Empire of Sand
The Books of Ambha
Orbit Books, Nov 2018
432 pages, Paperback, Kindle, Audiobook, Audio CD
Fantasy, Mythology (Hindu), Debut
Borrowed from Derry Public Library
The cover is very impressive and totally awesome. It is most appropriate for a story as bloodthirsty as this one is. The lovely dagger rather says it all. As a dagger plays a major role in the book, it makes sense to put it front and center on the cover, too.
The story is a sort of quest of good against evil, good over evil. It’s complex and very interesting. The magic system is one I have never encountered before. It is based on parts of the Hindu religion and mythology. The use of the desert storms was very creative in allowing travel time to stretch and shrink and let the “monsters”, the daiva to appear.
The main character, Mehr is of mixed blood, which is not good in this country. She is the daughter of the Ambhan Governor of Irinah, which is fine. But she is also the daughter of Ruhi, an Amrithi woman who is now Tara of her clan. Her people are hunted for the magic in their blood, and Mehr’s magic is very strong. She has always been fascinated by the desert storms, and she steps out into one that carries her magic into the winds. Soon the Mystics from the Temple are at the palace demanding her hand in marriage for one of their own. She ends up married to an Amrithi man, Amun, who is bound to the Temple. She travels to the Temple to meet the god, Maha and learn her new role. She travels with a group of the Mystics, one of which is a woman named Kalini. She seems to dislike Mehr and is very strict, almost cruel in her treatment of Mehr and her husband. Once at the Temple Mehr gets to know a group of young women who reach out to befriend her, under the impression that her husband, who they see as a monster, mistreats her. The young woman who is the unspoken leader of this group is Hema, Kalini’s sister. Mehr is amazed at how different the two sisters are.
Mehr and her husband, Amun, train in the rituals of dance that they must do to control the Gods dreams during the storms. During the next storm, Mehr is helped to escape by her friends. Amun will not go. He stays to pay the price. After a while, Mehr returns and the full price is paid.
About two-thirds of the way through the book it lags some, but otherwise, the pace and tension are superb. As a debut novel, this is absolutely outstanding and I recommend it to those fantasy readers who are looking for something a bit different.