Excerpt from Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Empire of Sand

The Books of Ambha

by Tasha Suri

Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri X
Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri
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    Nov 2018, 496 pages

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CHAPTER ONE

Mehr woke up to a soft voice calling her name. Without thought, she reached a hand beneath her pillow and closed her fingers carefully around the hilt of her dagger. She could feel the smoothness of the large opal embedded in the hilt, and its familiar weight beneath her fingertips calmed her. She sat up and pushed back the layer of gauze surrounding her divan.

“Who is it?” she called out.

The room was dark apart from one wavering light. As the light approached, Mehr realized it was an oil lantern, held aloft by a maidservant whom Mehr knew by sight but not by name. Through the glare of the lit flame, the maidservant’s features looked distorted, her eyes wide with nervousness.

“I’m sorry to disturb you, my lady,” the maid said. “But your sister is asking for you.”

Mehr paused for a moment. Then she slid off the divan and wound the sash of her sleep robe tight around her waist.

“You work in the nursery?” she asked.

“Yes, my lady.”

“Then you should know Lady Maryam won’t be pleased that you’ve come to me,” she said, tucking the dagger into her sash. “If she finds out, you may be punished.”

The maidservant swallowed.

“Lady Arwa is asking for you,” she repeated. “She won’t sleep. She’s very distressed, my lady.”

“Arwa is a child,” Mehr replied. “And children are often distressed. Why risk your position and come to me?”

The light wavered again as the maidservant adjusted her grip on the lantern.

“She says there is a daiva watching her,” the maidservant said, her voice trembling. “Who else could I come to?”

Mehr strode over to the maidservant, who flinched back.

“What’s your name?”

“Sara, my lady,” said the maidservant.

“Give me the lantern, Sara,” said Mehr. “I don’t need you to light the way.”


Mehr found Arwa curled up in her nurse Nahira’s lap outside the nursery, surrounded by a gaggle of frightened maidservants. There was a Haran guardswoman standing by, looking on helplessly with her hand tight on the hilt of her blade. Mehr had some sympathy for her. Steel was no good against daiva, and equally useless in the comforting of distressed women.

“Mehr!” Arwa cried out, coming to life in the woman’s arms. “You came!”

The nurse holding on to her had to tighten her grip to keep Arwa in place, now that she was squirming like a landed fish. Mehr kneeled down to meet Arwa at eye level.

“Of course I’ve come,” said Mehr. “Sara says you saw a daiva?”

“It won’t leave my room,” Arwa said, sniffling. Her face was red with tears.

“How old are you now, Arwa?”

“Nine years,” said Arwa, frowning. “You know that.”

“Much too old to be crying then, little sister.” Mehr brushed a tear from Arwa’s cheek with her thumb. “Calm yourself.”

Arwa sucked in a deep breath and nodded. Mehr looked up at Arwa’s nurse. She knew her well. Nahira had been her nurse once too.

“Did you see it?”

Nahira snorted.

“My eyes aren’t what they once were, but I’m still Irin. I could smell it.” She tapped her nose.

“It has sharp claws,” Arwa said suddenly. “And big eyes like fire, and it wouldn’t stop looking at me.”

Arwa was growing agitated again, so Mehr cupped her sister’s face in her hands and made a low soothing sound, like the desert winds at moonrise.

“There’s no need to be afraid,” she said finally, when Arwa had gone still again.

Excerpted from Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri. Copyright © 2018 by Tasha Suri. Excerpted by permission of Orbit. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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