Empire of Sand: Review
Long time, no see, friends and followers! I started a new job recently and I haven’t had much time to read and write reviews. I was thrilled to finally realize just a couple of weeks ago that the best time for me to read is at night, around 7-9 PM when I’m in bed. Yep, I am an extremely early sleeper and it’s totally necessary since I find myself waking up really early now, either for work or to let the puppies out. Anyway, because of this realization, I was able to finally finish Empire of Sand, which I had started a month ago! Read on for my review of this lush tale of magic and the power of bonds between people.
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 preface this review by saying that I read half of this book a month ago, and then finished the other half in just a matter of days last week, snuggled in my bed with my two fluff babies by my side. I believe that the fact I was able to pick the book up right where I left off, with little to no confusion at all, is a testament to how enthralling the book is. It was easy for me to get immersed in this world once again.
The concept of magic in this book is not terribly overt, and this is both a plus and con. There are powerful storms that bring daiva, demons of varying strength and motives, in their wake, and the Amrithi are a tribe of people whose blood can repel the daiva because of an ancient and powerful promise. However as we soon find out, conditions are not terribly kind to the Amrithi, though their blood is so highly coveted. Mehr is half-Amrithi, yet the magic in her blood runs strong from her mother’s side, and she is our protagonist in this story.
Now, I have conflicted feelings about Mehr. On the one hand, she is as powerful a protagonist as they come, and I don’t mean her bloodline only. She is a willful young woman who makes decisions that go against the grain to protect the people she loves, even if those decisions cost her her freedom. On the other hand, she is incredibly impulsive and I can tell that some of her decisions were made simply to move the plot forward in a convenient way. There is one example where she spills a secret in a situation that I would never have imagined she’d allow herself to be in. It happens suddenly and the consequences are a pivotal turning point for the plot. But perhaps this is less Mehr’s fault, and more of a gripe with the deux ex machina factor that popped up every so often in Empire of Sand.
The myths and magic in this book are, as I mentioned earlier, subtle. Aside from Amrithi rites, which Mehr describes vaguely as she practices these dances, the only other mention of magic are the storms that plague the kingdom. These storms crackle with the dreams and power of the gods. These storms were very difficult for me to visualize because there were very few visual descriptors- rather, Suri tended to focus on the ephemeral. For me personally, I prefer a more concrete grounding in the world’s magic system. The lack of clarity around the magic caused the plot to move slowly for me as I tried to wrap my head around it.
One thing that I found that Empire of Sand did exceptionally well was the romance. Well, I take that back. The book really memorializes the power of bonds between individuals- familial, romantic, even bonds of servitude and devotion. Both the devastating hold that bonds can impose on a person, as well as the redeeming love that can be channeled in such a bond, are extremely important to the conflicts within the book. There is a slow-burn romance that I particularly enjoyed and of course, it should be mentioned that this is an adult fantasy novel rather than young adult. Hint hint.
All in all, Empire of Sand was a slow read for me. It was a lush fantasy with some beautiful writing, but I wasn’t truly invested in the magic system or the severity of the main conflict until two-thirds of the way through the book.