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Realm of Ash

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The fate of an empire rests in the hands of a young woman with magical blood and nothing left to lose, and an outcast prince determined to save his family at any cost, in this "dark, melodious, and memorable" new fantasy (Library Journal, starred review) from the author of the award-winning Empire of Sand. The Ambhan Empire is crumbling. A terrible war of succession hovers The fate of an empire rests in the hands of a young woman with magical blood and nothing left to lose, and an outcast prince determined to save his family at any cost, in this "dark, melodious, and memorable" new fantasy (Library Journal, starred review) from the author of the award-winning Empire of Sand. The Ambhan Empire is crumbling. A terrible war of succession hovers on the horizon. The only hope for peace lies in the mysterious realm of ash, where mortals can find what they seek in the echoes of their ancestors' dreams. But to walk there requires a steep price. Arwa is determined to make the journey. Widowed by a brutal massacre, she's pledged service to the royal family and will see that pledge through to the end. She never expected to be joined by Zahir, the disgraced, illegitimate prince who has turned to forbidden magic in a desperate bid to save those he loves. Together, they'll walk the bloody path of their shared past. And it will call into question everything they've ever believed...including whether the Empire is worth saving at all.


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The fate of an empire rests in the hands of a young woman with magical blood and nothing left to lose, and an outcast prince determined to save his family at any cost, in this "dark, melodious, and memorable" new fantasy (Library Journal, starred review) from the author of the award-winning Empire of Sand. The Ambhan Empire is crumbling. A terrible war of succession hovers The fate of an empire rests in the hands of a young woman with magical blood and nothing left to lose, and an outcast prince determined to save his family at any cost, in this "dark, melodious, and memorable" new fantasy (Library Journal, starred review) from the author of the award-winning Empire of Sand. The Ambhan Empire is crumbling. A terrible war of succession hovers on the horizon. The only hope for peace lies in the mysterious realm of ash, where mortals can find what they seek in the echoes of their ancestors' dreams. But to walk there requires a steep price. Arwa is determined to make the journey. Widowed by a brutal massacre, she's pledged service to the royal family and will see that pledge through to the end. She never expected to be joined by Zahir, the disgraced, illegitimate prince who has turned to forbidden magic in a desperate bid to save those he loves. Together, they'll walk the bloody path of their shared past. And it will call into question everything they've ever believed...including whether the Empire is worth saving at all.

30 review for Realm of Ash

  1. 5 out of 5

    Samantha

    4.5 stars The world, characters, and mythology of this world is so lush. It was a joy to return to this world after Empire of Sand was one of my favorite books from last year. This takes place 10 or so years after the events of the first book and follows Mehr's younger sister, who is now an adult herself and facing the consequences of the events of the first book. Arwa is a very different character than Mehr. While Mehr always embraced her heritage, Arwa was shielded from it and taught to reject 4.5 stars The world, characters, and mythology of this world is so lush. It was a joy to return to this world after Empire of Sand was one of my favorite books from last year. This takes place 10 or so years after the events of the first book and follows Mehr's younger sister, who is now an adult herself and facing the consequences of the events of the first book. Arwa is a very different character than Mehr. While Mehr always embraced her heritage, Arwa was shielded from it and taught to reject it. As such, her journey is one of discovery and acceptance. Arwa's magic is one that ties more into death magic for this world, which was something different than the magic of the first book. Both women are fiercely powerful and determined. This book had slightly more political machinations, as it takes place in the Empire and the fallout of what happened there. Because of this, it moves slightly slower at times. Arwa's relationship with Zahir is one built on trust and mutual respect. Something I love about this series is the emphasis on choice and bonds that both couples have in the books. Arwa and Zahir don't quite pull on my heart the way that Mehr and Amun do, but I love what they represent all the same. This was very nearly 5 stars, but I didn't love it quite as much as Empire of Sand. It was still interesting to see how the world had changed since the first book, and I'd love if Tasha Suri returned to this world in the future as I feel she did leave herself room for more stories to tell.

  2. 5 out of 5

    K.J. Charles

    Good grief, this is a good book. I liked Empire of Sand a lot, but Realm of Ash is *outstanding*. A fantastically well developed world based on the Mughal Empire, with terrific politics, scheming, culture, huge complexity lightly sketched in. And it has so much to say--about women and being forced to fit into allotted places, and hurting people out of love, and the clash of what's effective and what's right, and compassion, and massively about colonialism and stolen/denied identity, the effect o Good grief, this is a good book. I liked Empire of Sand a lot, but Realm of Ash is *outstanding*. A fantastically well developed world based on the Mughal Empire, with terrific politics, scheming, culture, huge complexity lightly sketched in. And it has so much to say--about women and being forced to fit into allotted places, and hurting people out of love, and the clash of what's effective and what's right, and compassion, and massively about colonialism and stolen/denied identity, the effect on the colonised, the generational damage of abuse and enslavement. All of this in a heart-thumping adventure story with high stakes, a gorgeous romance, and terrific female friendships. Really exceptional. I hid from the children for two hours to keep reading. This is the face of SFF now, and it is glorious.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Charlotte

