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The Books of Ambha #1

Empire of Sand

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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…

Empire of Sand is a lush, dazzling fantasy novel perfect for readers of City of Brass and The Wrath & the Dawn.

393 pages, Kindle Edition

First published November 13, 2018

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About the author

Tasha Suri

7 books2,717 followers
Tasha Suri was born in the U.K., but toured India during childhood holidays. She is now a librarian in London, and studied English and creative writing at Warwick University.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,011 reviews
Profile Image for chai ♡.
321 reviews153k followers
September 2, 2022
I devoured this book in two settings, and longed for more at the end. A story as graceful and compulsory as the magic it is about. Tasha Suri captivates with her tale of gods spellbound by greedy mortals, love that blinds and pains and heals, freedom and its unpayable cost, and an eviscerating and unsparing condemnation of imperialism. Featuring: an arranged marriage between a girl who can compel the dreams of gods through dance, a tortured boy with a tender heart who'll make you want to protectively stand between him and the rest of the world, and so many moments of bruised, wrenchingly tender yearning that completely smote my heart (also a particular scene that involved a fort of blankets and the softness of proximity that mended it). Oh, and they’re enemies!

Don't miss this book!
Profile Image for Samantha.
417 reviews16.7k followers
December 7, 2019
This was the perfect recipe of so many of my favorite things. An original world with mythology and gods and dream magic. Themes of love and bonds and vows and family. A slow burn romance that is a major plot point but is woven into the plot so masterfully that it doesn’t distract from the plot. A fierce powerhouse main character, who is both fragile and strong. Lines that brought me to tears. Full review on my channel to come with lots of gushing and probably little coherence but just know I love this.
Profile Image for jessica.
2,534 reviews32.5k followers
January 14, 2019
i love going into books with no expectations because if it doesnt work out, no hurt feelings. but if it does work out, then the surprise completely makes my day. and what a delightful surprise this was!

what really caught me is how much substance there is in this story, especially for a debut novel. the feeling i had after finishing this reminded me of how i feel after a nice meal - completely satiated and wonderfully content. and there is so much to feast on in this book. lush cultural magic, complex and compelling characters, and strong world-building. it has all of the right components for an enchanting tale of fantasy.

the only thing keeping me from rating this higher is that it didnt really capture me emotionally. i was invested in the story, but no more than just appreciating it from a reader standpoint. i wish it had tugged on my heart just a little bit more, but overall, i really enjoyed it!

i know this book hasnt made most peoples TBR, but i highly recommend it!

4 stars
Profile Image for Nicole.
443 reviews13.4k followers
June 26, 2022
Rzadko zdarza mi się wystawić tylko jedną gwiazdkę. To była najnudniejsza książka jaką przeczytałam. Jest w sumie o niczym, historię można zamknąć na 150 stronach.
Odnoszę wrażenie, że autorka chciała nam przedstawić wszystkie zasady świata, ale osobiście ich nie zrozumiałam i dla mnie ten świat nie ma podstaw.
A wisienką na torcie jest przewidywalność tej historii…
Profile Image for James Tivendale.
311 reviews1,329 followers
May 23, 2019
I received an uncorrected proof copy in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Tasha Suri and Orbit Books.

In Empire of Sand, the original and excellent South Asian influenced fantasy debut of Tasha Suri's we follow the action of Mehr who is an illegitimate but highborn daughter of a governor of the Ambham Empire. It begins when a Daiva which is sort of a winged and taloned spirit invades the castle and infiltrates Mehr's younger sister's room, who is terrified as a young child would be. Mehr has dealt with these beings before and knows that an offer of blood will guarantee them peace well, at least for a limited amount of time. Mehr's mother's clan were outcasts who worshipped the spirits of the sands and some have a form of magic beneath their skin. As the cover says: 'Magic is in her blood.' The Daiva, ancient Daiva and worse creatures known as nightmares are currently behind the veil of reality but when the frequent storms arrive the otherworldly beings come with it. Unfortunately for Mehr, who can perform magical dances and rites during the tempest, the Emperor's feared mystics are searching for anyone who can wield magic for reasons unbeknown to most but these shamans are normally taken away never to be seen again.

We mainly follow Mehr's third person point of view perspective although there are three other interludes that are presented from another two views that bridge small gaps within the progression of the narrative. When I first picked up this book I believed it was going to be of a YA nature as it is likened to Trudi Canavan and Sarah J. Mass on the back. It has aspects that fans of these authors stories will like however I personally believe it has more in common with Melissa Caruso's Swords and Fire trilogy (for the magic, interesting 'love' relationships, and political drama) intertwined with the oriental focused fantasy awesomeness recently presented by Fonda Lee and RF Kuang. Mehr is a character that is well worth rooting for. She goes through so much and her character adapts to her often dire scenarios almost perfectly. It is an amazing journey that she goes through that was full of intrigue and emotion.

The narrative I analysed as being split into three sections. The very exciting and engrossing introduction that gripped me from the very start. Especially with the fluent and poetic world building from the beginning discussing the environment, magic, cultures and past histories. There is a twist and then the second section happens and although it's not set in a magic school these segments do have elements in common with those sort of stories. As mentioned, the world building, poetic language, and character interactions are well developed. Unfortunately, the middle section was not as enticing as the other aspects of the book although Mehr's relationship with a certain character was interesting to see how it progressed. I think Suri perhaps went into too much detail here about certain aspects I just didn't find involving, rewarding or that interesting. It was a bit bloated but I must compliment that throughout the tale as a whole that the prose is generally intoxicating massaging finer details, pictures, colours and poetry into the reader's mind. I won't discuss too much about the final third apart from that the conclusion was highly satisfying and fulfilling. Only one section towards the end seemed far to improbable and convenient even though it did make me happy that it happened. This is a complete standalone where all the arcs are 'put to bed' nicely, however, Suri is looking to write further works in this environment and I am unaware if they will incorporate the same characters.

I will discuss two other aspects quickly. Romance: I do not normally enjoy romance in the stories I read however, I think Suri worked this element into her tale expertly. This is quite a dark tale and I dislike getting thrown out of the darkness to a forced love story. The relationship here felt organic and like it really worked and not only suited the story but made it excel. Good work.

Finally, characters: Apart from the cultures and the magic, the colourful ensemble is my favourite element. I will not discuss them too much but look out for Mehr's step-mother (think how Catelyn Stark treats Jon Snow), the vindictive and crazy God-like Maha and the mysterious vow-bound shaman Asum.

