Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri
(The Books of Ambha #1)
Title: Empire of Sand
Author: Tasha Suri
Publisher: Orbit, Little Brown Book Group UK
Published Date: November 13th 2018
Length: 456 pages
Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Romance, Adult, Indian inspired, etc.
A nobleman’s daughter with magic in her blood. An empire built on the dreams of enslaved gods. Empire of Sand is Tasha Suri’s captivating, Mughal India-inspired debut fantasy.
The Amrithi are outcasts; nomads descended of desert spirits, they are coveted and persecuted throughout the Empire for the power in their blood. Mehr is the illegitimate daughter of an imperial governor and an exiled Amrithi mother she can barely remember, but whose face and magic she has inherited.
When Mehr’s power comes to the attention of the Emperor’s most feared mystics, she must use every ounce of will, subtlety, and power she possesses to resist their cruel agenda.
Should she fail, the gods themselves may awaken seeking vengeance…
Empire of Sand is a lush, dazzling fantasy novel perfect for readers of City of Brass and The Wrath & the Dawn.
There’s something about this book, it sneaks up on you when you are not expecting it to. The language is lush, it has such great characters and their stories are just….so freaking good. I was not expecting to love it as much as I did end up loving because the start was a bit slow for me. In that, I simply couldn’t read more than fifty pages in one go and that bothered me for a bit. However, once I hit about halfway through, I was racing through the book because by then, the characters, the stories and the writing has taken over me and I was just along for the ride. It is a beautifully written book about being mixed race, about faith and about having to live under oppression despite having a lot more privileges than many others and realising that, perhaps, there’s sometimes no solution but to go through the unpleasant present.
Mehr, a nineteen years old illegitimate daughter of a nobleman governor, is almost always looked down upon for being half Amrithi and half Ambhan. Her father shields her from the worst of it but her stepmother is always making sure that Mehr is very aware of the thin line between being a proper Ambhan woman and being a mixed race. Amrithi is a race of people who are said to be descended from daivas, who themselves descended from gods. However ever since the new religion and empire rose to fame, Amrithi people have been discriminated, exiled and persecuted for simply being Amrithi and following their traditions. However, Mehr is stubborn and still follows most of the rites and dances that Amrithi people revere and during one of the storms while she’s performing the rites, she’s found by Emperor’s priests and then, not even her father could save her from her fate. She’s married into the Maha’s way of life by being forced to marry another Amrithi, a man called Amun who’s bound to the new religion and god.
I’ll talk about the writing first, because, my goodness, the writing is so lush and beautiful. The fantasy was weaved in with the historical influences so well that I was surprised to find clues about the history. It was weird at first but in the best way possible. I think, the author writes in such a way that feels like nothing is happening on the surface but so many things are changing between chapters and so subtly that sometimes it took me by surprise because I just wasn’t expecting such subtlety. It’s not quite the purple prose, it’s simple and clean writing delivered in such a way that made me feel like I was reading something quite exquisite. I loved the way world-building and changes in perspective and realisations were written because they all happen so quietly that it just…takes you by surprise to realise that you have learning about this world all along.
The characters. Gosh, Mehr and Amun are written so well, their romance is done so brilliantly. I generally don’t take to romance but this one, I whole-heartedly supported because of the way it was written. Where Mehr is strong-willed and stubborn, Amun is caring and strong in his quiet way. Where Amun might not talk or was not able to talk, Mehr made it easier for him to reveal it slowly and easier. They had proper discussions, they talked. There wasn’t a moment where I felt that they were being frustrating and dumb or making all the wrong choices because they were in throes of love/passion. There’s trauma for them both of different kinds but they work through that, they have trust in each other and respect each other.
Overall, a quiet fantasy book wherein the characters actually talk to each other and romance is done quite well, a book that’s about choices, sacrifices and faith. I loved it and I can’t wait to read the next book based in this world.