    "The lamp of truth reveals the world. But when we lift the lamp we see-knowledge that cannot be unknown or undone." Ready to get all teary over a deeply heartfelt romance? I KNOW I AM. This is Realm of Ash, the sequel to Tasha Suri's 2018 fantasy Empire of Sand. Spoilers follow! So What's It About? (from Goodreads) The Ambhan Empire is crumbling. A terrible war of succession hovers on the horizon. The only hope for peace lies in the mysterious realm of ash, where mortals can find what they seek in "The lamp of truth reveals the world. But when we lift the lamp we see-knowledge that cannot be unknown or undone." Ready to get all teary over a deeply heartfelt romance? I KNOW I AM. This is Realm of Ash, the sequel to Tasha Suri's 2018 fantasy Empire of Sand. Spoilers follow! So What's It About? (from Goodreads) The Ambhan Empire is crumbling. A terrible war of succession hovers on the horizon. The only hope for peace lies in the mysterious realm of ash, where mortals can find what they seek in the echoes of their ancestors' dreams. But to walk there requires a steep price. Arwa is determined to make the journey. Widowed by a brutal massacre, she's pledged service to the royal family and will see that pledge through to the end. She never expected to be joined by Zahir, the disgraced, illegitimate prince who has turned to forbidden magic in a desperate bid to save those he loves. Together, they'll walk the bloody path of their shared past. And it will call into question everything they've ever believed...including whether the Empire is worth saving at all. What I Thought - The F Word After absolutely loving Suri's Empire of Sand, I've been eagerly looking forward to Realm of Ash's publication. I read it as soon as it was released, and I'm so pleased to report that this book is quite as good as its predecessor. I have such a fondness for the way that Tasha Suri writes; I feel like she has a lovely,  graceful style all her own and ends up telling stories that are so thoughtful and lush and sweepingly romantic while also having a great deal to say about the nature of oppression and empire-building. This time around, the story is greatly focused on the matter of respectability politics and assimilation and the way that they go hand in hand with processes of cultural genocide, which was explored with the Amrithi people in the last book. What I love is that we see the way that these factors intersect with Arwa's experience as a woman. Arwa's story is one of learning to suppress and suppress the unwanted parts of her Amrithi heritage while molding herself into a desirable, conforming Ambhan woman - and this process is not done out of cruelty, but out of her family's misguided love: "She had been molded and erased and silenced for safety. She had been denied the truth for safety. Her history had been cleaved in two, for safety. They had almost broken her for the sake of making her safe, for the sake of their love for her, and she would carry the wound of it all her life." She refuses to be sharp-tongued or outspoken or impulsive, although these traits are who she would like to be inside, represses her thoughts and her actions, but over the course of the story she learns to access the parts of herself that she has repressed for so long. Arwa learns to express her autonomy, comes to embrace her Amrithi heritage, and finds power in the parts of herself that she used to see as flaws and weaknesses. It's a beautifully written process that's accomplished with a great deal of nuance and skill. Arwa's story is also one of exploring what it means to be a widow and find meaning in life after your husband, your supposed reason for living, has died. Arwa's grief and self-blame are beautifully written, and I loved the way that Suri explored the interior lives of women who are pitied and deemed largely useless by the rest of the world. There is also a group called the Divine Ones, who are courtesan spies and scholars who use their influence to shape events for the good of the people of the Empire. They're an incredibly badass group, and it was extremely refreshing to read about courtesans who have power, influence and agency as opposed to being treated as objects or tragic "fallen women:" "Her mother Maryam had always taught her that fallen women were to be derided - that her own concubine birth mother had been a low, corrupting influence beyond her Amrithi blood. An influence Arwa had to rise above." Maryam had been wrong." The book also deals really elegantly with the aftershock of the Maha's death from the first book, and the way that Arwa and Zahir must grapple with the question of whether the Empire is worth saving, and the question of what they are willing and not willing to do in order to save the people of the land. If the salvation of the Empire comes at the expense of the Amrithi people then they agree that it is simply a price that cannot be paid - and yet Arwa feels the pain of the Amrithi's exploitation in a way that Zahir does not, perhaps cannot, because he lacks the same heritage as her. I also absolutely loved the magic here. As ever, the daiva are a wonderful addition with their benevolent, enigmatic natures and the way they communicate with sigils. But Realm of Ash takes the mythology a step further with the magical realm that is described by the title, and I have to say that I absolutely loved exploring the realm of the dead, its mysteries and the way that it bleeds over into the living world. Of course I mentioned the romance in the early part of this review, and I'd be remiss if I didn't finish this review by discussing the relationship between Arwa and Zahir. Having read both of Suri's books now, I think she has a knack for writing the most delicate and sweet romances. I love both of their characters, and I love the dynamic that grows between them, which is an incredibly tender one of mutual respect and slow steps of trust and vulnerability. There's one conversation that they have about boundaries that I absolutely adored - a delicate negotiation of boundaries between two good, kind people who possess a genuine mutual regard and are slowly learning to trust each other? It's CHARLOTTE CATNIP. If I have one complaint, it's that the revelations about the empire's/Maha's corruption and the benevolent nature of the daiva were already explored in Empire of Sand, so while they were revelatory discoveries for Arwa they felt a little repetitive for the reader. All in all, though, this book has cemented Suri as one of my favorite writers  I've read for this project, and I'm eagerly anticipating whatever comes next! About the Author (from her website) "Tasha Suri was born in Harrow, North-West London. She studied English and Creative Writing at Warwick University, and now lives in London where she works as a librarian. To no one’s surprise, she owns a cat. A love of period Bollywood films, history and mythology led her to begin writing South Asian influenced fantasy."

