When you dance with the Rite of Dreaming, you dance with the gods.
3.5 stars. I enjoyed this book and the first half was great. The second half left a bit to be desired, buuut I liked it overall and will read the companion novel.
This book started out being very interesting and set up intriguing characters, and a unique desert-fantasy world based on Indian mythology. I wanted to know more about the magic system that we were introduced to and the different races that made up the world. We got some history in the beginning of the book, to set things up, but much of the meatier history and explanations were kind of info-dumped in the middle of the story.
I liked the main character Mehr when she was introduced. She appeared calm, level-headed, smart, and strong. She cared for her younger sister, even when her stepmother punished her for it, and she stayed true to her heritage. All of that I enjoyed. Once the story moved to her marriage contract though, Mehr became a little lackluster for me. I kept expecting her to do something great or show some real grit and she really…didn’t. She technically “saved the day” and she by no means had to be fierce with a sword or something to be considered strong, but she just kind of bored me nonetheless.
In fact, that was my problem with the whole book near the end. I flew through the first half of the book. It was interesting and engaging, and I thought it was setting up such a great story. But then, when Mehr and her new husband (who was equally dull, once the intrigue wore off) reach the temple where they are enslaved by their empire, the story kind of grows stagnant. All they do is dance the Rites that allow them to become vessels for the dreams of their gods. A very cool concept that was just not super interesting in execution. Mehr becomes friends with some women, they get terrorized by the cult leader/empire ruler dude, and they continue to dance and dance and dance.
During this time, you can see that there are hints to a romance blooming (cause duh it was evident from the moment the forced marriage trope was used). At first I was into it, because Amun was mysterious and I thought there was going to be more happening between him and Mehr. I thought they would be badass together. Buuuut it just never really came to fruition for me. It also rubbed me the wrong way that Amun was literally the only man Mehr had ever known other than her father and she was then forced to be his wife and spend all of her time with him. He too had been enslaved since he was a child and has never known the outside world or anyone beyond the temple. On top of that, the two are forced to have sex before they are ready and all in all, it just didn’t strike me as a beautiful love story. It felt like they were just the only available options. It wasn’t organic and there was hardly any chemistry between them, unfortunately.
The writing was very pretty and I am very excited to see how Tasha Suri progresses with her craft. Like I said, I do want to pick up the sequel that follows Mehr’s sister 10 years after the timeline of Empire of Sand. I believe Suri has some great ideas and will continue to write unique, diverse stories. She incorporated many important themes here including being mixed-race and facing your identity, being an outcast, shouldering the burden of your heritage, and making your own choices/freewill. These were all touched on very respectfully and done well. There were some plotting issues here, as I have mentioned, which did detract from my overall enjoyment of the story. Not only was the pacing off and made the book feel too long and boring for me after the middle section, but there were a lot of info-dumps and the climax of the book was too early, making everything that came after feel very meh.
In the end, I enjoyed this — it was good, but did not wow me.
Thank you all for reading!
Title: Empire of Sand (The Books of Ambha #1)
Author: Tasha Suri
Genre: Fantasy | Adult | Romance | Indian Mythology
Publication Date: November 13th, 2018
Page Count: 496 pages
Buy It: Wordery | Book Depository