Hello humans! It feels like it’s been a while, in case you missed my announcement on Twitter I’m going to be changing up the frequency of posts on this blog in the run-up to the new year, life is really busy and my brain is a little broken at the moment. There will still be content, fear not! It will just be slightly more dispersed content!
With that out of the way, let’s move on to today’s review, Empire of Sands by the amazing Tasha Suri. This book wasn’t hugely on my radar until suddenly everyone was talking about it and I realised it was definitely something I ought to read, I am therefore extremely grateful to the publisher for allowing me to read a review copy and to share my thoughts with you!
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…
Let me start by saying that I adored this book. I read it in a day (yesterday in fact, if you’re reading this on the day of posting). I read it on the bus on the way into work, I read it in a café on my lunch break, I read it on the bus home from work, I read it in the bath at home – you get the picture. This is one of those stories that totally swept me up, by the last third or so I don’t think you could have persuaded me to stop reading even if the house was on fire (I was in the bath, it would have been fine). Irritatingly, I can’t always put a finger on what makes a book fly by like that for me, if I could I would be much better at choosing what I read, but it is one of my favourite things as a reader, to kind of fall outside of time whilst you’re reading, and this book definitely did that for me.
I loved the setting and the world building that accompanied it, you very much got the sense of the pain of the loss of Amrithi culture as Mehr learned what was left to learn about it. This was one of the most poignant descriptions of that kind of loss that I can remember reading (with the possible exception of some short stories). But the worldbuilding is still rich and has so many little details, how Tasha Suri managed to come up with some of them I’ll never know, but suffice to say this setting is wholly it’s own. One can draw comparisons to other desert based fantasies but this book definitely stands out to me.
The romance, honestly I just want to talk about the romance. This is a lovely slow burn romance which feels (to me) perfectly paced and positioned within the rest of the story. It does play quite a significant part in the plot (no spoilers so I can’t say too much more) but this doesn’t read like a fantasy romance hybrid, it’s more integrated than that. What I adored and appreciated was how this story handled consent.
In this case, I do mean sexual consent but this book also features consent for other ‘smaller’ actions, by which I mean there is a lovely moment where one character asks for consent before they touch the other. I…I just…I love to see consent modelled in fantasy books where so often the excuse is made ‘oh I based it on the past and women were mistreated so I’m off the hook’. This proves it friends – you’re not off the hook.
That’s not to say there isn’t violence in this book, and I should definitely give the content warning of extreme violence specifically directed towards female characters. In some ways this is very effective in the plot, setting up a contrast between the more lovely characters and thus making the villain even more terrifying (and it’s a pretty terrifying villain).
This is one of my top adult fantasy reads of the year, and I’ve read quite a number of them so that’s high praise. Tasha Suri manages to balance romance, culture, enslavement, magic, religion and a whole host of other incredibly tricky themes like it’s easy and I could not be more happy to recommend Empire of Sand to you!
My rating: 5/5 stars (no surprises there)
I received a digital advanced review copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
What say you? Have you read Empire of Sands? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!