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…
I have had this book on my shelf for quite a while – it has been recommended to me a few times, but I never really got around to it for whatever reason. On a whim, because I am such a mood-reader, I decided to pick it up for a quicker read, and I am so glad I did.
I can’t remember the last time I read a book so quickly. I started it, read 50 pages, read another 50 pages the next evening, and then finished the rest of the book on the third day. This book pulled me in and would not let me go, kept me intrigued until the very end, and did not disappoint with the ending. Tasha Suri has managed to write a masterful example of characterisation, with a plot that keeps you engaged throughout.
We follow Mehr, the daughter of the Governor of one of the Emperor’s domains who gets pulled in to a life and a world in which she has little to no power. Mehr is a wonderful character. She is bold and willful, and fights at every turn to remain herself in a situation that wants to change her. It was truly inspiring to read from the perspective of a character who, when faced with a power she cannot beat and a task she is forced to perform, fights tooth and nail to keep a semblance of choice. The story of Mehr just made me feel so much, made me root for her and cheer her on as she fights to find a way out of an impossible situation.
When Mehr is taken away by the Emperor’s followers she meets Amun, and their relationship is at the centre of this story. Forced together by circumstances, they slowly grow together and get to know one another, and then realise what a power their relationship has. Amun is a character that broke my heart; he is beaten down and slightly broken but has such strength despite all that has happened to him. Reading these two characters slowly become comfortable in each other’s company was heartwarming, and it was done perfectly. Every new level of comfort felt earned, every piece of themselves that they shared with the other was brilliantly done.
Mehr and Amun were not the only reasons why this book grabbed me and would not let me go. The world in Empire of Sand is so memorable, and one of the strengths of Suri’s writing is the setting and the land. From the houses and atmosphere of Jah Irinah, to the journey and time spent in the domed temple, to the way the sand and skies are woven into the story, I was entranced. The world is an example of what fantasy does best; transport you to another land and make the journey there as magical as the story itself.
Empire of Sand is as magical as it is clever. Each twist is a new shock, each new character introduced is important. The story is painful, heartbreaking, and is such a fascinating exploration of consent. It is instrumental not only to the magic Mehr is asked to perform but also a fundamental part of her relationship with Amun, the only person with whom she shares this magic. Suri’s debut is just wonderful in every sense, and I can’t wait to read more from the author. A wonderful romance fantasy novel, and a wonderful reading experience.