Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri
Trigger Warning: Physical and emotional abuse
Mehr, the unwanted half-Amrithi daughter of an Ambhad nobleman, accidentally catches the emperor’s eye when she summons magic during a Storm. Trapped in an unwanted marriage to one of the emperor’s mystics, she finds herself struggling to adapt to her new world and the new limitations placed upon her. Can she break free of her vows and bounds? Or will she be doomed forever?
This was originally an ARC I had requested last year, and I put it off and put it off until the publication date was long over due. Then I checked it out from the library. Several times. THIS time I checked out the eaudiobook, and I listened to it.
I’d heard mixed things about this book, chiefly that the story was too slow.
Spoiler: it is very slow.
But that doesn’t mean it’s not exciting.
If you’re looking for a book where the heroine sassily breaks free of gender expectations and brashly brandishes her sword and gathers around to take down the corrupt government, look elsewhere.
This is a book about quiet strength. Inner strength. Of the bonds and expectations that hold us together, of the ties that quite literally bind Mehr to her new husband and the emperor’s mystic.
It isn’t about throwing off your culture and your traditions, but working within to subvert and change them to be better. To find ways that work. To keep everyone safe. To find peace and space and love in despair. To find the traditions you lost—to rekindle them and rediscover their true meanings.
Mehr has a lot of courage, because she acts (or doesn’t) in spite of her fear. She strives above all things to know herself and be true to herself, no matter her step-mother’s hatred, the mystics’ double-edged offer, or the palace’s deadly and dangerous world. The dangers she faces are all the more real because she truly is trapped, and must try to slowly break free from being impossibly bound, and unravel her bounds inch by inch with the fear of being discovered (and beaten) at any time.
The world-building is absolutely stellar, as this takes place in a Mughal-India inspired world that is both gorgeous and scary and frighteningly real and intricate.
And the villain is absolutely chilling.
Anywho, if you’re looking to understand strength that doesn’t come holding a sword, read this book.
I received this ARC from NetGalley for an honest review, although I ended up listening to the audiobook