Book Review: Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri


Emotional, ambitious and fresh. Tasha Suris debut novel, Empire of Sand, brings us an enthralling fantasy adventure set in world inspired by Mughal India which is wonderfully brought to life before your eyes with evocative and sumptuous description.

We follow the story of Mehr, the illegitimate daughter of a powerful Ambhan noble and an Amrithi-nomad mother. Despite growing up in her father’s household and barely knowing her mother, she has never been able to forget her Amrithi background. She feels its presence in her blood, and has in fact inherited much from her mother, including latent magical gifts. As she begins to discover these powers, she draws the attention of the Maha, the founder and god-emperor of the Ambhan Empire, who attempts to bind her power to himself through a forced marriage. Mehr must use every ounce of guile and willpower to free herself and her similarly enslaved husband from his grip, and save the world from the wrath of gods in the process.

While this book is undeniably Fantasy, it is hard to decide on who it is aimed for it straddles the line between YA and adult fiction, melding the tropes and features of both together.  The story, and many of its themes, are quite dark at times but in many ways, it is also a coming-of-age story with a dash of romance.

The world-building in this book is one of my favourite elements of the story. I always enjoy some good world-building. The world that Tasha Suri has built is vivid, beautiful and harsh in equal measure. The desert, the cities and the cultures we meet are brought to life before our eyes through Tasha Suri’s wonderful writing. The Mughal-Indian inspiration for this setting gave everything a fresh and different feeling from the usual medieval/dark age Europe inspired worlds that make up the majority of the fantasy genre. This isn’t a criticism of European inspired fantasies, I love many of them, but this book felt refreshing in this aspect, with a unique sense of identity to its magical and fantastical elements.

One criticism of the story I have read online is its pacing. I don’t understand this at all. I felt that the book was perfectly paced. Yes, it isn’t all non-stop action, but at no point did I feel like the pace of the story dragged. The slower portions of the book are, at least in my opinion, vital. They build tension, allow Mehr’s relationships to build and develop, and give us insight into the world Tasha Suri has created.

Saying all of this, I did feel that the way Mehr and her husband, Amun, escaped the clutches of the Maha was a little easy, thought that isn’t quite the right word, especially considering he has been controlling Amrithi pairs for centuries. I don’t want to really say anymore though, because, you know, spoilers.

Despite this, I would actually say that the relationships between the cast of characters are a huge strength of this book. Amun and Mehr’s relationship builds naturally throughout the story and feels truly believable. I also especially liked the way that Tasha Suri brings out the human element of the Mystics – the servants and priests of the Maha. It is very well done, especially considering the way they are introduced as monsters who are distrusted by even the nobles of the empire, those who benefit from their worship and power. It teaches Mehr, and reminds us readers, that humans are quintessentially good and want to do the right thing: many so-called-villains are actually just victims of circumstance.

This is a book I would highly recommend. It felt very much like a stand-alone novel with its ending, but it does have a sequel coming, Realm of Ash, which I look forward to!

2 thoughts on “Book Review: Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri

  1. Pingback: Book Review: Realm of Ash by Tasha Suri – Book Reviews | Jack's Bedtime Reading

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