Empire Of Sand by Tasha Suri (The Books Of Ambha #1)
Publisher: Orbit Books
Release Date: November 13, 2018
Available Through The Book Depository: Empire Of Sand
Summary: 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…
*Requested an ARC from the publisher*
My Thoughts: Empire Of Sand is an epic fantasy tale with its world rooted and inspired by India’s Mughal Empire! This atmospheric debut pulls you in with its lush and wondrous writing as we learn about Mehr and her abilities that catch the attention of Mystics! Suri’s debut is filled to the brim with politics, intrigue, mystery, phenomenal world-building, themes of hope, love, sleeping gods, and a richly plotted tale that will captivate you! Empire Of Sand is a stellar debut that is a must read!
You know when you’ve been really looking forward to a book, the expectations are sky high, & your left wondering how in the world it managed to leave you ruined, while also filling you with hope and shock that you have to wait for the next one?– That’s how Empire Of Sand left me, as I turned that last page and closed the book on Mehr’s journey, which I was not ready to leave just yet!
Set in the land of Ambhan, inspired by the Mughal Empire, we follow Mehr who is the daughter of a governor and lives a peaceful life with her father, younger sister Arwa, stepmother Maryam, & servants/nurses who’ve looked after her since she was little.
Within the dark, but beautifully crafted world that Suri has presented, we learn Mehr is not fully Ambhan, but also Amrithi, nomads who descended from desert spirits and have magic within their blood.
Being half Amrithi, she knows of the fear and scorn that Ambhan’s have for her people. However, regardless of what people say or think, she stays true to her Amrithi heritage by practicing Rites, or dances that symbolize a number of events or causes and Sigils, hand signs that can allow her to communicate with the daiva .
Amrithi’s are the only ones who can ward off and even connect with the daiva, desert spirits crafted of darkness that take on many forms.
Suri starts this book off in such a fantastic way! (& Yes, that’s also including Mehr taking out a dagger in from under her pillow within the first page/sentences✨🗡)
It turns out Arwa, Mehr’s 9-year old sister, has just seen a daiva and was frightened. From within those first few pages, we get so much lore to the daiva that not only are they desert spirits, but they can also take many forms and respond to Sigils, & that the blood of Amrithi is the only thing that can keep them at bay.
We also get so much inner politics between Mehr & the household, through so many complex relationships. To start, Mehr wants to talk to Arwa about their Amrithi heritage, but their stepmother Maryam, won’t allow it and despises Mehr because of her background, all while Maryam wants to ensure Arwa is never connected that part of her heritage.
Mehr and her dynamic with her father is incredibly complex. She loves him and he does everything in his power to keep her safe, but she is still hurting due to the fact that he didn’t stop her mother from leaving and has convinced Mehr not to talk about her Amrithi heritage with her sister.
The love Mehr has for Arwa is so incredibly strong and heart-breaking because she wants Arwa to understand the Amrithi heritage she hardly has any knowledge of, but for fear of Maryam further creating a rift between them, she knows she can’t.
Then there’s Lalita, a long-time family friend who knew Mehr’s mother & is also Amrithi! She’s Mehr’s motherly figure and has taught her all that she can about the Rites, Sigils, & daiva. However, when Lalita announces that she may have to leave their city of Jah Irinah.
As it turns out, Lalita fears some Amrithi are no longer safe, herself included. Though, she ensures Mehr that her Ambhan 1/2 & her father Suren’s position as governor will keep her well protected.
Mehr is such a brave, clever, and strongly-willed protagonist who does everything in her power to protect those she loves, regardless of the consequences. However, though she’s an incredibly compassionate and fiercely dedicated heroine, she also isn’t afraid to outwit people if it means those she cares about are safe!
When this energy/power descended from the gods, Dreamfire looms closer to her city, she goes after Lalita to make sure she’s alright and preform the Rite to keep them from taking over the city.
However, this draws to the attention of important religious figures in the Empire and puts herself and possibly even her entire family, at risk.
With Mehr’s safety now in jeopardy, her father tells her she has to leave Jah Irinah with her sister and stepmother and find a husband. She chooses to stay and from that decision, the Mystics find her and strike up a bargain with her father.
My heart broke at Arwa having to leave Mehr 😭 But before she has to leave, Mehr gives Arwa her dagger, while reminding her it means they’ll see each other again soon.
With the Mystics having leverage over the knowledge of Mehr and her Amrithi abilites, Kalini (the 2nd in command) comes with another of their group, Amun, for Mehr to marry and return to The Maha Temple.
Not many options are left and while Mehr truly wishes things could be different, she sticks with her choice and chooses to be with Amun.