  4. 4 out of 5

    Hiu Gregg

    There’s something about Tasha Suri’s books that is just… wonderful. Both in the sense that they are wonderfully written, and in the sense that they evoke a sense of wonder. There’s magic in the pages, dangerous but alluring. A sense of flow that keeps you reading long past the time you should have stopped. A world that is striking and enchanting and dangerous. Characters that march through the front door of your heart and tell you to make room, because they’ll be staying a while. Realm is Ash is s There’s something about Tasha Suri’s books that is just… wonderful. Both in the sense that they are wonderfully written, and in the sense that they evoke a sense of wonder. There’s magic in the pages, dangerous but alluring. A sense of flow that keeps you reading long past the time you should have stopped. A world that is striking and enchanting and dangerous. Characters that march through the front door of your heart and tell you to make room, because they’ll be staying a while. Realm is Ash is something of a sequel to Suri’s debut novel, Empire of Sand, but written in such a way that it functions as a standalone story. It explores some of the consequences of the first book, but never uses it as a crutch. Arwa’s story is not Mehr’s. They see and experience the world in different ways. Which, to be honest, is one of the many things I loved about this book. Arwa has never quite been able to live her own life. Born to an Amrithi mother and an Ambhan nobleman, raised by her father and stepmother, she was never able to explore her maternal heritage. She was raised to be an Ambhan noblewoman. A dutiful wife. But when her husband lies among the dead after the brutal and mysterious Darez Fort massacre, what is she to do? Her life has been defined by how she should serve other people. First her parents, then her husband. She doesn’t really know how to be her own person. But she finds out, and we find out with her. She’s empathetic. She’s determined. She’s intelligent, resilient, and strong. She can feel scared and fragile and vulnerable at times, yes, but anyone in her position would be. If anything, her vulnerabilities make the scenes where she shows her strength so much more powerful. As a widow in a society where widows are expected to behave a certain way, she is forced to call upon that strength often. Especially at court, where she and an illegitimate prince must research and practice illegal magic (in secret!) to rid the Empire of its curse. A magic tied to the culture that was denied to Arwa as a child. If you’ll forgive me a brief tangent… A month or so ago, I was able to catch a panel with Tasha Suri on the subject of translated works of fiction. During that panel, Tasha theorised that any translation necessitates a “confrontation with loss”. Some nuance, some meaning, some thing is always lost along the way. And for me, that phrase fits Realm of Ash so well. Over the course of Arwa’s story, she confronts the loss of her mother’s culture, the loss of her family, and the loss of the life she was supposed to have had — which in turn was a direct result of the loss of her agency. But what I love about this book is that it doesn’t stop there. Arwa confronts the loss of all of these things, and then she does something about it. She fights. The fight might be impossible. She might never win. But she fights anyway. I’ve seldom read a more elegant, romantic, and empowering piece of fantasy. Why haven’t you started reading it yet?

  5. 5 out of 5

    Sahitya

    I have been procrastinating on this book for a long while, so I was quite happy for our Indian Lit Readathon 2020 because it finally made me add this to my tbr and get to it. And while I won’t deny the brilliance of it, I also think I was not in the right headspace to appreciate it completely. I read Empire of Sand too fairly recently, so the world of Ambha is still fresh in mind and it was nice to be back here. While EoS was more about one of the main pillars of this world - the faith in the Mah I have been procrastinating on this book for a long while, so I was quite happy for our Indian Lit Readathon 2020 because it finally made me add this to my tbr and get to it. And while I won’t deny the brilliance of it, I also think I was not in the right headspace to appreciate it completely. I read Empire of Sand too fairly recently, so the world of Ambha is still fresh in mind and it was nice to be back here. While EoS was more about one of the main pillars of this world - the faith in the Maha and the exploitation/genocide of the Amrithi people; this companion novel takes on the other major pillar - the Emperor and the politics of his court, and the role women play in this world. The Mughal inspiration is very much visible in the representation of the women - from the power the women closest to the Emperor wield in the household and influence his decisions behind the scenes to the courtesans who have their own secret influence across the court to the forgotten women - the widows who are expected to be ghosts because they are nothing after the death of their husbands. And just like we got to know more about the daiva in the first book, here we get to navigate the realm of the dead and how the knowledge they possess can be used to save the world. It is in this world that we follow the story of Arwa who is a 21 year old widow. She has never been the kind of person a noblewoman of their land is expected to be, but she has suppressed her inherent nature, made herself small and tried to fit into the expected mold of a useful daughter and wife. But when her whole world is upended, she just doesn’t know what to do anymore. She is full of grief and rage, but no way to channel it. And when she learns how the empire she has grown up revering is built upon lies, her self loathing only increases. She throws herself into finding a cure for the curse affecting the empire, to be useful for something and not just waste away without purpose. In this endeavor, she gets to team up with Zahir who is the Emperor’s illegitimate child, unwanted in his own way. This is a tale of two people who are not valued in this society because of their lineage and circumstances, trying to do something useful so that they can survive, even if it means putting their lives on the line because they have no other choice. The reason I say I couldn’t appreciate the book enough is because being in Arwa’s head throughout, we get to experience her immense grief and loss in close quarters and that really made me more depressed (I don’t think I would’ve been so affected if not for the pandemic and lockdowns). But I also loved the friendship that develops between her and Zafir based on mutual respect and their quest for survival and knowledge. It’s a very slow burn romance that is beautiful to watch unfold. The best part of the book (and the series in general) is the themes the author tries to discuss and make us think about. Especially in Realm of Ash, we get to question if an empire whose centuries of prosperity is built upon the backs of an oppressed people, their exploitation and genocide, is worth saving. And we can’t help but see the parallels between this story and the history of US/UK built upon slavery and colonialism. We also see a whole group of people completely cutoff from a part of their heritage and forced to conform/assimilate to the majority culture, and how much trauma this can lead to. And finally, the one theme which is the major source of grief for Arwa is how much love can hurt; how even when we act based on love and kindness, these actions may cause long time harm on our loved ones. To conclude, I feel like I’ve just rambled incoherently and this has been the case for a while. I seem to have lost my touch in being able to articulate my thoughts about books, so please excuse my ramblings. Just go and read this series because the writing is beautiful, the world building is amazing while also having so many parallels to our real world, the characters are unforgettable and the romances are just the most evocative and emotional. The pacing can be slow, so be prepared to savor these books instead of binging them. And I also recommend the audiobooks because the narrator Soneela Nankani has such a lilting and soothing voice that you will get lost in her storytelling.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Sophie

    I am so happy to have discovered a new favorite author. The writing is beautiful, her women are well written, and I love both the love interests and how the romance is done. I was looking forward to reading this one because I was curious about Arwa after the first book and I wanted to see how events from the first book impacted this one. Interestingly enough, not as much as I would have thought. Still, I loved looking at a very different type of story and character from the first one, with more I am so happy to have discovered a new favorite author. The writing is beautiful, her women are well written, and I love both the love interests and how the romance is done. I was looking forward to reading this one because I was curious about Arwa after the first book and I wanted to see how events from the first book impacted this one. Interestingly enough, not as much as I would have thought. Still, I loved looking at a very different type of story and character from the first one, with more about the court life and how different groups of people make life their own, particularly the widows. That being said, the last part of the book felt incredibly rushed. I was ready to give this book a full 5 stars but then kinda went, that's it?? I really hope there's another continuation.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Brenda Waworga

