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This week I’m sharing about some series I love that I think deserve more readers and more discussion in bookish/SFF communities. Today I’m raving about The Books of Ambha by Tasha Suri, a romantic epic fantasy duology partially inspired by Mughal India, with particular focus on how much I adored the two protagonists: sisters whose stories are set about ten years apart.


Cover of Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri Cover of Realm of Ash by Tasha Suri

I love Tasha Suri’s Books of Ambha duology for so many reasons. Empire of Sand and Realm of Ash are both beautifully written, deeply affecting novels that have a lot to say about themes like choice, connection, oppression, and forging a new path. They’re set in a fascinating world with magic inspired by fairy tales and Indian classical dance (as Tasha Suri discussed in her Women in SF&F Month 2019 guest post), and its mythology involves people descended from gods who have power in their blood, including both books’ protagonists. Each novel has a wonderful romance that builds from trust and respect when two people have to work together.

But as much as I adore all those aspects, the most memorable part of this series for me is the two women who are the heart of each novel, sisters who inherited some power from their mother’s godly ancestry: a heritage hated by their father’s people. Both Mehr and Arwa have incredible inner strength that shines through their stories, and they have very different journeys and outlooks based on their experiences.

I especially adore Mehr, the protagonist of Empire of Sand. As much as I enjoy the catharsis that comes from characters who physically tear down the world with might or magic, it’s the “quieter” characters like her who tend to stick with me the most: those who are doing their best to survive the horrific circumstances they’ve been dealt and are able to have an impact because of their choices, wits, and people skills. When it’s clear both the Emperor and the priest who leads the faith want to use Mehr and her rare power for their own ends, she refuses to flee and hide as her father wishes, knowing it will probably be futile and put her family in danger (which I always thought was incredibly brave). She is not free, but she perseveres and does what she can, and she has a huge influence on events because of choices that may seem small: deciding to hope rather than despair, deciding to be kind and honest rather than distrustful and manipulative. These decisions shape how her story unfolds since they affect her relationships, what she’s able to learn from others, and how much support she receives.

Though it did take longer for her book to completely draw me in, I also loved and admired Arwa, Mehr’s younger sister and the protagonist of Realm of Ash. Set about ten years after the previous novel, this book starts shortly after Arwa is widowed after being the only survivor of a massacre—all because of the power in her blood that she’s learned to fear. Unlike her older sister, Arwa was raised by their father’s second wife, and she absorbed all her ideas about how she should be ashamed of that part of her lineage and behave like a proper noblewoman. Part of her journey is realizing that her rage and fury are misdirected and reclaiming a part of herself she never fully understood was missing, and Tasha Suri did amazing work with her character development and making this a more mature, complex story than her first novel.

These are two books that stand out to me as some of the best fantasy has to offer, and I can’t recommend this beautiful duology enough to those who enjoy character-centric, “quieter” books with lyrical prose that cuts deep.

Additional Reading on The Books of Ambha: