So much of the fantasy books I have read come from a European tradition. So I was quite intrigued when I stumbled upon Tasha Suri’s Empire of Sand, and the synopsis talked about daiva and desert nomads, rather than dwarves, elves, or other creatures of faerie.
Empire of Sand tells the story of Mehr, the illegitimate daughter of an Imperial Governor and an Amrithi woman. The Amrithi, who are considered barbarians by the Empire, are nomadic and do not make vows, so Mehr’s parents never married. Mehr’s mother left when she was younger, and so Mehr and her little sister were raised by their stepmother, who disliked Mehr almost immediately because she visibly looks Amrithi. Unknown to everyone, Mehr has inherited her mother’s magic; she accidentally attracts the attention of the Empire’s mystics, who search for Amrithi to use their gifts in service of the Empire; the mystics intend to bind Mehr to their will. She will have to use all of her courage to resist and escape.
Empire of Sand has fantastic worldbuilding – it’s based off of the culture of Mughal India, so it’s quite different from most of the fantasy I’ve read. I loved how, as a noblewoman, Mehr was raised to veil her face, and her veil was rather like armor. Later, when she was forced to join the mystics, she lost her armor and had to adapt. The magic system was very interesting: the Amrithi do not make vows because a vow literally binds them. I also quite liked Mehr’s character, and particularly how she grows into a strong woman through her trials in the book. All of these reasons made Empire of Sand a book I couldn’t put down – I cannot recommend it enough!