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Empire of Sand

The Books of Ambha
Written by: Tasha Suri
Narrated by: Soneela Nankani
Length: 17 hrs
Categories: Romance, Paranormal
3.5 out of 5 stars (2 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A nobleman's daughter with magic in her blood. An empire built on the dreams of enslaved gods. Empire of Sand is Tasha Suri's captivating, Mughal India-inspired debut fantasy.

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....

Empire of Sand is a lush, dazzling fantasy novel perfect for fans of City of Brass and The Wrath & the Dawn.

©2018 Tasha Suri (P)2018 Hachette Audio

What the critics say

"The desert setting, complex characters, and epic mythology will captivate readers of Suri's debut fantasy." (Booklist, starred review)

"Genuine, painful, and beautiful. A very strong start for a new voice." (Kirkus, starred review)

"Complex, affecting epic fantasy.... Intricate worldbuilding, heartrending emotional stakes...well-wrought prose." (Publishers Weekly, starred review)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Very Slow

This book could have reduced to 3 hours. Far too slow and drawn out and an overall weak plot line.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • superstardrifter
  • 2019-01-25

Fantastic listen!

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.

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. ^_^

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • MasterTorian
  • 2019-09-02

Unexpectedly WOW!

Here is a book that is fresh and new and brilliantly imagined!

First, let's talk about the narrator.
I'm often leery of narrators at either end of the octave spectrum (deep-voiced males or high-voiced females) as they tend to struggle with opposite-gender voices. I am extremely pleased to say that though she is near the high end of the spectrum, Soneela Nankani did not have that problem at all!

Similarly, sometimes books based on non-western cultures end up being narrated with accents that are not understandable (or close enough to it), such as the narration of Black Leopard, Red Wolf. I'm still disappointed at not being able to listen to that book. But again, we do not have that problem here.

As one would expect, quite a bit of the dialogue is lightly accented in tones that sound very Indian and Middle-Eastern, but the narration is crisp and clear.

The array of voices used is impressive, and even the male voices are excellently pitched and believable. Her vocal inflections border on perfection, as do her tempo shifts throughout the text.

It feels really nitpicky, but if I had a critique on the narration it would be that there are perhaps two or three voices that do not sound the way they are described in the text.

Now, the story.
Let me preface this with the fact that ordinarily I can't stand romance fiction. The storylines, themes, and tensions explored rarely interest me and I just find the contrivances stretching my suspension of disbelief.

This is absolutely not the case here.

To be clear, this is very much a fantasy-romance book. But it doesn't read like the usual drivel I come across in that genre. While there are some action sequences, violent conflict, and some really cool visuals, it is not what anyone might call "Action Packed."

I don't mean to belittle anyone's taste here, all fiction has value. I simply personally don't find most fantasy-romance stories to be enjoyable or the least bit believable.

But this book does not have that problem.

First and foremost, every single character comes across as a fully realized, complete individual with their own goals, needs, quirks, and issues. Each behaves in a way that is consistent with what we (eventually) know of their background. And each clearly demonstrates a wealth of experiences that brought them to the person that they are.

Nothing herein feels the least bit contrived or "convenient." Every major point is a clear consequence to something else that came before, and every time you think you know what's going on, something else comes up to remind you of how wrong you are.

There is plenty of dramatic tension here that feels real and visceral and powerful. And while I'm not normally fond of political power struggles (I'm rather burned out on those), this one was so brilliantly put together that I couldn't help but love it.

Now, about the writing.
Over and above my initial reservations simply from knowing what I was getting myself into, there are a few hiccups in the prose. There are some clunky sentence constructions, a handful of typos (just a bit more that I would expect in a novel of this size), and quite a bit of unnecessary passive voice.

Elsewise, however, the writing is quite brilliant.

And finally, the ending.
This is one of those rare cases of an ending that comes together in a way that I did not foresee in the slightest!

But don't misunderstand. There is no Deus Ex Machina here. Everything is a consequence of what came before, and it all ties together brilliantly. Shockingly, but brilliantly.

There is a moment near the end that my jaw just about hit the floor. It was a total wow moment. And then the next moment was an even bigger wow!

If you read just one fantasy-romance this year, it should be this one.
Even if you're not normally open to fantasy-romance (as I've said, I usually run very quickly in the other direction when I see them), as long as you don't demand constant action in your fantasy I think you'll find something to love in this book.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Liza
  • 2019-03-12

A Tale About Identity

This story started out slow as the author built the world her characters lived in. Her lyrical prose also contributed to the pace and the mood of the story. The narrator added to the melancholy tone - although I am not sure if that tone was meant to showcase culture. Her writing style reminded me of the way Circe was written.

Tasha Suri wrote a beautiful story about being true to one's self, one's identity, one's heritage. She also wrote a heartwarming love story that made me reflect about marriage vows and defining one's self within the bounds of marriage.

The mythology she created was clearly explained and defined. Her hope-filled tale tugs at the heartstrings and ends on an inspiring note.

I would recommend this to readers who enjoy mythology, magic systems/worlds, and fans of love stories.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2018-12-29

Great narrator and story

Wonderful narrator, though the quality is a bit echoey, and interesting story. First audiobook I've completed and would highly recommend!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • A N
  • 2018-12-10

Really good world building

But lacks good pacing and needs some help from an editor. Enjoyable overall. I feel like there's a better story somewhere in the future.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • SarahH
  • 2018-12-05

Mostly Awesome With Some Slow Parts

This story was SO good! The author build a rich, layered world with gorgeous prose and a main character I really rooted for! Soneela Nankani is always perfect. Her narrations bring the story to life!
The reason I gave this 4 stars and not 5 was that there were places where the main character internalized in a really repetitive way that kind of made the story drag. I felt that some of the internalization could have been cut to move the story a long at a faster pace. There were times that she belabored a point or description or reaction to the point that I was like "I get it! Move on already!" But those times were not frequent enough for me to not like the book. I will DEFINITELY continue the series!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Lisa R.
  • 2019-01-21

Empire of Sand book 1?

I enjoyed reading something very different from all the (predictable story line) fantasy books I’ve read. The story is interesting and while not a page turner, enjoyable. I think I would have enjoyed it more if the narrator had been less dramatic. I gave it 4 stars as I imagined it if I had read, not listened to it. The dramatic reading made my view of the characters skewed. For example Meher comes off as a weak, pleading girl but is truly a strong, capable woman.

1 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Michell O
  • 2019-07-26

it was okay..

I started this audio book twice before I actually continued on. For some reason it didn't grab me in the first few chapters. Then things picked up a bit, then got slow..then picked up. I'm not sure that I will continue this series. this book ended without a cliffhanger so I really dont need to know what happens next. Overall an average read and I did enjoy it.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful