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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“I hate writing letters,” she said, forcing herself to sound light. She saw Lalita’s face soften back into a smile as some of the tension left it, and was glad she had done so. “But for you, I’ll try.”

“I feel very special.”

“As you should,” Mehr said. “You dreadful abandoner. You know my stances will only grow worse without you, don’t you?”

“I dread to think,” Lalita said with a sigh. She gave Mehr a thoughtful look and said, “You will practice without me, won’t you?”

“Of course.” Mehr hesitated. “Lalita, do you …?”

“Yes?” she prompted.

“I thought your message was about something else entirely.” Mehr shook her head. “It doesn’t matter.”

“Tell me,” said Lalita. “Has something happened? Your stepmother?”

“Last night there was a daiva in my sister’s room.”

Lalita’s gaze sharpened. She leaned forward.

“Was it strong? An ancient?”

“It was nothing but a bird-spirit. But I believe it was a herald, Lalita. I think a storm is coming.”

Lalita looked out through the lattice wall, considering.

“The last time I walked the edge of the desert, the daiva did seem restless,” she said finally. “For a benign spirit to move so far among mortals … yes, my dear. I think you may be right.” Her forehead creased into a frown. “I can’t quite believe I missed the signs. I’ve misplaced my head.” She looked at Mehr. “You’ve taken the proper precautions?”

Mehr nodded. There was no chance of a daiva coming into Mehr’s chambers. Mehr had bled on the doors and windows often enough, after all, every turn of the moon since her tenth year, just as she’d been taught.

“And your sister?”

“Her window was freshly blooded. I used my dagger.”

“Then there’s nothing to fear, and everything to look forward to.” Lalita set down her drink. There was a faraway look in her eyes. “How old were you during the last storm?”

“Young,” said Mehr. “I can’t remember.”

“It’s been an age since I last saw a storm,” Lalita said, a wistful edge to her voice. “When I was a child I loved them. My clan would spend days preparing the Rite of Dreaming. And when the dreamfire fell—ah, Mehr, it was a beautiful thing. You can’t imagine it.” A sigh. “But of course storms were more frequent where I was raised. There’s just no soul in Jah Irinah.”

Storms of dreamfire only occurred within the confines of Irinah’s holy desert. But Irinah was vast, and Lalita had grown up deep in the heart of the desert, where storms fell frequently. Jah Irinah, built as it was on the outer edge of the blessed sand, was rarely graced with storms. Nonetheless, it was a common belief among the Irin that the presence of the Ambhan Empire in the city—in its buildings, its fountains, its culture, and its people—kept the storms at bay. Dreamfire, they would whisper, belonged to Irinah and Irinah’s people. It wouldn’t deign to fall before foreign eyes.

Mehr understood that belief. Built in the early years of the Empire, when the first Emperor ordered a loyal Governor to the conquered country to rule in his stead, Jah Irinah was and always would be a purely Ambhan city. The Empire was visible in every swooping arch, every mosaic-patterned wall, and every human-made fountain pumped with precious, wasted water. The city was built on Irinah’s back, but there was certainly none of the country’s harsh beauty in its bones.

Lalita was still lost in old memories, her face soft with sadness. “The Rite of Dreaming usually needs more dancers, but we’ll manage.” She looked at Mehr. “We’ll greet the storm together.”

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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