Empire of Sand is an exciting, refreshing and dark fantasy debut featuring intricate and intriguing magic. The romantic elements are very well worked as is the unpredictable plot. It stutters slightly in the middle but that doesn't detract from how I greatly enjoyed this. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Will Byrnes.
1,295 reviews120k followers
December 22, 2022
When you dance with the Rite of Dreaming, you dance with the gods.
Mehr’s got it made, I guess,
There were perks to being the Governor of Irinah’s daughter—even an illegitimate one. People obeyed you. Servants rushed to your bidding. Even the ones who loathed you—and there were many—were forced to veil their contempt and keep their loathing eyes lowered. All people faced hatred. All people suffered. Few had the cushion of wealth and privilege to protect them as Mehr did.
nice wardrobe, plenty to eat, time on her hands, but it comes with downsides. Her father’s grounds constitutes a golden cage. And mom’s side presents a whole other problem.

Tasha Suri - image from her Twitter pages

While dad is a member in good standing of the Ambahn clan, the ruling caste in the empire, Mehr’s mother was a member of the oppressed Amrithi clan. Not your usual ethnic minority. The Amrithi began ages ago when a magical being called a daiva (djinn-like, with both a physical and a more ethereal nature) got jiggy with a human, making the Amrithi not entirely our sort. The magical side DNA comes with some benefits, though, for some Amrithi anyway. An ability to communicate with the daiva who still roam the world. And how do they communicate, you may ask? Here is the genius of the book. Amrithi communicate with the daiva via physical movement, specifically through dance and sigils,something between magic spells and prayer. (If you have ever seen the TV show, The Magicians, they do a lot of hand sigils there, and not all are of the middle finger variety) They also have dance rites that are the equivalent of the prayer rituals common to many religions. Mehr keeps up the rituals she learned from her mother and from a mentor her mother asked to look after her when she left. The rituals give her a sense of connection not only to her heritage, and her mother, but in a very real sense to the magical events in this world.

Suri took some inspiration from her own upbringing. Kids in Indian dance training make abundant use of hand symbols. She also wanted to incorporate that signaling with an element of martial arts. Her characters’ hand sigils are no mere form of artistry. They have real world impact. They kick ass.

Author Suri likes Anneika Rose for the role of Mehr

More family enters into it. Mehr has a little sister she loves and wants to protect, (and whose safety can be used as leverage against her) and then there is the evil-stepmother, Maryam, (a true bloom of Ambhan womanhood) who does her best to hiss and sneer her way across the page whenever she shows up. She is particularly eager to keep Mehr from continuing the practices of her Amrithi heritage.

There’s more. In this fantasy world, which is inspired by a Bollywood version of what the Mughal Empire might have been, reality is not the relatively consistent universe we have come to know. It is a product of the dreams of the gods. Only sometimes those dreams get disturbed, generating hurricane-like storms that dump a whole new type of precip, a thing called dreamfire. Way beyond oobleck.
The dreamfire was everywhere now. It was in the air she breathed, in the sweat at the nape of her neck. She could feel the strength of it churning the city into a storm. The buildings were drenched in light, debris flying through the air as if the world had tipped on its side and sent everything sprawling. Even the earth felt like it was moving beneath her feet. It was dizzying, terrifying. Exhilirating.
Dad, who clearly loves Mehr, and evil-step-mom, who clearly doesn’t, may have Mehr’s best interests at heart in keeping her confined to the grounds. Seems the talent she has for things magical is in high demand by dark sorts. So, when Mehr slips out and puts her skill to the test, word gets around and she is in a whole mess of trouble. Way worse than being grounded.

I like a young Oded Fehr for the role of Amun – image from GirlsAskGuys.om (Yeah, I know Amun is supposed to be dark skinned, but this guy’s face just kept popping into my tiny mind)

The religious leader of the empire (midway between Thanos and the High Sparrow), has sent a delegation of mystics and a not-so-subtle demand offer for Mehr to marry one of them, a dodgy-seeming character called Amun.
Like so many other of the other mystics Mehr had seen in Lotus Hall, his face was swathed by cloth. Only his eyes and bridge of his nose were revealed but his head was lowered, hiding his gaze. The little of his skin she could see was dark She couldn’t tell if he was young or old, ugly or handsome. He was simply male, broad-shouldered and intimidating with footsteps that were soft, too soft. He had a predator’s tread.
It is an offer she cannot refuse. No more mani pedis for you, dear. Mehr hits the road with her new associates and the game is afoot. No, really. No saddles or palanquins. They walk across the desert to the evil leader’s oasis-centered temple. His name is Maha, and the similarity to mwahahaha cannot possibly be accidental.

Ok, entire-world-fantasies can really get you bogged down in describing everything, (like the above) and then you lose track of the thread. Ok? We got all our words straight, Daiva? Sigil? Amrithi? Ambahn? Jeez, can we move on with it already?

The change of scene also signals a change in approach. What ensues is not just learning what dark plans Maha, who is entirely cruel and not entirely human, has in store for Mehr, and taking on that challenge, but getting to know Amun. Is this bad boy really so bad? Why does everyone think he’s a monster? What’s the deal with all the blue tats? And what else will be forced on Mehr? A challenge for sure.

The book heads in two directions here. First is getting the lay of the land and finding out who you can trust, and where you can get the best figs. Part of this is dealing with being invited to hang by one group, when you really want to be doing something else, figuring out who can be trusted, deciphering the palace politics in her new town. Very relatable, particularly for the younger set. The other major element is the reveal of what the Maha has in mind, and how Mehr will cope. But the major bit for what seems the largest chunk of the book is Mehr getting to know Amun. They have to come up with modus vivendi in order to accomplish the tasks with which they are charged, and not get, you know, murdered.

It was not the fastest read. I enjoyed the first 100 pps of intro to the world and Mehr’s situation, and I enjoyed watching her face diverse challenges and overcome, or not, yet still grow in the process. But I did not enjoy the pace or duration after that. It was reasonably-paced and engaging at first, but settled into a slower, drawn-out tempo that was a bit frustrating. The book might have lost about fifty pages, maybe more, without suffering too much. There are a few interludes when we see events away from Mehr from the perspective of other characters. These offered a break from the central pillar of the tale, and added in a few details Mehr could not deliver to us. There was an element of romantic interaction that was appropriate and engaging, but which took up way too much of the book, detracting from the much more interesting magical, and palace intrigue elements.
You know I like a good romance. Well, I read a lot of romance…That’s something that romance series do really, really well. they create books that draw on each other but they’re also kind of discrete stories in themselves. You’ve got a beginning, a middle and end. You’ve got a satisfying conclusion. You know if you pick up the next one you’re going to get the same thing. So, that’s what I’m trying to do with the series. - from the Reddit session
Not the romance thing, per se, but the beginning-middle-end thing.

