Kingdom of Copper.
Three of The River of Silver’s stories are set post-The Empire of Gold, which help explain what several major characters (and fan favorites) are doing after the events of the trilogy and how they have each begun to heal from the trauma and pain they’ve experienced. A chapter called “An Alternative Epilogue to The Empire of Gold” is also a must-read for fans of the series, and while it is quite different from the original ending, it is also a strangely perfect conclusion in its own way.
Much, in the end, like the world of Daevabad itself. And if this is the last we see of Chakraborty’s wildly unique magical world, it is certainly a gleaming and precious gift.
Lacy Baugher Milas is the Books Editor at Paste Magazine, but loves nerding out about all sorts of pop culture. You can find her on Twitter @LacyMB.