Empire of Sand: The Books of Ambha Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
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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....
Empire of Sand is a lush, dazzling fantasy novel perfect for fans of City of Brass and The Wrath & the Dawn.
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|Listening Length||17 hours|
|Whispersync for Voice||Ready|
|Audible.com Release Date||November 13, 2018|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #69,599 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#577 in Historical Fantasy (Audible Books & Originals)
#1,346 in Action & Adventure Fantasy (Audible Books & Originals)
#2,493 in Historical Fantasy (Books)
Reviewed in the United States on October 17, 2021
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Top reviews from the United States
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Everything just kept getting worse for poor Mehr, and I felt like not only was she not getting a break, she was only being broken down without any sense of character development. It was character erosion more than anything else. But the themes and pacing changed into being subtly resistant against an all-encompassing oppression in what ways you can and finding small pleasures despite said difficulty, and THEN I found myself enjoying it and wanting to see what happened next. It gained a sense of balance. The ending was earned and I was happy for it, even with its bitter sweetness and sense of uncertainty.
But I will say the themes made more sense once I understood the story as being representative of the power of women historically, which has of course included imprisonment to duties dictated by society and trying to find power and purpose within that restriction. But I still think there were other ways to write that portion of the book that could have been more convincing and less wallowing in misery for its own sake.
The main antagonist was... okay. Threatening, but the way he was handled wasn't particularly exciting, and even the writing at a big moment is a touch stilted. The writing in general could have been more polished. There were certain emotional moments that were underserved by the writing. It just didn't hit as strongly as it could have. Most notable (aside from the antagonist) was another character early on whose death we are supposed to be sympathetic towards, but there really isn't anything to identify and relate to her with other than knowing that she is dying. To counter that, there is another fairly traumatic scene that is superbly done and was supported well by the writing.
But I quite enjoyed the romance. It was a little fluffy at points but tender and sweet, a nice balance to the darker portions of the book. I find myself partial to Amun in his softness and suffering. How things ended for these characters who had gone through so much was nice given we suffered with them. It almost made the misery slog that is the first part of the book worth it.
On the whole, I will definitely be remembering this book and I do recommend it. I know I am sensitive to certain themes that others quite enjoy so I try to keep that in mind. I don't know if I would reread it unless I felt like something dour, but I will be reading the second one!
Tasha Suri’s debut novel Empire of Sand is a book influenced by the Murghal Empire without being a book about the Mughal Empire. It stands in its own universe of myth and lore. The world that she creates is very well realized, both epic in it’s scope yet is a personal journey. It’s use of magic is believable in not only that world but seems like it would have worked in ours a long time ago. The magic rituals seem to be based on Indian classical dances, mainly the Bharatanatyam.
Mehr is the privileged daughter of the Governor of Jah Irinah who serves under the auspices of not only the Emperor, but of the godlike Maha who is the real power behind the Ambhan Empire. His mystics pray for the fortunes and prosperity of the empire and or misfortunes of their enemies. Yet as privileged and sheltered as she is, she is an outcast in her own palace. her heritage is only half Ambhan as her mother was of a race considered barbarous, the Amrithi. Her mother, rather than let vows bind her to her father, she left to join her people out in the desert not to be seen again. Though Mehr is an outcast, her younger sister Arwa has been taken under the wing of Maryam, their step-mother. Yes, there is a (sort of) wicked step-mother. What mainly alienates her from everyone is that Maha still chooses to follow the ancient rites of her people such as ritual dances and the belief in daivas, djinn like creatures descendant from the gods.
It is not only beliefs but the power that manifests when she performs the ancient dances that draw the attention of the Maha’s mystics. They come to her father with an arranged marriage proposal. By tradition she has the right to turn down the proposal and her father advises so. but it is not a good idea to turn down the mystics, so to save not only her family’s honor but heir lives, she chooses to marry a servant of the Maha.
What will follow is the revelation of the truth behind the Maha’s power and his monstrous personality. Mehr’s journey becomes our journey as it is her point of view we follow except for a couple of brief chapters. Her journey is a personal one where she discovers the strength of the powers hidden within her rituals and power of vows that are truly binding. With all that going on, the foundation of the story and her motivations is a love story between her and Amun, the Amrithi man whose vows to the Maha and his mystics practically make him their slave.
Ms. Suri’s world building hints at a deeper and richer history than we are presented with. And that is a good thing. The illusionist’s best trick is leaving the audience wanting more. Since this is the beginning of a series (but the book can stand on its own) we can expect more of the mysteries of this world to open up on us. What we do get revealed to us is a world where the dreams and nightmares of sleeping gods can shape the very fate of an empire.
I cared a lot for Mehr’s struggles whether they be mundane ones or life threatening ones and found her to be a strong heroine who has to grow stronger as the world crumbles around her. There are moments of violence and physical abuse in the book that may be unsettling to some but it is never exploitative.
This is a highly readable book with relatable characters and I can’t wait to get to the next installment.
Current editions of Empire of Sand contain an interview with the author and a preview of the folow-up book Realm of Ash. I originally received an advanced copy through NetGalley but went ahead and purchased the book to suppor the author.
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The narrative follows Mehr, a young noblewoman whose mixed heritage imparts her with the power to see and interact with the mystical daiva, along with other, more impressive powers. After dancing a particularly powerful rite one night she is inadvertently brought to the attention of the Maha, the spiritual ruler of the Empire, and finds herself being coerced into marriage with one of the Maha's mystics.
