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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“Don’t go,” Arwa said in a small voice. “Can’t you stay just one time?”

Mehr stopped. If she turned back—if she stayed—Maryam would ensure that she would not be allowed to visit Arwa again for a long, long time.

Mehr took a deep breath, turned, and walked back to her sister regardless. She closed her eyes and pressed one firm kiss to Arwa’s forehead. Her skin was soft; her hair smelled like rosewater.

“Get some sleep,” she said to her. “Everything will be better when you wake up.”

“Go,” Nahira said. “I’ll take care of her, my lady.” A pause, as Arwa struggled and Mehr hesitated, her feet frozen in place by a compulsion she couldn’t name. “Lady Maryam will be awake soon,” Nahira said, and that, at last, broke the spell. Mehr turned and walked swiftly back toward her room. She could hear Arwa crying behind her, but as she had told the maidservant Sara, children were often distressed. The hurt would pass. Soon Arwa would forget she had ever been sad at all.


In the privacy of her own chambers, Mehr bathed and dressed, one single yawning maid helping her to oil the wild mass of her hair and braid it back from her face. She could have gone back to sleep, but that seemed pointless now. Her stepmother would be calling for her soon enough.

As the maid wound thread through her braid to hold it in place, Mehr stared out of the lattice wall of her living room. Hollowed out in the shapes of leaves and flowers, it gave Mehr a clear view of the city of Jah Irinah and the desert beyond it. She looked at the sandstone of the city, the gold of the desert, and the clear sky above it and thought: There’s a storm coming.

There hadn’t been a true storm in Jah Irinah in years, but Mehr knew when one was on its way. There was Amrithi enough in her for that. The daiva had been the first sign of it. The city was no place for its kind, and yet the bird-spirit had come. Mehr was sure it had flown to Arwa’s window on the first sharp, invisible winds of the coming storm, dreamfire under its wings. Soon enough more daiva would arrive, followed by rising sand and a fall of dreamfire to cloak Jah Irinah in light.

The daiva’s scent still clung to Mehr’s senses like a warning, a portent of things to come. It was no surprise to her when a maid arrived, holding a message delivered by courier moments before. The message was brief, to the point.

I’m coming. Important news.

“Bring refreshments, please,” she said, folding the message up. “Something simple will do.”

The maid left with a hurried farewell. There were perks to being the daughter of the Governor of Irinah—even an illegitimate one. People obeyed you. Servants rushed to your bidding. Even the ones who loathed you—and there were many—were forced to veil their contempt and keep their loathing eyes lowered.

All people faced hatred. All people suffered. Few had the cushion of wealth and privilege to protect them as Mehr did. She reminded herself of this as she walked over to the bare floor in front of the lattice, pressing her feet against marble warmed by the morning sun. She was very, very lucky. The heartache she experienced every time she thought of her sister tearily reaching out to her was an agony she had no right to feel.

Better to put the agony away. Better not to think of Arwa at all.

Mehr took a deep breath, slowly filling her lungs. She straightened her spine and rolled back her shoulders, raising her hands above her head to greet the sky. When she pressed her feet flat to the ground, legs bent to a diamond angle, she felt a veil of peace settle over her. The old rites never failed to calm her.

Although the correct time for it had passed, Mehr moved through the Rite of Sunrise, hands shaping the sigils for night and sun and sky as her body moved fluidly from stance to stance. Subtle poses transitioned into the wider, florid movements as she mimed the sun rising. Her muscles warmed; her breath quickened. She let her heavy thoughts go.

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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