    I really love “Empire Of Sand” and super excited to read this companion Novel but I must said… I’m disappointed The writing style is still as beautiful as I remember, the romance is also slow burning and I love it… the problem for me is the pace! It was so freaking slowwww to the point I feel bored through the story, it also not helping I do not like Arwa the main character, she was so dull compares to Mehr (her sister which was the main character on Empire Of Sand), Arwa got better tho through t I really love “Empire Of Sand” and super excited to read this companion Novel but I must said… I’m disappointed The writing style is still as beautiful as I remember, the romance is also slow burning and I love it… the problem for me is the pace! It was so freaking slowwww to the point I feel bored through the story, it also not helping I do not like Arwa the main character, she was so dull compares to Mehr (her sister which was the main character on Empire Of Sand), Arwa got better tho through the story but I still don’t like her until the end, in the other hand Zahir (the main male character and the love interest) is so sweet and love how he treated Arwa as his equal The magic system was unique and I love the idea about “The Realm Of Ash” I still enjoy some of the moments but in the end I don’t feel blown away This book might work for you who love slow pace and also slow character development

  8. 4 out of 5

    aarya

    Is two books too soon to declare Tasha Suri one of my favorite authors? Disclaimer: I received a free e-ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Justine

    Originally posted to I Should Read That I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This review is spoiler-free for this book and for Empire of Sand. Empire of Sand is one of those books that has left a lasting impact on me as a reader — it is a beautiful book with gorgeous magic, a lush world, and one of the best slow burn romances I’ve ever read. So naturally I was absolutely thrilled to hear that the next book, Realm of Ash was coming out this year. I had Originally posted to I Should Read That I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This review is spoiler-free for this book and for Empire of Sand. Empire of Sand is one of those books that has left a lasting impact on me as a reader — it is a beautiful book with gorgeous magic, a lush world, and one of the best slow burn romances I’ve ever read. So naturally I was absolutely thrilled to hear that the next book, Realm of Ash was coming out this year. I had sky-high expectations for this book and had absolutely no worries that they wouldn’t be met. And I was right — this book is absolutely magnificent. First things first, Realm of Ash is more of a companion novel than a direct sequel to Empire of Sand and it stands alone well on its own. However, I’d highly recommend reading the first book before diving into this one because you’ll get so much more from the story, particularly the nuances of Arwa’s relationship with her Amrithi blood and her family. Realm of Ash does an incredible job of building on the first book while standing alone as its own story, but honestly Empire of Sand is also incredibly good so you should read it anyway. The worldbuilding in Realm of Ash is magnificent — the world in the Books of Ambha series is one of my absolute favourites in fantasy. I love the stunning landscapes, the intricate architecture, and the detailed cultures and customs of both the Empire and the Amrithi people. The introduction of the realm of ash in this book adds a new, fantastic layer to the world. It is not only an incredibly magical place, but is also so wonderfully moving and sad. I don’t want to say anything more because of spoilers, but Suri created something really special with the realm of ash and the rituals surrounding it. Realm of Ash builds on and expands the culture and customs established in the first book, this time focusing on Arwa’s position as a noblewoman widow in society. The restrictions and restraints placed upon her, as well as her worth now that she does not have a ‘use’ in society through her husband, constantly haunt Arwa as she tries to bury her true self and be a good Ambhan woman while also struggling against the expectations against her. Interestingly, the book begins with Arwa fully believing in her position in the Empire and the Empire’s rules and laws, despite the fact that her mother’s people are persecuted and she would receive similar treatment if her Amrithi blood was discovered. The fact that she does accept and support the Empire’s laws and customs as a result of her upbringing makes her an incredibly fascinating character to follow, and I absolutely loved her personal journey of discovery. To me, this book is all about grief and loss, particularly for Arwa. The most obvious are the loss of her husband and sister, but Arwa also loses her place and ‘usefulness’ in the Empire when her husband dies. She has lost her Amrithi heritage, and she eventually loses her faith in the Empire too. After all she has been through and all she has had to suppress, it is no huge suprise that she grieves for what she once had and what was taught to her. However, it is also a story of discovery and self-realisation. These themes are wonderfully balanced and create such a beautiful and compelling story. I’ve really struggled to write this review because I simply cannot put into words how much I loved it. It is heartbreaking, hopeful, and stunningly beautiful. If you loved Empire of Sand, you will love Realm of Ash. If you enjoy slow burn romances, refreshing magic and fantasy worlds, backstabbing court politics, hidden princes, and strong women, you absolutely must give these books a try. To me, Suri represents the best of modern British fantasy and I will read anything she writes.

  10. 4 out of 5

    michelle (magical reads)