It was a bit unclear to me whether this was intended for YA readers or adults. Certain tropes made me think YA. Things like a sheltered girl being forced to face life’s realities and find out if she will face-plant or be the stuff that dreams are made of. We have certainly seen plenty of examples of kids or teens with hidden powers that emerge as they grow and confront danger of one sort or another. Evil stepmothers are a dime a dozen in YA tales. And Mehr has a little sister she is eager to protect, like that Everdeen kid.

But then, the challenges that Mehr confronts extend well beyond showing the world her stuff. She has to contend with complex moral questions. Suri is also looking at larger issues relating to women. She is interested in how women could exercise power in a heavily patriarchal society, and not settle for invisibility. She shows them choosing paths for themselves, despite the external limitations on their freedom, and sometimes having to hide their true feelings.
She managed to catch herself on her hands before her skull met the floor. Then she bowed to the floor, her forehead to the cool marble. She allowed herself to tremble; feigned being a thing bent and broken by his cruelty. She did not have her jewels or her fine clothes, but she had this power, at least: she could give him a simulacrum of what he desired from her. And hold her crumbling strength tight. Let him think he had broken her. As long as he believed he already had, as long as she fooled him, he would not succeed in truly doing so.
I very much enjoyed the extreme creativity that went into the literary construction of this world. The magical concepts were impressive, exciting, and fit well with the story. Mehr is an engaging character you will find it easy to root for, particularly when she is faced with wrenching decisions. The writing is beautiful and evocative. I enjoyed much less what seemed a shift from the magical elements and court machinations to an excessive focus on the romantic. But was brought back by the action, twists, and resolutions at the end. I expect there are many castles to be made of Suri’s sands. She has a second book in the series planned, The Realm of Ash, set many years later, looking at the consequences of the actions in book 1. Some dreams can be made real.

Published – November 13, 2018

Review first posted – November 30, 2018

=============================EXTRA STUFF

Links to the author’s personal, Twitter, Instagram, and FB pages

-----Definitely check out this audio interview with Suri on InkFeather Podcast
-----Not really an interview, Suri takes questions on Reddit - worth a look

-----The use of dance for communication reminded me of Spider and Jeanne Robinson’s award-winning work Stardance
Profile Image for karen.
3,979 reviews170k followers
November 13, 2018

this is one of those “shrug - not for me” books.

which i suspected going into it. as much as we are cautioned against judging books by their covers, the whole reason covers exist* is in order to attract the desired audience, and in general, i am neither the audience desired by fantasy authors nor the audience attracted by the “weapon floating on textured background” cover trend.

but i’m nothing if not complaisant, so i agreed to give it a go. sometimes i surprise myself - i liked the “weapon floating on textured background” Graceling, after all, and i thought Empire of Sand's south asian setting might be novel enough to conquer my historically lukewarm response to high fantasy.

the setting does add a lot of appeal - the arid heat, the shifting sands, the miles of desert to cross, the descriptive backdrops for both the nomadic and the palatial lifestyles, and the daivas; the shadowy supernatural creatures who can only be kept in check by the blood of an amrithi.

see, and this is why i hate reviewing fantasy books, because now i gotta define all these terms, and lay out an entire world’s innerworkings in order to even mention any of the book’s central conflicts and it doesn’t take long before that turns into a quagmire of boring for you and me both.

so i’m not gonna do it. this is going to be a superficial reader-response from a reader with no authoritative claims because this genre is not my wheelhouse. as a human reader of books, i have some general responses. you can choose to read 'em or you can find a review from someone with more cred.

this is another book that puzzles me with “why aren’t you YA?” the age of the protagonist fits, the whole “one special girl with abilities to save the world” theme is a YA standard, and the trajectory of the romantic element is shaped for YA fans - big, messy, complicated, passionate. it’s a crossover book that to me seems more YA than adult in all ways except for the pacing, which is much slower than YA.

there’s a long, slow build in this one, stretches of space during which not very much happens, although when things do happen, they are significant punctuation marks. there's a lot of training, a lot of prep-time for the big thing, a lot of "getting to know you" time, while it seems like more interesting stuff is happening elsewhere. because although we do get brief chapters checking out the action away from mehr and her time among the maha and the mystics (yeah, i’m not slowing down to explain), i’m so much more intrigued by what’s going on in the farther reaches of the desert.

quite simply, i just could not get into this one. and whether it was the genre or the book or some fundamental flaw in the reader NO ONE WILL EVER KNOW. i'm glad i read it, because i think it will be popular and successful and i'll need to know what all the cool kids are talking about, but i'm just cool in a different way.

oh, but i did like the scene featuring the first appearance of a daiva and its truth about birds:

”It still looks like it wants to bite me,” Arwa said warily.

”It’s a bird-spirit,” Mehr said. “That’s what birds do.”

yeah. that is exactly what birds do. never trust them.

* or, more precisely, the reason cover art exists. covers exist to hold the books together.

come to my blog!
Profile Image for Charlotte Kersten.
Author 3 books431 followers
December 11, 2022
“Both of us then. We saved one another.”

So What’s It About?

Mehr is the daughter of an imperial governor and an exiled Amrithi mother – exiled because the Amrithi are nomadic outcasts, coveted and persecuted throughout the empire of Ahmba for their magical blood.

When the empire’s mystics become aware of her power, Mehr is forced into a marriage she does not want and brought to the Maha’s temple in the desert, where the rest of her life will be dedicated to serving the empire. It will take all of her strength and ingenuity to survive, and she will find enemies and allies in the unlikeliest of places.

What I Thought

Empire of Sand, as you might be able to tell from the title, is deeply occupied with the matter of empire-building. While in the most literal sense the title refers to the desert setting of the book, I also think it speaks to the unstable foundation that so many acts of imperialism are built upon and the terrible, twisted logic of colonialism. The Amrithi, despised and oppressed and outcast, are in fact the magical basis upon which the success and wealth of the Ahmban empire is built, just as every colonial venture is built upon the backs of the people it despises and dehumanizes. The Ahmbans’ prosperity could not exist without the people they abhor-without the perversion of their traditions, the labeling of them as savages and barbarians- but it is clear that the greater their cruelty and the more extensive the genocide of the Amrithi becomes, the more unsustainable their power grows, the more it slips through their fingertips like grains of sand.

In addition to the Amrithi rituals that serve as the basis of Ahmba’s power, the other kind of magic in Empire of Sand is based on the power of making vows. What’s fascinating about this form of magic is that Suri uses it to explore the question of consent in relationship to power imbalances and exploitation – how can consent coerced and what does it mean when someone says yes but has been given no choice in the matter of saying yes? Mehr is magically bound to her husband Amun through such a coerced vow, with the consummation of their marriage acting to imprint it. Extraordinarily, however, Amun refuses to be the perpetrator of Mehr’s entrapment in the vow, providing her a degree of freedom that he has never experienced. When the Maha finds out, he forces them to consummate the marriage, but before doing so they make their own vows to each other, reclaiming some degree of autonomy in an act that has been warped by (again) the cruel logic of imperialism and slavery. They refuse to be bound to each other only through exploitation and the power of outside forces:

“I vow that I trust you. That I will keep trusting you,” she said tentatively. “I vow to … to continue seeing you as the man that you are, not what other people have tried to make you.” A deep breath. “I vow to know you.”

