‘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 simply beautiful book that I enjoyed so much that it numbers in my top five reads of the year. I read through about half of it in one sitting and had to ration out the rest of it because I just didn’t want it to end. Suri has created a magical and enthralling world rich in detail and real, vivid characters who habit it.
I loved Mehr and her devotion to her sister and the traditions from her mother’s side of her heritage. Her story explores what it means to be trapped between worlds and loyalties, judged for being one or the other – or both – and the importance of forging an identity through making choices and having values that you can find peace in, whether or not they align with what others would have of you. The examination of what it is to be bound to others through the use of the magic system surrounding vows is a both painful and beautiful metaphor for what power love and duty have, and is one of the core components of a story that explores all manner of bonds, be they familial, romantic or the impact of servitude.
The women in Empire of Sand are brilliant and I loved each of them, albeit for different reasons. Even Maryam, Mehr’s stepmother, is not entirely unsympathetic in the actions she takes, for it is obvious that she is trying to do what she believes is for the best to keep those she cares about safe, even though she is simultaneously utterly detestable in her treatment of others. Lalita is a much needed guide for Mehr, her ability to spend time in the worlds of both cultures something that allows her to act as someone able to help her navigate each, the fact that she has even surrendered her own name for her safety something that serves to highlight just what conquering nations will do to the identities of those they consider different from them. Even the women the reader sees less of, such as those Mehr meets later in her journey, are real, sympathetic and strong – they all have heart, regardless of whether they can ultimately be considered ‘good’ in terms of moral compass.
The writing is lyrical and emotive, and though the pace of the narrative is not particularly quick, I feel that this is not what would have served the novel well. That the pacing is measured and there are rises and falls makes it feel like the dancing that is such a huge part of it. I loved Empire of Sand and truly look forward to seeing further books set in this world. Thank you, Orbit Books, for my copy!