This is very definitely fantasy on a small scale. Almost the entire narrative is told from Mehr's point of view, and while we do get hints of the bigger picture, we're mostly shown how the events affect the individuals. This is where the author's true strength lies, in showing us not only the individuals but also the world around them through their eyes. Suri breathes life into pretty much every character we meet in this novel, and she does it with some of the best writing I've seen in a debut novel in a long time. On top of that, her worldbuilding is exemplary, drawing inspiration from the Mughal Empire and throwing in a dance-based magic system and fully realised spirit world.
All in all I really loved this book. It feels like a standalone novel, though I know there's already a follow-on due out in November. There are definitely threads that could feed into a second novel, though I wouldn't be too disappointed if the major characters from this one don't make it into the next.
I'll be very surprised if Empire of Sand doesn't make it on to an award ballot or two this year and look forward to more from Tasha Suri in the years to come.
Mehr is the daughter of the governor of Irinah. Her mother abandoned her and her sister and they have lead a sheltered life in the governor's place, brought up by maids and their disapproving step mother. Married off to a mystic to please the Emperor, Mehr treks across the desert and finds her marriage vows have not only bound her to her new husband, but also to the leader of the mystics, for whom she must dance to control the Daivas and the dreams of the gods.
This is not your usual swords and sorcery fantasy, although there are some swords and some sorcery. The setting takes much from the Mughal Empire, and introduces a magic system based on vows, dance and blood.
Mehr's story looks at choices and freedom, as she tries to bend her vows while protecting her husband, and meet the expectations of soceity and family.
Pretty much everyone who’s read Empire of Sand has been singing its praises, so it’s a novel that’s been on my radar for a little while now and one that’s come along at just the right time for me; I’ve been keen to read a lot more Asian-inspired fantasy this year, meaning this Mughal India-inspired tale had such a refreshing fantasy setting, and I’ve also been getting more and more into desert fantasy.
There’s so much I loved and appreciated about this book, and this is especially true of the romance. This is very much a fantasy book but, if you’re a romance reader, this is a novel you’ll want to try because the romance is still a big part of the story without becoming the central focus, and it’s such a tender romance at that.
In Ambhan society, a woman takes on her husband’s duties, responsibilities and loyalties, so Mehr is pushed into a marriage with Amun, who himself has orders he has no choice but to follow due to the vows he has made. Amun so easily could have been written as a rude and brooding type, but I don’t think I’ve ever come across a love interest, in any genre, who understands consent the way Amun does. Neither Mehr nor Amun are particularly happy about their situation, when Mehr is taken by the Emperor’s mystics her life becomes a rather miserable one, but the two of them develop a friendship which in turn develops into something more, and in the process the two of them become each other’s safety net.
There’s a lot I loved about Mehr herself, though; she’s magically gifted, but her true power is an inner, moral strength to do the right thing even when the right thing is the thing most likely to get her hurt or killed. She loves her parents, and her parents love her, but neither of them have been what a mixed race girl in the Ambhan Empire has needed, and it’s been up to Mehr in turn to care for her little sister, Arwa, while their stepmother punishes her for being another woman’s daughter.
Mysterious, absent mothers are no stranger to the SFF genre—particularly in stories with young women at their centre—but what I loved about Mehr is that while she does understand why her mother made the decisions she made, she also doesn’t hesitate to call her out for not being the mother either she or Arwa has needed. I love women who are mothers still being allowed to be complex women who aren’t defined by their motherhood, but it’s also so satisfying to see children who have been left be given the opportunity to put their feelings into words.
I want to say as little about the plot itself as I can because it would give away too much of the book, and the joy of reading this novel is not quite knowing where the story’s going to go, but Suri’s writing is moreish and once I got into the meat of the story I found it very difficult to put down. Personally I would have liked a little more world-building, but it didn’t bother me because Mehr isn’t the right protagonist to teach us about the Empire—she doesn’t spend any time there, so it wouldn’t feel natural for her to pause everything she’s doing to give us a lore dump.
The world-building isn’t lacking by any means, it just left me with questions which I imagine are going to be answered in the companion novel. What I didn’t quite get from the world, though, I definitely got from the villain; he is the worst, and I can’t remember the last time I was so frustrated and disgusted by a villain. I wasn’t sure what to think of him at first, but by the end of the novel I desperately wanted Mehr to set him on fire. He’s awful, and the ideal villain if you’re the kind of reader who loves to hate your villains.
If you’re looking for a desert fantasy, an Asian-inspired fantasy, a standalone fantasy, or simply a good fantasy, you need to pick up this book. It’s so worth your time, and I’m looking forward to reading more from Tasha Suri.
It started strong and I thought I was in for a load of fast-paced action and badassery from Mehr. Instead, what I got was a nearly 500-page book that was incredibly slow, devoid of any action, drawn-out in parts and an MC who was just so meh?
I really enjoyed the writing and think that Suri writes beautifully. It was one of the things that kept me reading even though I did not feel attached to the characters (except Amun). I feel it was as though we were going around in circles until we reached an anticlimactic end.
I also think that the relationship between Amun and Mehr lacked any real development because their actual relationship didn't get adequate page time. There was so much potential but it fell short here and since their relationship is a huge part of the story, it is really unfortunate. I wanted more interactions that consisted of them getting to know each other without the mention of the Maha.
I don't know if I'm interested enough to read book #2 but haven't completely ruled it out.