The gradual blossoming of trust and then love between Mehr and Amun is the beautiful thing at the heart of Empire of Sand. It works because, while every aspect of their lives is dictated by the control of outside forces and the prospect of any other kind of life slips away, their continual choice to treat each other with compassion, trust and humanity becomes the only way that they can resist their dehumanization and lack of autonomy. It works because, nearly powerless as they are, they are both deeply conscious of the balance of power within their relationship and strive to make it as equal as possible under the circumstances in which they exist. It works because of Mehr’s tenacity, hope and willingness to see the goodness in others and because of Amun’s overwhelming kindness and gentleness after a life of knowing little of either. I’m typically apathetic-bordering-on-openly-hostile when it comes to fictional romances, but this romance is both important and moving and fellow fantasy authors would do well to think about the artistry with which Suri has crafted Mehr and Amun’s relationship.

Empire of Sand’s setting is based on Mughal India, and the incorporation of magic through ritual dance is one of the most inventive systems of magic I’ve encountered in a while. Here is Suri’s explanation of how she was inspired to create the system:

“Hindu belief and epics had a big influence on the magic system. Amrithi rites and sigils were influenced by Indian classical dance (specifically Bharatanatyam) and by the depiction of the god Shiva creating and destroying the world with dance and cosmic fire, which should sound familiar. Hindu epics are rife with vows made by mortals and immortals that have terrible consequences but can’t be broken, and spirits that aren’t quite gods, so they were a great source of material!”

Lush and thoughtful, deeply compassionate and romantic in the best of ways, this is an incredibly strong debut novel. The sequel, Realm of Ash, looks to be about Mehr’s little sister Arwa, and will be out in November 2019. I would not change a thing about how Mehr and Amun’s story ended, but I can’t wait to revisit this world again in a few months.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Sofia.
258 reviews6,469 followers
November 20, 2021
The potential was breathtaking, but the execution was feeble.

Goodreads really needs to add half-stars, because two is too low and three is too high. Empire of Sand isn't bad. It just isn't good, either. I liked the writing. I liked the two main characters. I liked the concept. It had so much potential be something truly special and rare... but instead it was underwhelming and boring.

The main problem with Empire of Sand is how the length in no way reflects the actual content in the book. I was looking forward to haunting lore and wild beauty, but I got daiva that showed up three times despite being one of the things the book promises most. I wanted to see an intricate city with vibrant culture and panoramic dunes, but I found worldbuilding that was essentially just a regular city and a desert.

Amun and Mehr were good characters in a book that didn't have much going on. I wish the Empire had more of a role in their stories. There weren't enough things happening to Mehr and Amun. I still don't understand the magic system, the storms, the Maha, or the mystics. I feel like I fell asleep during the middle of an audiobook and woke up at the end, even though I read this as an ebook. The conflict was resolved in three pages after way too much buildup. I did enjoy a few of the chapters towards the end, and Mehr was a nice character because of her quiet intelligence.

2.5 stars

Buddy read with my fellow clown. We don't understand what the plot of this book is.
Profile Image for destiny ♡ howling libraries.
1,659 reviews5,136 followers
December 8, 2018
Mehr lives in a world where she is only half accepted. The Ambhan people have conquered and destroyed the Amrithi, and as a woman with parents from both worlds, she struggles to find her place as a worshipper of the old Amrithi gods and traditions. When the Emperor’s mystics take note of her Amrithi powers, they force her into a marriage with one of their own, and Mehr becomes a very important pawn in a deadly game of men, gods, and demons.

When I heard “Indian-inspired adult fantasy”, I was immediately intrigued; when I heard “angry, vengeful gods”, I was sold. Empire of Sands has been one of my most anticipated releases of the year. I feel like there isn’t a lot of own-voice diverse fantasy in the adult age range, so to see a story so interwoven with the author’s own heritage and experiences as a woman of color, coupled with the inspirations she took from actual history, made this an incredibly fascinating read.

→ L I K E S :

She’d always understood that keeping even the barest bones of her heritage demanded a terrible price. But she had kept her heritage regardless. That was her gravest error.

Right from the start, I loved the world Tasha Suri has built here. It’s always tough to read stories about conquered nations, knowing what an anchor those themes have in the real world, but Suri goes above and beyond many authors I’ve read tackling similar plots by showing me how awful the Maha and Emperor are and how drastic their crimes against the Amrithi people have been. It’s also incredible to see how strongly Mehr’s Amrithi traditions resonate with her on a daily basis, and how much comfort she takes from her rituals and ancestry.

He had never hated her mother’s people. He had just never considered them people at all. They were the kindling wood that fed the fire of the Empire’s strength.

I also absolutely loved the daiva, these demon-esque spirits that appear in birdlike forms. There’s an imminent threat present in them from the beginning, but something about their design and the way they interact with Mehr hooked me right away and had me wishing to see even more of them in the story.

Mehr knew what it looked like, when another human being stared at her with hatred. What she had seen in Amun’s face was a knife turned inward.

Finally, there’s the relationship. In the beginning of the story, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but I ended up rooting for Mehr and her love interest so quickly and absolutely swooning over their fleeting, quiet moments by the end. I also can’t help but feel like there’s some very valuable commentary in the story regarding arranged marriages and how they’re not always what western society views them as.

→ D I S L I K E S :

How strange, that the world still looked so normal when Mehr’s world was collapsing around her.

There’s only one thing I had an issue with, but unfortunately, it was actually a really big struggle I faced while reading Empire of Sand: the pacing. Take this with the knowledge that I love slow fantasy stories, but something about the slow pacing of this book just does not work for me. It felt too tame and like nothing important was happening most of the time; when something important did happen, it was over-explained to the point of losing its power.

“A choice like a knife at your throat is an illusion.”

Even though the writing itself was beautiful, I think it could have been improved by being a solid 75-100 pages shorter. I know that’s a harsh axe to drop, but this book actually put me into the worst slump I’ve had all year (with it now being November). I had to put it down for a week to get over the slump, but when I picked it back up to finish it, it almost put me into another slump! This never happens to me, so despite how gorgeous the plot and characters and setting were, I have to knock off a full star for how slow and meandering it was.


Altogether, I really enjoyed Empire of Sand, despite struggling with the pacing. It’s got this incredibly immersive desert setting, these lovable characters, and a backstory that drew me in and didn’t let go. I only wish that I could have enjoyed it more despite the slowness, but I would definitely be happy to try Tasha Suri’s next release, as I think she displays tremendous potential.


