- File Size: 6050 KB
- Print Length: 413 pages
- Publisher: Orbit (November 13, 2018)
- Publication Date: November 13, 2018
- Sold by: Hachette Book Group
- Language: English
- ASIN: B07B8J34CC
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Not Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #24,977 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Empire of Sand (The Books of Ambha Book 1) Kindle Edition
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- Book 1 of 2 in The Books of Ambha
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From the Publisher
"The best fantasy novel I have read this year. I loved it!"―Miles Cameron
"A brilliant debut that shows us a rich, magical world with clear parallels to this one: it has a sadistic leader with a cult-like following who warps the world for personal gain, a few individuals with the strength to resist him, and a planet seeking balance. But its core is a heroine defined by her choices, and her journey is absorbing, heart wrenching, and triumphant. Highly recommended."―Kevin Hearne
"Empire of Sand is astounding. The desert setting captured my imagination, the magic bound me up, and the epic story set my heart free."―Fran Wilde
"I was hooked from the moment I began Tasha Suri's gorgeous debut novel, Empire of Sand. Suri has created a rich world full of beautiful and powerful magic, utterly compelling characters, high stakes and immersive prose. I absolutely loved it!"―Kat Howard
"A darkly intricate, devastating, and utterly original story about the ways we are bound by those we love."―R. F. Kuang
"Tasha Suri's beautiful prose, with its undercurrent of warm tenderness, hides a web of escalating tension and existential dread. By the time the spider appears, Empire of Sand will have you in its grip and you won't be able to put it down."―Peter V. Brett
"This is the future of fantasy: rich, complex, unflinching. Empire of Sand is a stunning achievement."―Mark Oshiro
"Genuine, painful, and beautiful. A very strong start for a new voice."―Kirkus (starred review)
"Complex, affecting epic fantasy.... Intricate worldbuilding, heartrending emotional stakes... well-wrought prose."―Publishers Weekly (starred review) --This text refers to the paperback edition.
About the Author
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Tasha Suri’s debut novel Empire of Sand is a book influenced by the Murghal Empire without being a book about the Mughal Empire. It stands in its own universe of myth and lore. The world that she creates is very well realized, both epic in it’s scope yet is a personal journey. It’s use of magic is believable in not only that world but seems like it would have worked in ours a long time ago. The magic rituals seem to be based on Indian classical dances, mainly the Bharatanatyam.
Mehr is the privileged daughter of the Governor of Jah Irinah who serves under the auspices of not only the Emperor, but of the godlike Maha who is the real power behind the Ambhan Empire. His mystics pray for the fortunes and prosperity of the empire and or misfortunes of their enemies. Yet as privileged and sheltered as she is, she is an outcast in her own palace. her heritage is only half Ambhan as her mother was of a race considered barbarous, the Amrithi. Her mother, rather than let vows bind her to her father, she left to join her people out in the desert not to be seen again. Though Mehr is an outcast, her younger sister Arwa has been taken under the wing of Maryam, their step-mother. Yes, there is a (sort of) wicked step-mother. What mainly alienates her from everyone is that Maha still chooses to follow the ancient rites of her people such as ritual dances and the belief in daivas, djinn like creatures descendant from the gods.
It is not only beliefs but the power that manifests when she performs the ancient dances that draw the attention of the Maha’s mystics. They come to her father with an arranged marriage proposal. By tradition she has the right to turn down the proposal and her father advises so. but it is not a good idea to turn down the mystics, so to save not only her family’s honor but heir lives, she chooses to marry a servant of the Maha.
What will follow is the revelation of the truth behind the Maha’s power and his monstrous personality. Mehr’s journey becomes our journey as it is her point of view we follow except for a couple of brief chapters. Her journey is a personal one where she discovers the strength of the powers hidden within her rituals and power of vows that are truly binding. With all that going on, the foundation of the story and her motivations is a love story between her and Amun, the Amrithi man whose vows to the Maha and his mystics practically make him their slave.
Ms. Suri’s world building hints at a deeper and richer history than we are presented with. And that is a good thing. The illusionist’s best trick is leaving the audience wanting more. Since this is the beginning of a series (but the book can stand on its own) we can expect more of the mysteries of this world to open up on us. What we do get revealed to us is a world where the dreams and nightmares of sleeping gods can shape the very fate of an empire.
I cared a lot for Mehr’s struggles whether they be mundane ones or life threatening ones and found her to be a strong heroine who has to grow stronger as the world crumbles around her. There are moments of violence and physical abuse in the book that may be unsettling to some but it is never exploitative.
This is a highly readable book with relatable characters and I can’t wait to get to the next installment.
