“Some Men Believe there’s no greater immortality than blood” the daiva observed. “even when they die, as they must, they hope their blood will survive.”
Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri is a Mughal-India inspired fantasy novel. The novel focuses on the main character of Mehr who is the high born daughter of the Governor of Irinah. However, she along with her younger sister Arwa are his illegitimate daughters. Mehr is half Ambhan(fathers side) and her mother is Amrithi(mothers side). Even though she is a high noble woman the Amrithi people are seen as outcasts as they formed a alliance with the Daiva that inevitably failed during the first Emperors conquest of Irinah . The Amrithi are nomads who worshipped the spirit of the sands and are said to be the descendants of the Daiva, who in turn are seen as the children of the Gods. Mehr is therefore looked down upon by people within her own home from the servants to even her step mother Maryam. She is also forbidden from openly performing Amrithi customs known as Rites and sharing its history with her sister Arwa. From my understanding Rites basically involve dancing while using sigals and there are different rites for different occasions i.e. sunrise and sunset. Moreover, Her relationship with her father is also complex as he loves her dearly but at the same time doesn’t want people outside her home to find out about her powers as it may have consequences on them all.
Thus, from the get go things go downhill for Mehr when during a storm she sets out to find her missing friend and childhood mentor Lalita. Without any sense for her own safety she calls upon the power of the Sand and Daiva to help her find her friend. Although she fails to find Lalita showing her powers in public catches the eye of the mystics and the stories villain “The Maha”. The Maha is a god like being who controls the religious order of the realm. As a result of being caught using her powers Mehr is forced to marry Amun who is someone of the Mahas choosing. In order to protect her family she agrees not knowing what she is getting herself into.
Firstly Tasha Suri’s writing is so calming and beautiful. The elegance of her writing reminded me of Claire De Luna by Claude Debussy it was just so soothing. Secondly the world building and writing in Empire of Sand was great. I commend her for the amount of work gone into the researching process because this book is so detailed in terms of lore and atmosphere. I loved the lore and how there were different Rites and dances for different times of the day and the variation in the types of Daiva. I was also glad at the fact that it was influenced by the Middle East and India. Especially with the dances all I could picture was the actress Deepika Padunko performing the Rites. Moreover, the character building was great. I really liked the main character of Mehr and her husband Amun as both were complex and finding out more about their origins as the story went on was interesting. The romance element between them also felt natural there was none of that soppy insta love that you usually see in novels. In addition to this the main villain “The Maha” was easy to hate, he was so cruel and pure evil there are some really dark moments between him and Mehr which I won’t forget because of the intensity of it. Whenever the Maha And Mehr were in the same room I could feel the tension and I was genuinely scared for her safety.
What I Didn’t Like
I felt that the pacing of the book was very slow at times. Some of the chapters are really long which kind of made me lose my excitement. But I also think my own expectations had something to do with it. Most of the fantasy books I’ve read were action packed and fast paced but this didn’t have as much of that. Also, I was hoping that we would see more of Mehrs family after she left but after reading the blurb in the second book made me understand why we didn’t.
Overall it’s a very beautifully written fantasy book with complex and interesting characters. I would say it was the characters of Amun and Mehr that wanted me to keep reading on. However, the pacing let it down many times and kind of annoyed me if I’m honest but that’s just me and I still enjoyed it. The book is out on the 15th of November and I’m already excited for the second book lol