If you’re someone who also loves slow fantasy—especially if you’re even more patient than I typically am—then I don’t think it will be an issue, but if you’re not one who can handle slow-burning fantasy plots, you may want to try this in audiobook format so you can tune out a little when the tedium kicks in.

All quotes come from an advance copy and may not match the final release. Thank you so much to Orbit for providing me with this ARC in exchange for an honest review!
Profile Image for K.J. Charles.
Author 59 books8,117 followers
February 5, 2019
A sweeping fantasy with a gorgeous romantic heart set in a Mughal-India inspired world. Evil deathless emperor, desert spirits, magic storms, sinister cult: all glorious stuff without a goddamn orc or elf in sight. Best of all is the hero and heroine's strength. The heroine has a magic gift but it's not the usual Chosen One stuff: her main skill is that she learned how to survive palace politics as a mostly powerless person, can apply those lessons to a much worse oppression, knows how to manipulate people--but hangs on to enough decency that she does her best not to do so. Her behaviour is the kind of survival tactic often depicted as weak: well, we see the strength it takes here, and the courage that blasts through the situation in which she and her forced husband find themselves. Mehr is a fantastic creation, who gets things wrong as well as right because life sucks, and is about fifty times more empowering to read than the usual fantasy kickass woman in chain mail with a broadsword.

Absolutely loved this. The romance is lovely, in particular because the hero is also not kickass: his strength is in his compassion and determination to do right, and it's perfect. Wonderful setting and magic too. Can't wait for the next.
Profile Image for elisa.
200 reviews1,285 followers
June 9, 2022
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA FUCK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! okay so when you read this book like a romance set against a fantastical backdrop, it is so much fun. so enthralling and so unexpected and so tender. a love story through and through. it gives what the original grishaverse trilogy cannot. it gives what the grishaverse trilogy WILL not: a male love interest with depth, deep flaws, and an unwavering love for the fmc that makes narrative sense and feels wholly earned. it's the idea of a girl chosen by the world at large (by chance), a girl who is forced to trudge through learning and harnessing a power she had no idea lived inside of her, and one whose body and autonomy is violated in service of imperial conquest that feels most similar to grishaverse, i think.

but where grishaverse provides half-baked romance with one-dimensional men driven by unconvincing subplots and boring, uninspired backstories, amun of empire of sand is a male love interest with years-long trauma that never serves to weaken or "taint" him. he's tortured, violated, and enslaved, he's allowed emotional vulnerability, and he cares for and protects mehr like his life depends on it. he does this without ever venturing into tropey fantasy territory. perhaps because he is written with the same delicate hand that mehr is—perhaps because this trauma is shared, unpacked, and understood by both parties—he is a rare male fantasy love interest that felt like a roaring success. his cold, aloof exterior is a protective barrier against a religious group that has been actively oppressing him for years. he isn't cruel for cruelty's sake. he isn't senseless in his coldness. and when he unexpectedly meets a girl just like him in the viper's nest, this cold exterior begins to crack, and the tender boy beneath emerges. so, so, so rewarding, to read about a gentle, touch-starved giant like amun, who carries flaws and tragedy and also deep potential for care and healing. LOVE him. 10/10 mmc.

tasha suri, you're fr crazy for what you've done here.............now how will you rescramble my brain chemistry with a sapphic couple?

the world building in empire of sand is convincing enough to sustain a slow-moving narrative about two people coming together to overthrow an empire. the female characters feel full and complex. the romance is gradual and fleshed out. loved this. gotta be one of my favorite fantasy romances (though i am very sad to learn that the sequel does not follow my couple of choice 😔🫣😫💔).
Profile Image for Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘.
839 reviews3,757 followers
February 15, 2021
Empire of Sand delighted me with its well-crafted world inspired by Mughal India. One could argue that it could have been more detailed on some aspects but perhaps thanks to the palpable atmosphere, I needed nothing more. I loved Mehr, I adored Amun, I was enraptured by everything about the rites and the mythology, and absolutely repulsed and terrified by the villain.

I've seen reviews complaining that the plot was predictable and really, I do get it. I think, maybe, that when we read and review a lot we tend to lose a bit of our early freshness. Are our reviews better? In some aspects, of course. Yet in others I can't help but think that there's a very thin line between noticing tropes and giving them such power that they make enjoying a novel bloody tough. For me though? It was never annoying but on the contrary, Empire of Sand fulfilled my expectations perfectly. I mean, I got everything I wanted. I'm not going to whine about it, surely? Plus - in my opinion the romance between Mehr and Amun was handled beautifully: so so slowly building trust and learning each other - I believed in them, and loved them very much, okay?

Now - Was it slow? I don't know. It certainly didn't feel slow - not much happened sometimes, but it was never boring. The pacing felt right to me. In all honesty, I often find "nothing happens" quite subjective because really, it all depends on what your expectations are : do you mean plot-related actions and twists? Then sure, some parts feel a bit repetitive and not a lot happens then (still enough in my opinion, but - not the point : I've always preferred my fantasy on the quiet side, question of taste first and foremost). But if the stuff happening is inward, as are thoughts and hurt and character development, then well, for me plenty of stuff do happen in Empire of Sand. Condemnation of imperialism, colonization, and the genocide of indigenous folks happen. Reflections about the sense of belonging and (at times found-) family happen. Love between two beautiful imperfect souls happen. A most satisfying ending happens.

In the end, I don't know about you, but I very much intend to read Arwa's book. Recommended.

For more of my reviews, please visit:
Profile Image for William Gwynne.
355 reviews1,469 followers
July 24, 2021
I now have a YouTube channel that I run with my brother, called 'The Brothers Gwynne'. Check it out - The Brothers Gwynne

My expanded review for Empire of Sand is now on Booknest! Looking forward to the publication of the sequel in a few months... Empire of Sand review

Empire of Sand was a great debut by Tasha Suri that I thoroughly enjoyed. It has definitely made sure that I will read its sequel, Realm of Ash.

The world building and culture was efficiently depicted, and something I easily understood although I have not read many books with the influence of Indian culture.

The main character was someone who I really enjoyed following as a PoV as they were really believable and had such an intriguing plot-line within which she battles social class, race divides and gender expectations. Mehr was a likeable character with faults that made her 3-dimensional and allowed me to bond with her. The villains were also cleverly portrayed with so much of their character being revealed in every encounter and interaction.

The plot-line was unguessable to such an extent I never had a clue what would happen in the next chapter. This was very refreshing as in most books it is easy to discern at least a portion of the upcoming story.

The only thing I wanted more of was action, as that is one of the main things I look for most. But although there was not as much in Empire of Sand as I am used to, I still really enjoyed it and imagine those with similar tastes to mine will as well.