Current editions of Empire of Sand contain an interview with the author and a preview of the folow-up book Realm of Ash. I originally received an advanced copy through NetGalley but went ahead and purchased the book to suppor the author.
There are three elements of Empire of Sand that I can’t get out of my head: the characters, the setting, and the magic system. Mehr, our protagonist, is the daughter of the governor of Irinah who has led a somewhat sheltered life. In the midst of this sheltered life, however, she has developed a very strong character. She knows what is right and wrong and acts on those feelings even when it may not be to her benefit to do so. Because the vast majority of the book is from Mehr’s perspective we spend a great deal of time in her head but this doesn’t become tiresome. The character is very well written and it was easy to root for her. Sometimes, when a book is almost entirely in one character’s head, the side characters can feel flat. That isn’t the case in Empire of Sand. Suri has given us not only a main character we can relate to and hurt with, but an entire cast of characters with their own motivations and foibles. Each of them feels alive. In fact, this novel works so well because of the relationships between characters. Of course, the relationship between Mehr and various antagonists is important, but her relationships with various side characters are part of what makes this novel so achingly beautiful. In addition to the characters, the setting and magic helped me fall in love with this book. You won’t find castles and western feudal lords in this novel. Instead, it’s inspired by Mughal India. Suri has crafted a secondary fantasy world that really shines. Perhaps most impressive, the world and magic are linked in a way that helps both to come alive. The mythology of the world is linked into the magic system and vice-versa and it all comes together in a way that is complex without feeling overly complicated. I tend to enjoy novels where magic plays a large role in the plot and where the magic system is less mysterious and more scientific, so-called hard magic systems. In her debut, Suri has managed to craft a system that is fascinating and interesting, but still very much mysterious. I loved it.
There were few things that didn’t work for me in Empire of Sand. One of those few things, however, was that on a very few occasions I was frustrated by characters’ seeming inability to protag. Because of the plot, Mehr finds herself often reacting to events, rather than making events happen. There was a particular section of the novel when I felt the story would have benefitted from more agency for Mehr. This was especially irksome because everything else was executed so well. There were a couple scenes in particular when I grumbled in my head about this, but on each of those occasions I was quickly swept back into the narrative.
Alternatingly grim and hopeful, Empire of Sand is a novel that shouldn’t be missed. This is character-drive fantasy with epic stakes set in a fascinating and unique would that makes you ache for characters as you come to love and understand them. I am eagerly anticipating the sequel. 4.5/5 stars.
5 – I loved this, couldn’t put it down, move it to the top of your TBR pile
4 – I really enjoyed this, add it to the TBR pile
3 – It was ok, depending on your preferences it may be worth your time
2 – I didn’t like this book, it has significant flaws and I can’t recommend it
1 – I loathe this book with a most loathsome loathing
Top international reviews
The narrative follows Mehr, a young noblewoman whose mixed heritage imparts her with the power to see and interact with the mystical daiva, along with other, more impressive powers. After dancing a particularly powerful rite one night she is inadvertently brought to the attention of the Maha, the spiritual ruler of the Empire, and finds herself being coerced into marriage with one of the Maha's mystics.
This is very definitely fantasy on a small scale. Almost the entire narrative is told from Mehr's point of view, and while we do get hints of the bigger picture, we're mostly shown how the events affect the individuals. This is where the author's true strength lies, in showing us not only the individuals but also the world around them through their eyes. Suri breathes life into pretty much every character we meet in this novel, and she does it with some of the best writing I've seen in a debut novel in a long time. On top of that, her worldbuilding is exemplary, drawing inspiration from the Mughal Empire and throwing in a dance-based magic system and fully realised spirit world.
All in all I really loved this book. It feels like a standalone novel, though I know there's already a follow-on due out in November. There are definitely threads that could feed into a second novel, though I wouldn't be too disappointed if the major characters from this one don't make it into the next.
I'll be very surprised if Empire of Sand doesn't make it on to an award ballot or two this year and look forward to more from Tasha Suri in the years to come.
Mehr is the daughter of the governor of Irinah. Her mother abandoned her and her sister and they have lead a sheltered life in the governor's place, brought up by maids and their disapproving step mother. Married off to a mystic to please the Emperor, Mehr treks across the desert and finds her marriage vows have not only bound her to her new husband, but also to the leader of the mystics, for whom she must dance to control the Daivas and the dreams of the gods.
This is not your usual swords and sorcery fantasy, although there are some swords and some sorcery. The setting takes much from the Mughal Empire, and introduces a magic system based on vows, dance and blood.
Mehr's story looks at choices and freedom, as she tries to bend her vows while protecting her husband, and meet the expectations of soceity and family.
I would recommend anyone reads this book, its wonderful.