Empire of Sand


Tasha Suri


Science Fiction / Fantasy


Date Reviewed:

August 23, 2020

mpire of Sand is a novel about a headstrong young woman named Mehr. She is the daughter of the governor of Irinah province, so Mehr has wealth and privilege. But she is also a half breed - her father is of the ruling Ambha bloodlines, but her mother was one of the Amrithi, an outcast culture of barbarians who, nevertheless, have magic in their blood. Mehr's true mother has walked away from the governor's mansion, and so her father married a proper Ambha woman, Lady Maryam. Maryam tries to make Mehr forget her ancestory and mold herself into a true Ambha, but of course Mehr's rebellious nature rejects this option.

Mehr clashes frequently with Lady Maryam, especially over the treatment of Mehr's younger sister Arwa. Even if Mehr refuses to adopt Ambha customs, Maryam is determined to raise Arwa "right". She can manuever to get Mehr banished from the governor's mansion if she doesn't conform, or have her married to a wealthy man in a distant part of the empire.

Mehr has been taught some of the dance rituals and sigils that the Amrithi use to control the magic storms that blaze through the desert. These storms are the dreams of the sleeping gods. Riding on the storms are magic creatures called daiva. The magic in the blood of the Amrithi will keep the daiva at bay - so at least Mehr has some useful function. Nevertheless, Mehr finds herself trapped, manuevered into accepting a marriage with a mysterious man named Amun who has come out of the desert with a party of mystics. The mystics serve the Emperor and the Maha, the two most powerful men in the empire, and so, although Mehr theoretically has the right to choose her spouse, in actuality she has no choice at all. Mehr soon is married and finds herself walking out into the vast desert with the mystics and Amun, headed for a secret oasis.

Most of this book is actually a romance in a fantasy setting. It concerns the interactions between Mehr and Amun, forced to marry, forced to work for the immortal Maha in his desert temple. The story is interestng enough, but this not an epic scale tale. Most of the story takes place at the oasis with a limited set of characters.

The world building has a lot of thought invested into it, and the story interesting enough that I finished the last few hundred pages in a weekend. But it seems like it takes along time for events to happen. Although I liked reading the story, I found myself thinking a few times - okay, let's go already! There is an awful lot of conversation between Amun and Mehr as they tentatively learn about either (and inevitably discover that despite the forced marriage, they actually love each other). Lots and lots time training in dance rites of the Amrithi so that they can control the storm of the gods as the Maha demands of them. The novel is 432 pages long, and probably could have been 100 pages shorter. I give it four stars, but I would hestitate to pick up the next book of Ambha - judging from the first book, it has the feeling of a long series without a lot of payoff (unless the reader is more interested in romance than fantasy adventure).