    4.75 stars read on my blog + see some hand-lettered quotes **I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you, Orbit Books!). These are my honest opinions, and in no way was I compensated for this review.** If I were a man, I would give my grief a purpose, and to the sword. I would fight for the sake of my Empire. But I am only a widow, and I have nothing to offer beyond my blood. I only read Empire of Sand earlier this summer, so the wait shouldn’t have been as excruciating as other people’s, bu 4.75 stars read on my blog + see some hand-lettered quotes **I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you, Orbit Books!). These are my honest opinions, and in no way was I compensated for this review.** If I were a man, I would give my grief a purpose, and to the sword. I would fight for the sake of my Empire. But I am only a widow, and I have nothing to offer beyond my blood. I only read Empire of Sand earlier this summer, so the wait shouldn’t have been as excruciating as other people’s, but it was so painful! But the wait was definitely worth it. Realm of Ash truly blew me away. The yearning (to be more than you are, to be your true self, to know that more is possible) is so palpable that I couldn’t put the book down. The prose evokes an atmosphere that’s slow but constant, like a siren song from which you physically can’t pull yourself away. I have so many quotes highlighted because we love metaphors of desire/yearning/etc. as hunger and starvation! [insert hunger.mp3 by Florence + the Machine] Here are a bunch of quotes that made me cry: “Lonely, Jihan had called him. But Arwa could only look at him and think of his vulnerable neck, his wrists, the moonlight on him and think, Starving, he is starving.” “When you strip everything away, Arwa thought, there is nothing in me but raw feeling: rage pulsing free like the blood of a thing unskinned. I have to be more than this.“ “I look at you, Zahir, I speak to you and I know you and I hunger.” “But often he would look at Arwa, and she would get up, and the two of them would walk off into the gray light, stand very close, and not think about hunger.” “She recognized the yearning now. It was hunger for a thing she had never had.” I loved following Arwa, who’s spent her entire life making herself smaller, not as angry and not as out-spoken. It was very interesting to view this world through her eyes, a world we’d previously only seen through Mehr’s eyes. It’s definitely a contrast: Arwa benefits from being Ambhan, not just because she was raised it, but because she looks it. Mehr, instead, was so obviously Amrithi, dark-skinned and curly-haired. This advantage of being lighter-skinned (and, possibly, white-passing) is still so prevalent today. Reading about the effects of this in a fantasy was so realistic, and Arwa’s struggle with passing as Ambhan was difficult to feel but heartening to read. She falls into the world of politics and propriety, but also a world that’s rediscovering itself after the loss of the Maha. Although she’s a widow, she defies tradition and goes to court to work in secret to solve the mystery of her blood. Insert Zahir, the king’s illegitimate son who’s trying to fix the curse that’s fallen over the empire since the Maha’s death. He and Arwa work together to discover the secrets of the gods, and they gradually form a bond. “I deserve little. I should be grateful for what I have. But whatever I deserve—I do not want it.” She did not say, I want more. He understood. Their relationship was a steady slow burn, filled with such tension that I was holding my breath the entire time. Add in the standards of society (Arwa is a widow and she can’t sacrifice her honor), and the tension multiplies. It’s a lot. I totally wasn’t crying. Realm of Ash is a truly gorgeous book that details the character growth of accepting that you can be more, that you can have more, and that fleshes out the world of Empire of Sand. The writing sets a slow, entrancing tone that you can’t stop reading, and the characterizations are stunningly detailed. I can’t wait for the third book! original review: ah, the hunger of it all.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Beatrice in Bookland

    "If I were a man, I would give my grief a purpose, and to the sword. I would fight for the sake of my Empire. But I am only a widow, and I have nothing to offer beyond my blood." 1. Empire of sand ★★★★☆ 4.5 Realm of ash and Empire of sand are such wonderful (and sadly hidden) gems, I wish more people would give this duology a chance. It has well written characters, slow burn romance, original plots and an enchanting writing style.

  12. 5 out of 5

    jocelyn

    not quite what i was expecting, but still just as heart-achingly beautiful as the first.

  13. 5 out of 5

    imyril

    I have no words. This is spectacular. So much, so deeply felt, so elegant, so measured. I'll try to find words. But first, some heartfelt sobbing from all the FEELINGS.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    “She wore her heart, fierce and changeable as it was, right on her skin.” Second book syndrome? Tasha Suri definitely doesn’t know her. Realm of Ash is a sequel to Empire of Sand (read my review here), picking up about ten or so years after the first book ends. The protagonist of this one is Arwa, the younger sister of the Mehr, the protagonist from the first book. Only she’s no longer the innocent child Mehr was determined to protect. Reeling from the loss of her sister, her husband’s death, and “She wore her heart, fierce and changeable as it was, right on her skin.” Second book syndrome? Tasha Suri definitely doesn’t know her. Realm of Ash is a sequel to Empire of Sand (read my review here), picking up about ten or so years after the first book ends. The protagonist of this one is Arwa, the younger sister of the Mehr, the protagonist from the first book. Only she’s no longer the innocent child Mehr was determined to protect. Reeling from the loss of her sister, her husband’s death, and a power she must keep hidden if she doesn’t want to be ruined, Arwa finds herself at the mercy of a crumbling Empire struggling to discover who she is and determine what is the right thing to do. If you’ve read Empire of Sand, then you’ll remember that Mehr – and consequently, Arwa – are descended from a tribe of people called the Amrithi, who have the ability to wield magic that allows them to communicate with the gods though special dances. Mehr was able to use this ability to wake the gods, who have been kept asleep by a mysterious priest known as the Maha in order to lead the Empire to greatness and prosperity – at the expense of the Amrithi, of course, who are captured, enslaved, or killed by the Empire for their powers. With the gods now awake and the Maha dead, no one can use Amrithi blood and magic to keep the Empire safe. The royal family, determined to save the Empire, force Arwa into their service, working with an illegitimate prince who thinks journeying to the mystical Realm of Ashes, where dreams and histories and thoughts dwell, will provide them the answer. Through this forbidden magic, they hope to make contact with the Maha’s earliest memories and discover how he kept the Empire safe. But Arwa, slowly but surely, comes to the conclusion that maybe the return of the Empire to its former greatness was never meant to happen. This book was immensely different from Realm of Ash, but I loved it just as much. It’s very much the story of someone reconnecting with a past they had forgotten, and learning to accept its place in one’s life. We have a saying in Tagalog – “Ang hindi marunong lumingon sa pinangalingan ay hindi makakarating sa paroroonan.” The closest English translation I can make is, those who don’t look to where they came from will never get to where they’re going, and I believe this phrase perfectly encapsulates Arwa’s journey in rediscovering her Amrithi roots and a reunion with her people. The romance of this book was also incredible. You all know I am the biggest fan of slow-burn romance, and this was slow-burn in the best way. Getting to see Arwa and Zahir slowly become comfortable with each other, eventually coming to rely on each other in a court full of spies, assassins, and ambitious politicians made me alternately squeal with joy and cry out of fear. When they eventually escape and try to make things right, their vows to care for each other and make things right is the one thing they each can hold on to. Certainty in an uncertain world, if you will. The tension (both sexual and otherwise) between Arwa and Zahir is coupled so deliciously with what turns out to be a deep, unabiding devotion to one another and absolutely took my breath away. Their love story is a gift given to us through the use of the most heart-achingly beautiful and vivid prose, which we all know Tasha Suri is excellent at crafting. Reading this book tore my heart into a million pieces and then put it back together again. I can’t recommend it enough. Read my full review here. Find more from me: Blog || Instagram || Twitter || YouTube

