Ever since I first snagged Tasha Suri’s debut novel, Empire of Sand (The Books of Ambha, #1) at BookCon, I was immediately intrigued by the premise. I loved the concept of a Mughal India-inspired fantasy series. Unfortunately, I know I’m a little late to the review party on this ARC. But hey, better late than never, right?
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…
I was really impressed with Suri’s writing style. For a debut novel, she does a good job of creating a world that is fleshed out and immersive. It didn’t feel like there was too much info-dumping, just enough information to provide some context for why the Amrithi are persecuted by the rest of the Empire. I also liked how the magic system was fairly straightforward without being overly complicated. I feel like can be a problem with a lot of debut fantasies but luckily it wasn’t this time.
Mehr is your typical outcast-type of heroine. She’s independent with a bit of a rebellious streak but she’s also pretty fragile inside. I would also say she definitely suffers from abandonment issues with her mother which affects her overall confidence. She wasn’t my favorite character ever, more average than anything else. And then there’s Amun.. He’s stoic and closed-off, having spent his entire life being singled out by the mystics for his Amrithi gifts. It took me a long time to really care about him as a character, as he didn’t have much of a personality. Usually the stoic types are harsh and blunt, but he was more silent than anything else. However, he did grow on me some as he started showing his loyalty to Mehr. I liked how he was willing to do anything to try and protect her.
I would say the biggest weakness with this book was the inconsistency in the pacing. It started off really strong and then I felt myself growing bored through most of the middle, before ramping back up at the end. The majority of the book is just Mehr and Amun practicing their dancing, which I felt lacked any real tension even with the lingering presence of the Maha. Honestly, I was just hoping for more appearances from the daiva. They were my favorite part about the book but made too few appearances. I’m really hoping they play a bigger part in the next book. I also wouldn’t mind the next book to have a POV from Amun’s perspective as well, so we can connect more with him as a character.
Overall, this was a solid debut novel with a few issues that I think can be fixed in future sequels. I loved the world that Suri has created and am looking forward to seeing where she goes next with this story. I feel like there’s so many different things she can explore, which makes me excited for the next book.
Final Verdict: 3.5/5 Stars
Have you read Empire of Sand? If so, what did you think of it? Did you have a hard time connecting Amun’s character? What was your opinion on the novel’s pacing?