While there were so many amazing characters in Empire Of Sand, aside from Mehr, Amun was another one of my all-time favorite characters (I loved him so much!! ❤💕)
Their first meeting was them staring into each others eyes, with Mehr asking him questions!! (That whole scene was just so beautifully written). If your looking for a utterly beautiful, but also realistic & at times heartbreaking romance in fantasy–Empire Of Sand is for you!! You will love Mehr & Amun– they were such an amazing couple/duo and I heart was with them with every page, rooting for them and seeing them grow and find strength with each other!
He’s a character who’s vows have bound him and he’s come to accept that freedom just isn’t an option. However, throughout the entire book as Mehr learns more about him, we know from her internal POV she understands his hurt and wants more than anything–to help him gain a shot at freedom!
I loved how devoted they are to one another, even though we learn through Mehr’s Amrithi heritage, that marriage means something incredibly special and was a choice taken away from her, she understands that if she has any chance at ensuring her family & the Amrithi’s safety, its a choice that carries so much weight!
Mehr is also confronting quite a number of internal battles, from this rift between these 2 cultures that are a part of her identity, to the hope and fear she buries within herself as she’s brought into a dangerous game of magic and intrigue within the Maha’s temple.
Amun has this shell around himself and underneath has really just given up because of all that he’s lost and the judgement he undergoes as the only Amrithi within the Mystics (My heart broke for him 💔😭). But with Mehr, there is hope and he finds himself believing again and the bond that’s forged between them is so powerful, even if they don’t see it right away!
With Mehr now on a trek with Amun and the other Mystics to the Maha (the powerful religious, & immortal figure/spiritual leader of the Empire who’s also the Emperor’s right-hand man) and his temple, we find ourselves in this place with magic, secrets, intrigue, & politics.
He’s an incredibly powerful figure who the Mystics see as a hero and savior, but we see there’s these mysterious/dark sides to him as he interacts with the cast of characters, Mehr included! As we learn more about his plan and why he had Mehr brought to his temple, the more that gets explored to the world, its magic, & the other Mystics + especially Amun!
Empire Of Sand is one of those books that continuously builds on every aspect of its story, while finding a perfect balance with each of those elements.
The characters (even the one’s you despise) are built with so much depth and have their own flaws and weaknesses that build with their development in the story. For example, Mehr’s friends work in the temple (some are Mystics & others are servants/cooks): Such as Hema (Kalini’s sister), Ami, Rena, & Anni. Also other Mystics she meets on her journey to the temple: Bahren, Abhiman, & Edhir!
The magic system is incredibly complex all while showing such a stark beauty and darkness to it in a way I loved exploring! From the many Rites and their symbolism for a variety of things (like an entire cycle of rites just for the passing hours), to the way daiva take on forms, and the ancient magic The Maha uses to keep control of Mehr, Amun and his Mystics throughout the book!
The setting and magic build in such a way where they are brilliantly crafted within the characters themselves. Its also explored to a point where not only do you learn more about Ambhan, but its through the subtle details that your shown even more facets to not only the immersive world, but also its stunning cast of characters!
Suri’s writing is utterly phenomenal, brilliantly crafted, while allowing her plot to unfold in such a layered and complex way! Every paragraph, sentence, & word matters. Through a lush and vibrant descriptions, you feel the beauty and grittiness of the desert sand, Mehr’s hope, fear, & valiant spirit, Amun’s deep connection with her, and the dark, wondrous, & beautiful magic explored of the Ambhan Empire.
There’s also such complex and important themes explored throughout the entirety of Empire Of Sand, like the intricacy of choice, love, family, faith, and Suri goes even deeper to explore the deeper truths within each of these, which I have never seen developed in such a way until this glorious book!
Through mainly Mehr’s 3rd person POV, she not only comes to life from the first page, but every single character, no matter how little page time they had, become so real. I could picture each of them and connect with them, to where I could decipher so much about them from just a sentence or two!
What also brought even more complexity to this already fantastical story, was the inclusion after a chunk of chapters, a new POV! They were introduced at such perfect moments where you could easily shift gears and learn more about the Amrithi and vastness of the Ambhan Empire!
Empire Of Sand had me smiling, crying–there were just so many emotions! You know those books that just utterly captivate you and you can’t exactly put into words just how amazing the story & reading experience is? That was definitely Suri’s fantastic debut!
Even as a book blogger, I find it hard at times to pitch & recommend my favorite books, but if your reading this review and have yet to pick up this amazing book or add it to your TBR–do it, so you can immerse yourself into this amazing world & follow even more amazing characters like Mehr & Amun!
Overall, I am beyond excited to see where Suri’s world of the Ambhan Empire is explored in her next book!
Empire Of Sand is an epic fantasy debut you don’t want to miss! With an immersive, magical, & complex world, this novel will pull you in as it explores the power of choice and love, alongside such important themes of family, identity, & so much more! The richly detailed plot is filled with so much history, intrigue, mystery, politics, and phenomenal characters, that are rooted in an utterly fascinating and intriguing world inspired by the Mughal Empire!