So Empire of Sand was a very unique read for me that is different to almost everything I have read before. It focuses on character building and has an interesting world. I look forward to Realm of Ash being released in a few months?
Profile Image for Mara.
1,559 reviews3,762 followers
March 19, 2022
4.5 stars - Amun has my whole entire heart. 🥺 I also love the themes of this, the world building, and the course of the plot but mostly... AMUUUUUNNN
Profile Image for Emma.
975 reviews975 followers
December 2, 2018
Mehr has magic in her blood; a little spark of the divine passed down through generations, gifting some of the Amrithi with amata, allowing them to see daiva and dance rituals that shape the powerful dreams of sleeping gods. When she mistakenly unveils her true potential under a sky filled with dreamfire, it doesn’t take long for the Emperor’s mystics to arrive at her door, prepared with a scheme that will lead her to a mysterious desert temple where the Maha awaits. Here she will be tested and tormented even as raging storms fed by divine anger bring nightmares to life in the desert beyond. It is up to Mehr to prevent their awakening and the violent transition that would wreak death and destruction on the world. But she doesn't have to do it alone...

For all the magic, the true heart of this story is Mehr. A girl sheltered from much of the real life by her Ambhan father and the customs of Irinah society, yet still grounded by both hardship and love. The loss of her mother, the petty hatred of her step mother, and the wider persecution of the Amrithi in the city and Empire are balanced by the sharing of secrets and friendship with Lalita, the genuine affection for her younger sister, Arwa, and the ability to hold on to her heritage though her dancing, soothed each time she loses herself in the intricate steps. She’s a striking character: fierce and emotional, daring and resilient, aware of her own faults and failings yet willing to take burdens onto herself to protect others. Never perfect, but intelligently introspective and utterly believable. The reader experiences each crucial development in her sense of self, watching her work through her options to find and make the best decision, the right choice, even as she evaluates why and how others are making theirs. This is her journey, one with physical, moral, and spiritual aspects. It’s developed slowly, but evocatively described, moving through a vibrantly detailed landscape and a culture inspired by Mughal India. There’s a wonderful flow to the language, apparent from the first page to the last. And while there are certainly times when the pacing stuttered, especially the wandering middle section that struggled to add anything significant to the story, the finale upped the tension and had enough surprises to satisfy.

Even with the inclusion of darker themes (slavery, potential rape, discrimination, and cult behaviour/indoctrination), this felt like a young book, definitely more YA/teen than adult. Perhaps that’s a reflection of the youthful ever-after romance which, while integral to both plot and character, is still hard going for those who don’t usually favour love stories, especially ones with youthful protagonists. Nevertheless, it was utilised effectively to portray the ways in which bonds of trust and affection between people, romantic or otherwise, can be strong and durable, despite arriving in unexpected ways. The relationship between Mehr and Amun helps them both though the toughest times, teaching them about what it means to know or understand another person and to see them for who they really are. The message is clear: judge people on their actions and not the opinions of others, build trust and hold true to the promises you make to those you love. It’s an uplifting read with an overarching optimism, a kind of love conquers all narrative, but one that involves hard work and positive change. The moralistic vibe is easy to see, but developed within the show, don’t tell framework of character speech and action. And since the author’s argument is for representation, inclusivity, individuality, love, friendship, honour, balance… it’s one I have no issue getting behind.

It looks like the next in the series, Realm of Ash, will focus on Arwa, Mehr’s sister, possibly allowing this story to remain at what felt very much like its completed form, but still offering the reader a chance to return to this superbly developed world. But for now, if you’re looking for a story that’s diverse and beautifully rendered with love at its heart, this is well worth your time.

ARC via Netgalley
Profile Image for Samantha Shannon.
Author 26 books19.7k followers
April 5, 2019
An ode to the quiet, fierce strength of women, with a magic system based on dance, set in a world conjured by the dreams of gods. Pure wonder.
Profile Image for Quinn.
239 reviews29 followers
April 21, 2020
I should have known something was up when Empire of Sand remained at a stunningly low price of $2.99 for the kindle edition shortly after its release. I choked it up to ‘unknown author syndrome’ and decided to press my luck, avoiding a digital copy for a paperback in hopes that it and its subsequent sequels would find a loving home on my bookshelves for years to come. Yeah…not so much. Empire of Sand instead suffers from what I like to call ‘PWP – Plot? What Plot?’ Although on its surface exists a fascinating world based in the up and coming category of Middle Eastern Fantasy, (a category I’m heads over heels for if done right) beneath its crust is nothing more than the constantly shifting sands from which it came. In other words – it’s spiritless, vacuous, and just plain confusing.

Let’s start at primary plot and go from there; Suri introduces us to the classic fantasy convention of One World – Two peoples, separated by culture. At the one end of the field we have the Ambhan – in classic elite style; they have finer features, are lighter in color, and are the current ruling class in our society. In the challenger’s corner we have the Amrithi – born from the descendants of Daiva, they exist on the outskirts of society due to their ability to commune with the Daiva and gods through ritual rites. Insert our heroine – Mehr, born of an Ambhan governor and an Amrithi mother, she is torn between two worlds and fully accepted by none. There is an Emperor backed by Ambhan dominion, and a spiritual immortal by the name of Maha. There is a forward push to rid the world of the Amrithi and their abilities because of their unusual relationship with Daiva. There’s your plot - typical but solid, and truthfully; I’m not upset by its lack of originality. What I’m upset by is the fact that the information that I’ve provided above is just about all we learn about this world and its dichotomous cultures. There is simply no world building to speak of to support the plot and thus the further I read, the more bored and confused I became.

My problem begins and ends with Why. I have so many questions and by the finale I found none of them answered and the shoddy cleanup job only served to annoy the living daylights of out me, but unlike Suri, I will endeavor to answer WHY this is so. Empire of Sand has no world at all. As far as I can tell there is the town Mehr grew up in, Jah Irinah, and then there is the desert. The Maha lives in the desert and the Emperor lives… no idea. I have absolutely no idea. I don’t know where his seat of power is, I don’t know about his court, I don’t know about his relationship with his people, and most of all I know absolutely nothing about the actual Empire. This is important because the state of the Empire is the basis for the entire plot. Without going into too much detail, The Maha – the mysterious still living first Emperor, has kept himself alive using the gifts of the Amrithi to bind the dreams of the Daiva to his will, keeping himself immortal and thus the Empire superior. Well why do I care about the state of the Empire if I know nothing about the Empire? What is it superior to? Does it war with other countries? Do other countries even exist? No Idea. In turn I have no idea how the dreams of the Daiva keep the Empire superior when they are only explained in terms of keeping the Maha alive. And from here the plot continues to succumb to further vagueness.