  15. 4 out of 5

    Runalong

    One of the best fantasy novels I’ve read this year. Powerful, intelligent and wonder emotional character development - one everyone should read Full review - https://www.runalongtheshelves.net/bl... One of the best fantasy novels I’ve read this year. Powerful, intelligent and wonder emotional character development - one everyone should read Full review - https://www.runalongtheshelves.net/bl...

  16. 4 out of 5

    Lucie

    Tasha Suri did it again. Realm of Ash was such an amazing yet quite different follow-up to Empire of Sand and I adored it even more than the first book. I loved discovering Arwa's story, the world was fascinating and the magic took a turn I personally love, plus the romance was well-written. Just like with the previous book, I cried a lot during most of the ending because it was everything and I was pretty much drowning in my feelings. I loved this duology so much and I can't wait for Tasha Suri Tasha Suri did it again. Realm of Ash was such an amazing yet quite different follow-up to Empire of Sand and I adored it even more than the first book. I loved discovering Arwa's story, the world was fascinating and the magic took a turn I personally love, plus the romance was well-written. Just like with the previous book, I cried a lot during most of the ending because it was everything and I was pretty much drowning in my feelings. I loved this duology so much and I can't wait for Tasha Suri's next book! If an adult fantasy duology set in a Mughal India-inspired world, with amazing characters and a slow-burn romance sounds appealing to you... Please pick up Empire of Sand and Realm of Ash!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Andi

    Ah! What a glorious treat to find an author who writes such gorgeous stories featuring women who shine like a thousand diamonds from the broken husks they once were. I absolutely was thrilled that we would see what became of Mehr's sister, Arwa. Not only that, see how she grew up under the care of her nasty step-mother. The first 40% of the book was getting to know Arwa. She had grown up burying the heritage that her birth-mother was and pretending to be a noble girl. Unfortunately, after her ma Ah! What a glorious treat to find an author who writes such gorgeous stories featuring women who shine like a thousand diamonds from the broken husks they once were. I absolutely was thrilled that we would see what became of Mehr's sister, Arwa. Not only that, see how she grew up under the care of her nasty step-mother. The first 40% of the book was getting to know Arwa. She had grown up burying the heritage that her birth-mother was and pretending to be a noble girl. Unfortunately, after her marriage she becomes a widow and tries to figure out if she is cursed or is there something she just does not know about herself. We meet Zahir who my goodness is the perfect goth boy. Born a bastard, he was taken in by his half sister and hidden away deep in the recesses of the kingdom. He is to find a cure for the now nightmare fueled Empire (as we saw what happened by the end of the first book). Again, Suri gives us the most glorious slow burn and inner weaving of two people whose lives are full of hurt, pain, and confusion. To watch them learn what their place is and their path, ugh, so many moments that gutted me. The reason I knock the book down a star is that I feel the last 15% of the book was rushed beyond belief. (view spoiler)[ First of all, Arwa curse the Emperor. She doesn't kill the guy, but he is still out there ready to kick her ass. Zahir and Arwa make a pledge to continue to spread the hope and the teachings of the new Empire. Okay... so, does that mean we'll get a book two? Secondly, when we meet Mehr! FINALLY. We see that she has a family! SHE HAS A KID! ... but we hardly spent time with them. Not only that, Arwa never seemed to figure out that her mother was also alive too! She didn't really get to meet Kunan either. :( I waited patiently for their reunion and it was so half-baked. Lastly, Arwa was taught the bow... but she didn't really do anything with it. :/ I wanted her to become a warrior with the bow, instead, she was just using it as a stress reliever. :/ (hide spoiler)] I wanted to give this book three and a half stars, but I gave it four because I love the characters and the writing/overall story was lovely. It just fell flat in the end but I am hoping that we get a third book one day!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Dianthaa

    This was so beautiful, must more beautiful than I can put into words, especially after accidentally deleting my notes for it. It's very rich and magical. It took me about half a book to get over it not being with Mehr, but I eventually let it go and enjoyed the book. I really loved the protagonist from book 1, and was very upset for a long time, maybe 1/3 of the book, that we follow her sister, years after the events of that book. There's deep mystery throughout the book, in figuring out court l This was so beautiful, must more beautiful than I can put into words, especially after accidentally deleting my notes for it. It's very rich and magical. It took me about half a book to get over it not being with Mehr, but I eventually let it go and enjoyed the book. I really loved the protagonist from book 1, and was very upset for a long time, maybe 1/3 of the book, that we follow her sister, years after the events of that book. There's deep mystery throughout the book, in figuring out court life, the curious young man and of course, the Realm of Ash. The romance is so slow burn that my oblivious ass took almost as long as the characters to figure out what was going on.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Shealea

    I’m not even going to try to compare Empire of Sand and Realm of Ash because I love them equally for different reasons. Anyway, much like Arwa, my researcher heart HUNGERS for pretty boy scholars who are soft and curious and kind. From the brilliant exploration of themes to the empowerment I felt in Arwa’s character growth to the delicious burn of her romance with Zahir, Realm of Ash slaps and IT SLAPS HARD. Full review to follow. 5 stars

