Empire of Sand by Tashi Suri

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I got this one from Orbit/Netgalley – thank you! I’ve been wanting to read this ever since it came on my radar a couple months ago.

I didn’t know what to expect from this one, what I got was pretty awesome. This is a story of a girl who doesn’t quite belong anywhere, her mother’s race, the Amrithi, is one that has been increasingly looked down upon by the current ruling class. They are viewed as less than civilized, just some superstitious barbarians with a backward religion and culture. Mehr is an illegitimate daughter of the governor, and although she lives with the everyday comforts of the noble class, she’s harshly scrutinized by her stepmother, she’s forbidden to openly practice the customs of the Amrithi, and has very strict rules about visiting her sister Arwa. As Mehr has gotten older she’s tried to assert herself more against her stepmother’s needless nitpicking and harassment, but Mehr may have taken things a step too far.

The emperor is re-doubling his efforts to relocate and push out all people of Amrithi heritage. The fact that Mehr has rebelled and tried to teach her sister of the Amrithi’s religion and teachings, and said so in public, could cause her family to come under scrutiny they can’t afford.

The Amrithi are said to be the descendants of the daiva, who were the children of the Gods. Long ago the daiva and the Amrithi intermingled, inter-marrying and forever leaving their trace in the blood of the Amrithi. Since then there was a vow made by the daiva to protect the Amrathi people and to this day, if a daiva shows up, all an Amrithi person needs to do is offer it some blood and the daiva will recognize it’s vow and leave that person in peace.

The opening scene in this book involves a daiva that came to visit Mehr’s younger sister, it was just a bird-spirit, but Mehr believes it means a “storm” is coming, a storm that brings dreamfire and daiva, a storm that could possibly be dangerous to those who aren’t Amrithi. She was right, a storm did come, and Mehr went out into the middle of it and called upon the storm to help her find her friend who had gone missing. The storm carries her along to Lalita’s house, but she’s not there. That bit of magic she performed caught the attention of the Maha, a god like being who rules the religious order of this realm. He heard her whispering in the storm and has made a drastic move – he’s sent his priests to her city to offer a hand in marriage. Women in this society aren’t treated like equals, they can’t make contracts, they aren’t typically involved in political affairs, and are treated like “treatures” to be “protected”. However, the one right they do have is their sacred right to choose who they marry. This marriage proposal is obviously not truly an offer, it’s an offer she can’t refuse without her family facing serious and probably lethal consequences.

Her father does love her, and he never meant for anything like this to happen. He offers her an out, he arranges for a carriage to steal her away in the middle of the night. But, Mehr refuses it, she doesn’t believe she could live with the guilt if anything happened to her family. Her father practically begs her to leave, he hints that the priests of Maha are evil, and that she can’t know true evil the way he does. Despite this, she says she has made her choice, and goes to meet her new husband. He’s creepy. He’s so very creepy, I’ve never been wrapped up in a marriage/courting scene before. He’s monotone, dressed in robes, scarred all over, and seems to be devoid of a soul.

There was so much world building in this, it was just fantastic. I loved everything from the different types of daiva, the different ‘dances’ that the Amrithi performs for things like sunrises and sunsets. There are a wide variety of Rites that the Amrithi have, like the Rite of Dreaming, all associated with moving through forms in a dance. I felt relaxed whil reading to be honest. A nonwestern setting is always a plus for me, I don’t often get to read books that are based in desert-like climates.

I liked how I got a good 10% into the book before the POV switched, I felt like I really got to sink my teeth into who she was and why I should care about her storyline before I got introduced to the second POV. It also helped that I already knew the second POV when we started her chapters, the pacing really flowed well.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book, it was well written, the characters felt real and well developed which had me turning pages all night to see how everything turned out. I love getting older female POVs, I love nonwestern settings, I love relatable characters – loved this!

Audience:

  • Daiva’s
  • multi pov
  • female pov
  • middle age pov
  • non western settings
  • race being eliminated

Ratings:

  • Plot: 12/15
  • Characters: 12.5/15
  • World Building: 13/15
  • Writing: 13/15
  • Pacing: 12/15
  • Originality: 13/15
  • Personal Enjoyment: 9/10

Final Score: 84.5/100 – 4.5/5 stars – highly recommended!

 

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