The Maha binds Amrithi to him to perform his immortal rites. We know Amun – another Amrithi and Mehr’s future love interest, is bound to the Maha. How? He has blue swirls on his body and suffers pain when refusing an order. Okay got it, thanks Suri, but HOW was he bound? How does the Maha actually bind people? Does the Maha have actual magic? By the same token, the binding is often described in terms of vows. An Amrithi, because they possess the diluted blood of Daiva, refuse to make vows because their word is binding. We only know this because Suri tells us this, repeatedly. Again I ask, why? Why? Why? WHY?!? What about their words are binding? Does it only have to be a spoken vow or a vow that manifests as writing on the skin? How can Mehr actually feel a bond with the Maha if the only vow she made is one of marriage with her husband and thus she is not directly bound to the Maha? How does the marriage bond have the same power as a vow especially since it is a construct of the non-magical Ambhan society? I could go on for days with these questions (I’ve got and entire second post-it note of confused questions left), but I’ll let the point make itself – for every page I read I found the only way to continue forward was to simply accept the ‘facts’ provided by text and to not try and find support through the landscape.

This continues as a theme throughout the book with each new fact seeming to conflict with previous information. The Daiva are bound to bless the Maha through a ritual that was once given to the Amrithi by the Daiva. Why would the Daiva ever give a ritual to a group of people that would weaken them? Better yet – why do the Daiva even exist in this world? I have to physically stop myself from continuing to monotonously list questions, but suffice to say, the closer we got to the end of the book the more questions I gathered and once the Deus Ex Machina ending slapped me in the face I had no hope for a coherent resolution and my only goal was to finish before I chucked the book against the wall in dismay.

So I’m done beating this dead horse; let’s change tact and discuss the characters. I think what frustrates me the most is that Empire of Sand starts strong. Mehr’s bloodletting to seal the Daiva from her home is a strong, poignant scene and Mehr’s strength of character comes forth at once as a resilient noble woman, unloved but stronger for it. The first chapter grabbed me but each subsequent chapter had me drifting further away as I developed a disconnect with Mehr. She seemed strong and sly at first, but her obsession with dancing during the Dreamfire (oh forgot about this: what is Dreamfire? Why does it exist in this world? What causes it? How does it affect people without Amrithi blood?) put me off as she continuously ignored the dangers associated with a.) being outside alone as a female, and b.) revealing her Amrithi nature. So by the time the consequences of her dumb decisions come to bear I was annoyed by her. Add to that her constant observations on the weaknesses of others and her decisions to then not use the information to her advantage and I failed to see how any of her inner thoughts were even remotely useful or helpful.

I could next spend time discussing Amun, but I already presented what I know about him. He’s the love interest. He’s bound to the Maha is a vague way. Personality wise – there’s nothing there.

Just as there is no world building or characterization, there is also no conflict, probably because there is no plot. The Maha is dictated as evil, with no multilayered characterization. He’s evil except that his people love him, He’s evil except that all he does is tell Mehr to perform his rite and occasionally slap her down. He’s evil except that the Empire somehow exists in harmony (except for the Amrithi and Ambhan), at least I think it does, since there are no neighboring states (that we know of) and the Empire has never fallen, so it must be doing okay for itself. So Mehr and Amun follow the Maha’s direction without a question or fight, and practice the Rite of Dreaming. Day and Night. Chapter by Chapter. For two hundred pages. Sometimes they talk while dancing. Sometimes they don’t. Sometimes people watch them, sometimes they’re alone. Hey I’m a fan of dancing; maybe the lyrical movements described in the prose paint a beautiful picture? Nope. In fact, the dance is NEVER actually described via movement. It is nothing but ‘Mehr lifted her arms and formed a sigil’ repeatedly. What the hell does a sigil even look like? Is this one different from the one before? No idea. At one point Mehr and Amun stop dancing long enough to attempt to break the Maha’s claim on them, but when that attempt is foiled by a moment of predictable stupidity they abandon their plan and continue to dance. Oh well, better luck next time.

I think it’s time I finally put this book to rest, but I’m just so flabbergasted because I’ve never experienced a book where the author has a nice writing prose but a lack of substance. Usually lack of substance goes hand in hand with poor writing but Suri’s use of language is sound. I think that’s probably why it took me so long to realize that nothing actually made sense and that I wasn’t enjoying myself. And even when I became aware that the story wasn’t exactly fitting together as I hoped, I still held judgment because her writing style left me with an expectation that she would pull it all together, but when I reached the end and found nothing but knotted string in my hand instead of a tightly coiled skein I was beyond annoyed and more importantly, disappointed. Add to it the fact that book 2 features Mehr’s sister as its main character, a character who graced no more than 10 pages and spent 5 of them crying, I knew I’d had enough. Because of her skill with a pen, I’ll reserve judgment on her ability to eventually write a decent book, but I’m definitely not going anywhere near her books in the next 10 years. ***2 Confuddled Stars***
January 17, 2021
My review is finalized!

It was good overall, but it’s just me complaining about the romance. Otherwise, I think this book is worth checking out and deserves more attention. The plot was simple, but well executed. My main gripe is the forced marital consumption trope, which I dive more into in later paragraphs.

3.5 stars ⭐️

I got serious An Ember in the Ashes vibes while reading Empire of Sand. If you like AEITA, I think you will like this. I don’t want to mislead you by telling that this is fast paced like AEITA, because it is not. It is more character-driven and in the slower side.


The writing did really worked for me. It was lush, fluid and easy to get through. Plus, the chapters are short, which is always a plus! Even though this book is not an all-time favorite, I still recommend it and I will definitely check out Tasha Suri’s other works in the future. The magic system is based on dancing, which is also original & beautiful!

Otherwise, the atmosphere of the two books and the writing style are pretty similar. Also, like Laia, what is more pointed out in Mehr’s character psychological strength and courage instead of physical strength. So, if you are into this kind of heroines, this may be for you. However, Mehr is more into strategy and manipulation, unlike Laia.

It is nice to read a fantasy in a temple and desert setting. However, I think the romance was a bit rushed in the middle without no real chemistry between the two main characters. Too angsty for my tastes. I love wild dialogues and dynamics between the two love interests, but that’s really subjective. 😅 If you’re more into "quiet" romances, this may be for you.


