Review: Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri

39714124Alright. This book. Let’s see how well I can write up a review for this book. Here’s hoping it’s not just my sobbing onto the keyboard.

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…

This book was recommended to me by a great many people in twitter or on discord or a bit of both. I had grabbed the audiobook with every intention of listening to it immediately but it got a little back burnered. Once I got started, this was a very difficult book to stop listening to. I wandered around work, headphones on. I wandered around home, headphones on. There was also that time I had to explain to my boss why I was all teary-eyed… yeah. #AwkwardWorkplaceSobbing

This is the story of Mehr, who is the illegitimate daughter of the governor of one of the provinces of a vast desert empire. She is half-Amrithi, a people who are generally shunned for their beliefs and rituals. Mehr’s mother taught her some of those rituals before she was exiled from the city and Mehr was left to be raised by her Ambahn father and her cruel stepmother, who grudgingly allow Mehr to dance the rites with her mother’s friend Lalita. The only person other than Lalita that Mehr has is her sister, Arwa.

One day, a storm comes. A storm of magic and daiva, beings said to be descended from the gods, who the Amrithi themselves are descended from. Mehr has daiva magic in her blood, and when the storm comes, she dances the rites to look for her missing friend, and the storm answers… but so does the Maha, the religious leader of the empire, a nearly-god-like being who reigns over the mystics of the desert. The Maha can see the magic in Mehr’s blood, and knows that it can be used to influence the god’s dreams, which make up the world. Mehr is more or less forced to marry the odd mystic Amun, and when she says her vows, she is tied irrevocably to him… and through him to the Maha… but Amun isn’t cruel, despite all evidence otherwise. He does what he can to protect Mehr from the worst of the binding.

And so, Mehr and Amun are enslaved by this cruel being, and forced to perform rites that their people, the Amrithi, consider heresy. But… Mehr isn’t the type to just give in. Mehr is going to resist!

Guys. Okay… guys. Holy forking shirtballs, this book. So, every now and then (and I’ll admit that it’s more than never at this point because I read a lot of books these days, lol) a book comes along, and I get so emotionally invested in the characters and the story and everything else that when heart wrenching things happen to those characters, I am suitably wrenched. This is definitely one of those books for me. Having it narrated by someone who is giving those moments feeling might be worse.

Look, I had to take a break at about 75% and listen to a How to Train Your Dragon audiobook because I was so flipping emotional and had to calm down. It was one of those books. >.>

Also, maybe I’m just an emotional person, I dunno. People will be like ‘Jeez Kristen, yeah it was a pretty good book, I guess,’ and I’ll just be like ‘*bawl* I KNOW, RIGHT?’

Okay, this is getting pretty unintelligible. Let’s see if I can sum it up:

This book was well written and the world was so realized that I fully imagined myself within it as it went. I (obviously) cared what happened to the characters. I cheered for protagonists, I hated antagonists. The plot moved at a pace that I liked, though I can see where people who complain that it gets slow in the middle are coming from. It’s slower, but I never found it too slow. When twists happened, I was shocked! When I felt that something big and tense was about to happen, I tensed and worried for Mehr and Amun. The romance between them was sweet AF, slow-burning, and almost seemed to happen without either of them really realizing it. Loved it.

The narrator, Soneela Nankani, absolutely nailed it. She gave emotional moments the emotion they needed. She brought each and every character to life for me, and it honestly made this experience more real for me than I think it would have been if I had read it rather than listened. The voice of the daiva was a really good special effect.

When I was young, I saw a performance of Bharatanatyam dancing, and young Kristen decided right then that the ladies and the costumes they wore were the standard against which all things called beautiful were measured. Seriously: ‘as pretty as the fan lady?’ was a thing for yeeeears, lol. ^_^

So, as is obvious now, it’s pretty safe to say that I loved this book from start to finish, and I cannot wait for more. This book emotionally drained me, but… and I’m not sure I can explain this in a way that makes any sense… it did it in a good way? Like my heart hurts, but it was worth it. Which sounds weird, but then… I’m pretty weird. ^_^ 5/5 stars!


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