  20. 4 out of 5

    Bethany

    Actual Rating: 3.5-3.75 stars Realm of Ash is a companion novel to Empire of Sand, which is one of my favorite books read this year. (Seriously, I'm obsessed!) While I didn't love it in the same way, Realm of Ash is still a solid follow up with beautiful writing, great world-building, and thought-provoking thematic content. Set 10+ years after the events of Empire, this book follows the story of Mehr's younger sister, Arwa. Mehr and Arwa are both mixed with Amrithi blood, but while Mehr looks lik Actual Rating: 3.5-3.75 stars Realm of Ash is a companion novel to Empire of Sand, which is one of my favorite books read this year. (Seriously, I'm obsessed!) While I didn't love it in the same way, Realm of Ash is still a solid follow up with beautiful writing, great world-building, and thought-provoking thematic content. Set 10+ years after the events of Empire, this book follows the story of Mehr's younger sister, Arwa. Mehr and Arwa are both mixed with Amrithi blood, but while Mehr looks like their mother, Arwa can pass as Ambhan (the dominant and ruling race). The book begins as Arwa journeys to a house of widows after losing her (much older) husband in a brutal and traumatizing attack by supernatural creatures. As the plot progresses, Arwa is drawn into dangerous court politics, and encounters an opportunity to find the love that is culturally forbidden to her as a widow. Arwa is a much quieter and more compliant character than Mehr, and I had a harder time connecting with her. However, I kind of love that Tasha Suri is writing the stories of women who often go unnoticed in history despite their significance. I would have liked to see more of her earlier life with marrying the general, because so much felt missing, but that might have been too long a book? In terms of plot, this felt much more meandering than Empire of Sand and involves a lot of people traveling together from place to place which I tend not to love in my fantasy. (Traveling band stories are kind of a hard sell for me, but that is definitely a personal preference.) I was more interested in the widows house and palace and would have been happy to get more there. I also kind of wish that the romantic relationship had just stayed a friendship because I never really bought into the chemistry between the characters but found their friendship to be compelling. That said, it was still interesting and this author does a great job of writing deeply character-driven stores. There is also a really interesting theme here that examines what it means for an Empire to build their strength on the backs of an oppressed people group. It felt very reminiscent of the treatment of African Americans in the United States and I appreciated that as a thought-provoking sub-plot. I will definitely be picking up whatever she writes in the future. I was sent a copy of this book for review from the publisher. All opinions are my own.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Liv (ReadbyLiv)

    I think I’ve found a new favorite author. Rtc

  22. 5 out of 5

    Kristen

    This was a fantastic listen. ❤️

  23. 4 out of 5

    shri (sunandchai)

    Full review on my blog! First off, I would like to thank the publisher, Orbit Books, for sending me this ARC in exchange for an honest review. When I looked up after finishing this long anticipated read, my head was full of a heaviness and my ears were ringing; I’d been lying on my bed for four hours straight, reading like a woman possessed, and I hadn’t realized it until after I read the last words, put down my iPad, and released a heavy breath towards my ceiling. Flaying the contagi Full review on my blog! First off, I would like to thank the publisher, Orbit Books, for sending me this ARC in exchange for an honest review. When I looked up after finishing this long anticipated read, my head was full of a heaviness and my ears were ringing; I’d been lying on my bed for four hours straight, reading like a woman possessed, and I hadn’t realized it until after I read the last words, put down my iPad, and released a heavy breath towards my ceiling. Flaying the contagious second-book-syndrome open and leaving it in the dust, Realm of Ash is not only a worthy successor to the enthralling Empire of Sand, but, in my humble opinion, surpasses it. Tasha Suri burst into the industry with compelling prose and a penchant for exploring facets of humanity, and Realm of Ash is evidence of a loving cultivation of those strengths. Realm of Ash is a tale of people learning to belong to themselves while being shaped, both willingly and unwillingly, by forces beyond their control. It’s a story that left me aching to my core while my soul lifted a couple of inches out of my body. I can’t say I expected any less, but no amount of preparation could have left me less effected. Honestly, if I were able to give this book more than 5 stars, I would not hesitate to do so.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sabs

    if you read the ebook copy of empire of sand, you might have been lucky enough (like me!) to preview the first three chapters!! I've been aching for realm of ash literally as soon as I finished empire of sand and I'm so, so glad tasha suri gave us those chapters to obsess over for another year! (I'm also intrigued as to what series of events lead up to arwa being at court, despite being sent to live with the widows in the beginning of realm of ash.) I look forward to see how arwa navigates the wo if you read the ebook copy of empire of sand, you might have been lucky enough (like me!) to preview the first three chapters!! I've been aching for realm of ash literally as soon as I finished empire of sand and I'm so, so glad tasha suri gave us those chapters to obsess over for another year! (I'm also intrigued as to what series of events lead up to arwa being at court, despite being sent to live with the widows in the beginning of realm of ash.) I look forward to see how arwa navigates the world as a fairer, ambhan-passing noblewoman. mehr was definitely an outsider in empire of sand based on the colour of her skin and her obvious amrithiness, but likely arwa's stepmother has done her best to disguise arwa's amrithi origins. it'll be interesting to see the ambhan court from an insider's point of view.