There was no any banter and dynamics and I don’t even get why they like each other romantically. Plus, to be honest, I thought it was really one-sided: only the girl was interested in the guy. Amun did not seem to be involved with her, which was a bit embarrassing to read 🤣.(it’s not instalove but there’s no natural transition) It’s like, in the middle of the book, after the climax, he SUDDENLY fell in love with Mehr only to further the story. Not organic at all! I took off two stars in this case rather than one because this is a fantasy-romance and I should care about this melodramatic couple,but I didn’t really much sadly. I personally like romances with banter and funny moments. I hope the romance in Arwa’s book will be better. Plus, I was not a fan of how the romance was bound to the plot (I explained that below) It was weird and creepy. I am not telling too much about that because it’s a spoiler. In addition, I don’t really know why this is not YA. There was nothing exclusively “adult” about this book and many YA follow more or less the same storyline of the unloved princess/heiress forced to marry a suitor and she has magical abilities and bla bla bla, she has to fight an evil spirit. This did not affect my rating. It’s just me questioning the marketing of the book.


Let’s be real, I did not like how Mehr’s virginity was used as a plot device. Just no. It is creepy and I think there can be better ideas to bound Mehr to the Maha than forcing her to have sex with her husband, like a wedding tattoo or another magical ritual, for example. I’m tired of those kinds of situations in fantasy books where women are oppressed/forced/manipulated into having sex with someone, or are sexually threatened when it is not necessary to the story. It is a fantasy world, not historical fiction, you can create better rules to bound Mehr to the Maha other than forcing her to have sex with a total stranger. Come on, female (&male authors as well) authors can do better than that. If her husband was not the love interest, it would have been rape. The husband did not forced her into anything, but now that Mehr decided to serve the Maha, she has to consume her marriage to Amun, her husband (who is his servant) in order to be submissive to the Maha.


Plus, I think this book missed the opportunity to be lush and more atmospheric. For example, for a Mughal-inspired Fantasy, the author could have written beautiful descriptions of the architecture of the temple and expand more about the Daeva mythology and history more. I think the mythological part of the story could have been deepened.

Other than that, it is a standalone, what a delight!
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for alluringB.
239 reviews136 followers
June 14, 2021

I’ve been longing for some magical experience from a book and i must say this book was just dazzlinggg!!

Throughout the first half of the book i really thought that this would be a 5 star read but of course, when it comes to atmospheric typa books (beautifully written, i must add) they tend to drag a little. Nonetheless, world building & set up = BOMB. Suri is definitely up to par with Laini Taylor and S. A Chakraborty.

Also, being a hopeless romantic reader i was OBV SHIPPING THESE TWO STUBBORN ASSES -THEY DONT WEAR THEIR HEARTS ON THEIR SLEEVES- SO HARD!! But unfortunately the author seems to only be able to tell how in love both of the main characters are instead of showing, nomsayin??? so that was a bit anticlimactic since it was slow burn AF
Profile Image for Rosamund Hodge.
Author 26 books4,758 followers
March 12, 2019
This was a gorgeous and powerful story featuring two of my favorite themes: people making choices even when they are almost entirely powerless, and the power of people choosing to be kind. With an amazing slow-burn romance and numinously beautiful magic to boot.
Profile Image for Rebecca Roanhorse.
Author 59 books7,613 followers
July 20, 2020
This is a romance wrapped up in elegant prose and powerful fantasy worldbuilding. I very much enjoyed it, particularly the magic system (sleeping gods that dream the world, magic in dance and sigils) and the relationship at the heart of the story. Both the hero and heroine were great and their relationship felt real and redemptive. A few really great moments that surprised. It does get a little repetitive in the middle for my admittedly fast-paced tastes, but others might not mind a languid stroll to an exciting climax. Do recommend.
Profile Image for Aila.
911 reviews32 followers
June 6, 2018
EMPIRE OF SAND is the kind of book that you have to reread certain parts, or read more slowly, just so you can savor the words, story, and development. At least, that's what I did. Inspired by the Mughal era of India, EMPIRE OF SAND features a resilient heroine who struggles to survive in an empire where her people, the Amrithi, are despised. Throughout her journey, she finds hope and kindness and respect in the unlikeliest of places.

Think of it as loosely beginning like THE WRATH AND THE DAWN with more mature characters, and the phenomenal world-building of CITY OF BRASS, with a heart-stopping romance like in A CROWN OF WISHES. Basically, a must-read for fantasy readers. Review to come!
Profile Image for jenny✨.
563 reviews803 followers
July 16, 2020
This, not her past, was the perfect dream, the mirage hovering on the horizon, always out of grasp: a love given freely, without vows or seals, chains or guilt. She ached for it.

This was utterly gorgeous and evocative and the love between Mehr and Amun was so PURE and GOOD, I—

Shout-out to Nadine for suggesting we do this book for our buddy read—it blew my expectations away 😭😭😭
Profile Image for Brenda Waworga.
594 reviews667 followers
February 20, 2020
Oh absolutely love this book!!! Mugal India inspired + slow burn and swoon worthy romance + unique magic system and worldbuilding.... i had the best time read this book

I love the main character: Mehr!! she started reckless and annoyed me but i love she grew stronger, smarter but also softer through the book!! and Amun.. oh my sweet tortured soul Amun 😭 i want to hug himmmmm
Profile Image for Umairah (Sereadipity).
212 reviews107 followers
February 16, 2019
Plot: 4/5 Characters: 5/5. Writing: 5/5

Empire of Sand was an intricate story inspired by Mughal India. The world building was spectacular, I felt fully immersed in the culture and history.

It tells a tale of a noblewoman called Mehr who had an Amrithi mother and an Ambhan father. The Amrithi were desert people who were said to be descended from the daiva (in the book the daiva are the children of the gods) and can perform special rites through dancing and movement. The Ambhan Empire shunned them and took their land causing their numbers to dwindle.
"What are you supposed to do when you have lost the war and every possibility of victory has been absolutely, thoroughly annihilated?"

Even after Mehr's mother left her and her sister, Arwa, to their father, Mehr still tried to carry on practising her Amrithi traditions and retain her identity in a world that refused to accept them.

Mehr was a strong woman but not in the way we usually see, by waving swords around and tearing down enemies left, right and centre. She had an inner strength, a quiet strength. No matter what happened to her, no matter who came along and tried to hurt, manipulate or own her, she clung on to who she was and she clung on to her hopes and dreams.

The pacing of the book was quite slow, but I didn't mind. It enables us to be with Mehr every step of the way and appreciate her character development even more. Also, it gave time for Mehr and Amun's relationship to grow, for them to build up trust and friendship before taking it further. They were so adorable together and I loved how they spent time talking to each other and sharing things about themselves which you don't often see in many books. Amun even makes a tent out of a shawl and pillows in their room to cheer up Mehr when she's upset.

Empire of Sand was a pleasure to read and I loved the world building and the relationships between the characters the most.

This review and more can be found at Sereadipity
Profile Image for Zoraida.
Author 35 books4,009 followers
February 3, 2021
I keep asking for fantasy with a main romance plot and am often recommended this book. The romance is slow burn. Low heat factor but the pining is excellent. I'd recommend the paperbook instead of the audiobook.
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