cover image Empire of Sand: The Books of Ambha, Book 1

Empire of Sand: The Books of Ambha, Book 1

Tasha Suri. Orbit, $15.99 trade paper (480p) ISBN 978-0-316-44971-7

Dark secrets lurk at an empire’s heart in this complex, affecting epic fantasy from debut author Suri. In a land inspired by Mughal India, Mehr is a young noblewoman of ambiguous status: her father is a governor from a powerful Ambhan family, the most privileged group in the Ambhan Empire, but Mehr is an illegitimate child, and her exiled mother is one of the outcast Amrithi. Her mother’s people claim descent from the daiva, strange, djinnlike creatures that roam the desert, gathering around magical storms said to be the sleeping gods’ dreams. Mehr’s latent magical abilities draw the attention of the empire’s spiritual leader and his mystical coven, including a young Amrithi man named Amun who possesses similar abilities. Alongside the fantasy setting’s courtly intrigue and magic, Suri explores deeper questions of power, love, and the human cost of prosperity and order. That cost falls heavily on the subjugated Amrithi, who are “the kindling wood that [feed] the fire of the Empire’s strength”; on women, whose complex relationships with one another are brilliantly portrayed; and on the young people unwillingly caught up in the Ambhan arranged marriage system. Intricate worldbuilding, heartrending emotional stakes, and Suri’s well-wrought prose (“Dreamfire bled across the sky, swift as spilled ink on paper, its jewelled edges tinged with darkness”) make this a worthy addition to any epic fantasy fan’s bookshelf. Agent: Laura Crockett, Triada U.S. (Nov.)