Fantasy Novels Fantasy Reviews

Empire of Sand: Desert Mysticism Amidst Ancient Magic

Empire of Sand takes you deep into the desert, mixing magic, mystical arts and religion in a world where empire comes before all else. Suri has created a world you yearn to explore, where creatures and beasts lie in wait on the edge of reality. The writing is complex and well executed, giving you an intricately woven narrative starring a strong woman who fights for what she believes in. It’s a wonderful fantasy novel filled with magic, mayhem, and love.

NOTE: I was provided a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest, unbiased review. I only publish reviews of books I enjoy, and this novel meets that criterion.


By Tasha Suri
Orbit Books

Quick Summary: A young noblewoman hidden away from the world finds herself at the center of a society she thought she understood, surrounded by men who wish to bend the world to their will.

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Empire of Sand is the kind of book that begs to be read in one sitting. The plot is expertly paced, continuously revealing new and fascinating elements of a world where magic isn’t a fairy tale. It’s a darker kind of magic to be sure, but paired with the desert, it creates a mysterious landscape that’s both haunting and intriguing. Here are a few things I loved about the book:


Mehr is a complex protagonist at war with her mother’s heritage and her father’s nobility. She doesn’t fit in with the wealthy bureaucrats, preferring to dance to her own tune (quite literally). She’s powerful and full of conflict, just trying to find her place and fight against those who would stand in her way. She doesn’t back down, and her magical connection to the world is fascinating to behold.


This isn’t glittery magic cast from a star-headed wand. This is magic of the Earth, buried deep in the bones of those who can wield it. This life-force is a part of Mehr, inspiring her to participate in the world in a way we can only imagine. The descriptions of the rituals and dances, the visuals of the sky opening up and showering her in dreams – it’s breathtaking. Suri’s vision is one I can’t stop thinking about. I’m a sucker for an amazingly cinematic scene, where everything comes together and lights your mind on fire. It’s a rare thing, and Suri has created just that.


The landscape of Mehr’s world is an essential plot point. The desert is ancient and filled with magic, harboring both life and death. Suri’s descriptions are spot-on and left me yearning for a look at such a powerful landscape. I love when place becomes a character, and that’s on display here.


There’s a deep, dark past to the mysticism showcased in the novel, giving the story a thriller edge. The religious leader is a terrifying man whose description and abilities might haunt you. The character is a fitting villain, toeing the line between savior of the people and a demon who will doom them all.


The story houses a complex narrative on the dangers of power and its impact on those who find themselves out of favor with the ruling class. It’s an age-old plot device, but Suri uses it well, showing us that people who are different from the party line deserve to be included in the world. This world is quite similar to our ancient civilizations, complete with a power hungry Emperor and religious clerics who believe they can bend the will of the Gods to give them what they supposedly deserve. It’s only a matter of time before it all comes crashing down.

  • Photo by Rubén Bagüés on Unsplash
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