Karina's Reviews > Realm of Ash

Realm of Ash by Tasha Suri
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Rating: 4 Stars:★★★★ (Maybe 4.5? Still deciding on a rating)
Realm Of Ash is the follow-up to Empire Of Sand one of my favorite SFF debuts of last year! Returning to the Ambhan Empire again felt so unreal to me because it'd felt like the wait for this book took such a long time--but now I've finished it and I'm sad I read it SO quickly b/c I'm not sure how long I can wait for future books in this series! 😭

Set 10 years after EoS, we follow Arwa (Mehr's younger sister) who's now in her 20's and is a widow who's searching for her identity as she reconciles with her grief. Though, its also a journey about her (much like Mehr's) to embrace the Amrithi heritage she's had to keep hidden for most of her life.

The overarching plot thread that develops of the course of ROA involves the Empire and how it slowly crumbles after the Maha's death.

At the start of the novel, Arwa takes time to reflect in the hermitage after the loss of her husband, which slowly uncovers more about her personal journey to unlocking her Amrithi heritage. Much to her dismay, she befriends one of the widows there who offers her a chance on a new path, in the heart of the royal palace of the empire.

She soon finds herself at the royal palace quickly immersing herself in the court politics and meets Zahir the studious illegitimate prince who's invisible to the eyes of his other royal siblings (not Princess Jihan though).

Arwa is told to assist Zahir and he teaches her all about the mysterious realm of ash. As the story progresses, the two find ways to root themselves in this place (with the help of Arwa's Amrithi blood) to find a way to cure the ills of the Empire's curse, which has brought famine and uncertainty to the people.

What Suri captures beautifully, which are incredibly important themes throughout the novel are: Grief and Identity.

Through Arwa's perspective we are taken on a journey of both grief and healing. Suri brings up many questions in regards to how Arwa processes these complex emotions, rolled up with the fact that her Amrithi heritage is coming to light around her.

The process of grief and mourning, what happens after? What do we owe others in regards to our grief? The healing process both for ones self and the world around them.. Arwa's perspective captures all of these layered ideas, emotional responses, and reactions masterfully as we follow Arwa on her journey to set her own path.

Additionally, as Arwa (and us as readers) learn more about soft prince Zahir, we then begin to see this is really his story too in regards to their identities. Their journey both as they develop their relationship and head to the realm of ash, allows them to question/better understand who they are in a world that has established their identities.

Arwa believes her only role after her husband's death is to be a mourning widow, Zahir feels he is meant to always remain in shadow.

However, its also about how the 2 of them grapple with the identities they are assigned, but how they also use them to their advantage!

Similar to EoS, the world-building in Realm Of Ash is fantastic! There's so much traveling in this book, so if you love journey stories, I recommend this book! In addition, I absolutely ADORED the layered politics of this novel. Often times it can seem like they slow the pacing of fantasy world, because they can influence and encompass many different facets of a society. However, Suri masterfully examines court politics, their influence on the world, and the layered castes of society that are each trying to find their footing as the world crumbles around them. (*Also the "balance" of the world & the Maha's death impacted that)

Now onto the plot! There are many different layers to the story that are explored and I don't want to spoil them all, but its a slow/steady progress from the hermitage, palace, realm of ash, and additional threads that force Arwa & Zahir to journey together to hopefully save their empire.

The cast of characters were..fantastic!?! I loved the cast so much even the characters you aren't supposed to love they are written with so much depth, emotion, impact, you sense their presence long after they've left a scene as Arwa & Zahir continue their journeys: Gulshera, princes Akhtar, Nasir, Parviz, widows, the commander, & many more!

Now I wanted to discuss some minor critiques that lowered my rating (though I absolutely loved this book with all my heart) (*honestly ratings just make things complicated XD)
I did want more from the royal/court politics because again, the way Suri weaves them together and how they influence not just the particular scene, but the characters and world as well is masterfully done! I just really wanted a bit more because in some fantasy books I've read with court politics they often showcase them as incredibly cunning or deceptive..but they don't always have to be! Suri portrays the politics in a realistic and impactful way when the world itself is crumbling...

Though I absolutely loved the introspective journey of Arwa, I would have loved more plot threads here & there! + more Arwa + Zahir moments because I just...loved them a lot!! I also felt there could have been just a little more expansion on the thread of the royals because again..they were just so wonderfully developed/introduced that I just wanted more page time with them! There were also a couple of characters I felt *personally could have had a little less page time because in the end, I personally wasn't hugely impacted by them.

Realm Of Ash is a deeply character-driven journey that delves even more into the immersive world established in Empire Of Sand! A tale of grief, embracing ones identity, and the journeys one seeks to find the truth to better understand themselves & their world! A phenomenal sequel that unlocks more to the Ambhan Empire than ever before!

*I'm literally in tears right now because Arwa, Zahir, their journeys they will forever remain a part of my heart!
I am definitely looking forward to Suri's next adventure in the Ambhan Empire! ♥♥*:・゚ ✧゚*
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Reading Progress

December 10, 2018 – Shelved
December 10, 2018 – Shelved as: to-read
December 10, 2018 – Shelved as: adult-fiction
December 10, 2018 – Shelved as: arc
December 10, 2018 – Shelved as: arcs
December 10, 2018 – Shelved as: diversity-in-lit
December 10, 2018 – Shelved as: historical-fantasy
December 10, 2018 – Shelved as: orbit-books
December 10, 2018 – Shelved as: read-in-2019
December 10, 2018 – Shelved as: sff
March 8, 2019 – Shelved as: november-2019
May 23, 2019 – Shelved as: high-fantasy
October 30, 2019 – Started Reading
November 2, 2019 –
page 225
49.23%
November 7, 2019 –
page 496
100%
November 7, 2019 – Shelved as: books-i-own
November 7, 2019 – Shelved as: books-that-made-me-think
November 7, 2019 – Shelved as: favorites
November 7, 2019 – Finished Reading

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