Raised in an Ambhan household, as the daughter of the Governor of the Empire, Mehr has led a life of privilege. But this privilege doesn’t prevent her from being treated with scorn because of her mother’s Amrithi heritage and Mehr’s connection to the desert spirits that once walked the earth as humans.
When her father’s limited power can’t keep the mystics of the Emperor at bay, they discover Mehr’s Amrithi powers. By way of an arranged marriage, she comes to realize the burden her people must bear to sustain the Empire.
There are a lot of aspects of this book that kept me thoroughly engrossed from the beginning.
- The setting is inspired by Mughal India
- The magic system is imbued with rich cultural motifs
- The trope of the usurper king drove my eagerness to see Mehr assume the role of the chosen one
It’s almost become commonplace to see the theme of arranged marriages explored in Asian books, and this one is no different. The manner in which Amun and Mehr’s wedding is explored depicts clearly just how little autonomy women possess in a patriarchal society.
And for all that Mehr has had to deal with (being estranged from her mother, not being able to care for her sister, the constant rebukes from her step-mother), I wished and wished that at least her marriage would not be a source of further agitation.
The book places a lot of emphasis on tradition, and it was enthralling to watch (“read”) Mehr perform the Rites of Dreaming. There were a couple of places where I felt that the world-building could’ve been explained in a little more detail because I couldn’t properly comprehend some of the information.
The author’s writing is action-oriented while also paying sufficient heed to the setting. I have mixed feelings about a twist that occurred towards the end – it was entirely unprecedented but somehow doesn’t sit well with some of the earlier plot developments.
On the whole, I enjoyed reading the book and will definitely be picking up the sequel in this duology.