Author Tasha Suri makes an ambitious debut with Empire of Sand, the first instalment of the Books of Ambha. Suri, a librarian, draws on her knowledge of history to craft a world that the book’s tagline describes as “Mughal India-inspired fantasy,” where old gods lie dreaming beneath the desert sands and their supernatural children still walk the earth. Told in deft prose with a folkloric feel, Empire deals with issues of consent, cycles of trauma, resistance, and the value of compassion.
In the beginning, there were the gods, and the gods had children, called daivas. Once, these mighty daivas walked freely among mankind, taking awe-inspiring shapes.
And so, as Tina and Vore frolic through the woods, bathe naked in the lakes, roar at the rain, eat whatever they want, and noisily have sex, Abbasi’s Border becomes a celebration: of the snarling, grunting, roaringly ecstatic joy of the body—all bodies, that is: queer, trans, human, fat, animal, troll, cisgendered, fox.
A. Merc Rustad’s characters don’t necessarily find all the answers they are looking for—many of them will continue their searches far beyond the end of the stories we meet them in—but their motivations, sacrifices, and decisions will ring true with any reader who is similarly searching.
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