Empire of Sand, the first in the Books of Ambha series by Tasha Suri, opens up a rich new world in which magical power is concentrated in one’s blood, heritage and class are carefully monitored, and a young woman named Mehr is caught between the worlds of her father, an imperial governor, and her absent mother, a magic-wielding nomad. In a landscape redolent of desert kingdoms of lore, rife with mystical sandstorms, spirit-beings and superstition, Suri kicks off an adventure bent on keeping Mehr’s identity—and potential—a secret from those who wish her harm: namely, the Emperor himself. Mehr’s underdog story will feel familiar, but her unique powers and Suri’s creative world-building heighten the stakes. —Raisa Bruner
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