  25. 5 out of 5

    charlotte, (½ of readsrainbow)

    THEY WERE A MYSTICAL ORDER OF TWO Rep: Mughal India inspired characters and setting

  26. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    This is the second book in Suri's Books of Ambha series and it follows Arwa, the little sister of Mehr from the first book. EMPIRE OF SAND was one of my favorite books I read last year, but due my reading slump (which has lasted over 6 months now and counting...), I didn't get around to reading this one until now. A lot of things in the world have changed since the events of the first book (I won't spoil it in this review because honestly GO READ IT). Since Arwa was only a child in the first book This is the second book in Suri's Books of Ambha series and it follows Arwa, the little sister of Mehr from the first book. EMPIRE OF SAND was one of my favorite books I read last year, but due my reading slump (which has lasted over 6 months now and counting...), I didn't get around to reading this one until now. A lot of things in the world have changed since the events of the first book (I won't spoil it in this review because honestly GO READ IT). Since Arwa was only a child in the first book, I was really curious to read her story as a young widow. This one took me a bit longer to get into than the first one, I'll admit. Yes, this book definitely has a romance between Arwa and our not-prince, Zahir (and it's even more of a slow burn than the first book!). But the storyline is much more about Arwa coming into her own as she becomes a witch as Zahir's partner/apprentice in the ~occult arts~. Arwa has been raised to be a model noblewoman and the price she's paid has been repressing part of her nature so that she's not "too much" of anything - even if her nature is quite mercurial, as we discover. She's also been cut off from and taught to fear her Amrithi heritage that Mehr tried to teach her about as a child. As the book progresses, Arwa learns more about herself and her history. The "realm of ash" that the title refers to is basically a parallel world where Arwa and Zahir encounter the dead. When Arwa learns what has been done to the Amrithi people throughout history - by encountering them in the realm of ash - it's really heartbreaking. Suri is a beautiful writer and this book is brimming with so much repressed rage that I really wanted Arwa to just burn shit down to fix it. I can't recommend these books highly enough! Although I'll say I preferred the first one a bit more, I've only read this one once and I think it there's so much detail that it will warrant a second read for sure before I can definitively say the first book was my favorite.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kathy

    I think Jocelyn is correct - you can read this book before the first book if you so choose (although I am now reading the first book). Wonderful magic system (tw for blood magic), and beautiful writing.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Lady H

    Masterful and heartbreaking and subversive and hopeful and achingly beautiful.

  29. 4 out of 5

    keikii Eats Books

    To read more reviews like this, check out my blog keikii eats books! 98 points, 5 stars! Quote: Lonely, Jihan had called him. But Arwa could only look at him and think of his vulnerable neck, his wrists, the moonlight on him and think, Starving, he is starving. Review: Wow. Enchanting. Beautiful. I already know this review will feel inadequate compared to the elegance that is the book itself. The way the story flows and draws you in just was so well done. I managed to feel like I was the main c To read more reviews like this, check out my blog keikii eats books! 98 points, 5 stars! Quote: Lonely, Jihan had called him. But Arwa could only look at him and think of his vulnerable neck, his wrists, the moonlight on him and think, Starving, he is starving. Review: Wow. Enchanting. Beautiful. I already know this review will feel inadequate compared to the elegance that is the book itself. The way the story flows and draws you in just was so well done. I managed to feel like I was the main character, Arwa, and was so drawn into her story. Captivated, even. The setting was exemplary. Realm of Ash was just so, so good. While reading, it really struck me how different a book Realm of Ash would be if I hadn't read Empire of Sand first. It would have been a profounding different experience. Both of these books can be considered standalone, and Realm of Ash does take place about ten years after the first book so it does have spoilers for the ending of that amazing book. I think it actually would have been quite fun to read this without the context, which is not something I typically ever say. I would have loved to have had the perspective of Arwa without Mehr getting in the way. A lot of time has passed since Empire of Sand. The world has become different, worse since the Maha died. Less safe. Famine. Disease. Fear. This setup leads to some absolutely brilliant worldbuilding and a magic system that I wanted to know more about. There was just so much more to learn than I could have thought possible. Yet I still wanted to know more. It was amazing. And then there is the main character. Ah, Arwa, you poor thing. Before the book began, Arwa was the sole survivor of a vicious attack that killed her husband as well as the entire military installation he was in charge of. Before that, she spent her life trying to be perfect, fearing that she would be found to be less than foolproof, because her bloodline made her cursed. Now widowed, Arwa is considered a ghost and from here her true journey starts. Realm of Ash takes Arwa from her desire to become cloistered away with other widowed women, to her decision to stand up and be useful, to Arwa being strong. I love Arwa, broken bits and all. The romance is an adorably slow burn. The kind where you know it is going to happen, and you just want to knock these two numbskulls together to make them see what they have. Propriety? A complete taboo against the very idea of remarriage? Bah, who needs any of that? We have some love to get to! And if all this wasn't enough gushing, just look at that cover. Isn't it exquisite? I received this book from Orbit in exchange for an honest review. A huge thank you to Tasha Suri and Orbit for providing the opportunity to review this copy.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Liz Barnsley

    I absolutely adored Empire Of Sand the first in this series, I was so so pleased to return to the story – Realm of Ash is beautifully imagined, just like it’s predecessor, and I adored every minute of it. Inspired by Mughal India, Tasha Suri built a richly layered world in her debut, one filled with magically engaging characters and telling an emotive, immersive tale, one of politically motivated prejudice, seeped in history and genuinely compelling. With Realm of Ash we find things on the brink I absolutely adored Empire Of Sand the first in this series, I was so so pleased to return to the story – Realm of Ash is beautifully imagined, just like it’s predecessor, and I adored every minute of it. Inspired by Mughal India, Tasha Suri built a richly layered world in her debut, one filled with magically engaging characters and telling an emotive, immersive tale, one of politically motivated prejudice, seeped in history and genuinely compelling. With Realm of Ash we find things on the brink of disaster- enter Arwa, dedicated to the cause whilst hiding her true nature, she may be the only one who can save the Ambhan Empire but possibly it would be best left to die… I’m not even sure how to describe these novels in a way that gets across how utterly breathtaking they are – intelligent and totally absorbing, the character drama set against a sprawling, lush and panoramic backdrop , you fall into them and live there for the duration of the read. Tasha Suri has a way of writing that induces emotional reactions on every level, weaving a tense and atmospheric tale with hugely thought provoking elements and a giant sense of adventure. These are fantastic. Hands down one of the best Fantasy series to emerge in the last few years – I absolutely highly HIGHLY recommend them. Reading perfection.

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