I love many subgenres within the fantasy umbrella, but this year I’ve developed a particular love for desert fantasy. Having only ever lived in England or Wales, I’m so far removed from a desert environment that the setting itself, as well as the different worlds and magic systems within desert fantasy, give me that extra bit of escapism.
Finishing S.A Chakraborty’s Daevabad Trilogy and reading Tasha Suri’s Empire of Sand this year is what made me realise that desert fantasy is very much my thing, and there are some others on my radar that I still need to read. Today I thought I’d share them with you – just in case you’re in the mood to escape to somewhere much warmer this winter!
Realm of Ash by Tasha Suri
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.
I really, really enjoyed Empire of Sand, so I’d like to pick up this companion novel fairly soon! Suri is releasing the first book in a new fantasy series next year, The Jasmine Throne, and I’d like to catch up with this series first.
We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal
People lived because she killed. People died because he lived.
Zafira is the Hunter, disguising herself as a man when she braves the cursed forest of the Arz to feed her people. Nasir is the Prince of Death, assassinating those foolish enough to defy his autocratic father, the sultan. If Zafira was exposed as a girl, all of her achievements would be rejected; if Nasir displayed his compassion, his father would punish him in the most brutal of ways. Both Zafira and Nasir are legends in the kingdom of Arawiya–but neither wants to be.
War is brewing, and the Arz sweeps closer with each passing day, engulfing the land in shadow. When Zafira embarks on a quest to uncover a lost artifact that can restore magic to her suffering world and stop the Arz, Nasir is sent by the sultan on a similar mission: retrieve the artifact and kill the Hunter. But an ancient evil stirs as their journey unfolds–and the prize they seek may pose a threat greater than either can imagine.
I’ve heard really good things about this YA novel, which I pre-ordered and yet still haven’t read (story of my life), but I keep meaning to pick it up. It’s the first in a duology, and I do love me a duology!
Twelve Kings by Bradley Beaulieu
Sharakhai, the great city of the desert, center of commerce and culture, has been ruled from time immemorial by twelve kings — cruel, ruthless, powerful, and immortal. With their army of Silver Spears, their elite company of Blade Maidens and their holy defenders, the terrifying asirim, the Kings uphold their positions as undisputed, invincible lords of the desert. There is no hope of freedom for any under their rule.
Or so it seems, until Çeda, a brave young woman from the west end slums, defies the Kings’ laws by going outside on the holy night of Beht Zha’ir. What she learns that night sets her on a path that winds through both the terrible truths of the Kings’ mysterious history and the hidden riddles of her own heritage. Together, these secrets could finally break the iron grip of the Kings’ power…if the nigh-omnipotent Kings don’t find her first.
This is another series I’ve heard wonderful things about, but it’s a series made up of very chunky books so I haven’t picked it up yet because I already have so many other chonks on my TBR. I’ve heard such good things about it, though, that I think I need to make a start on the series in 2021!
An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death.
When Laia’s grandparents are brutally murdered and her brother arrested for treason by the empire, the only people she has left to turn to are the rebels.
But in exchange for their help in saving her brother, they demand that Laia spy on the ruthless Commandant of Blackcliff, the Empire’s greatest military academy. Should she fail it’s more than her brother’s freedom at risk . . . Laia’s very life is at stake.
There, she meets Elias, the academy’s finest soldier. But Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined – and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.
There’s been a lot of buzz around this series because it’s finally coming to an end, but for whatever reason I’ve only just developed an interest in reading it. I remember seeing the first book all over the internet when it was initially released and it simply didn’t interest me at the time, but re-reading the blurb this year has made me realise that yes, I’d definitely like to give this series a try. At least if I try it and like it, I can blast through the rest of the series!
The Dreamblood Duology by N. K. Jemisin
The city burned beneath the Dreaming Moon.
In the ancient city-state of Gujaareh, peace is the only law. Upon its rooftops and amongst the shadows of its cobbled streets wait the Gatherers — the keepers of this peace. Priests of the dream-goddess, their duty is to harvest the magic of the sleeping mind and use it to heal, soothe . . . and kill those judged corrupt.
But when a conspiracy blooms within Gujaareh’s great temple, Ehiru — the most famous of the city’s Gatherers — must question everything he knows. Someone, or something, is murdering dreamers in the goddess’ name, stalking its prey both in Gujaareh’s alleys and the realm of dreams. Ehiru must now protect the woman he was sent to kill — or watch the city be devoured by war and forbidden magic.
Jemisin’s Broken Earth Trilogy is one of my all-time favourite series and I keep meaning to give her earlier series a try. Natalie @ Too Short to Read has been telling me to give this one a try for a while now, so it’s about time I listened to her.
A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown
For Malik, the Solstasia festival is a chance to escape his war-stricken home and start a new life with his sisters in the prosperous desert city of Ziran. But when a vengeful spirit abducts Malik’s younger sister, Nadia, as payment into the city, Malik strikes a fatal deal—kill Karina, Crown Princess of Ziran, for Nadia’s freedom.
But Karina has deadly aspirations of her own. Her mother, the Sultana, has been assassinated; her court threatens mutiny; and Solstasia looms like a knife over her neck. Grief-stricken, Karina decides to resurrect her mother through ancient magic . . . requiring the beating heart of a king. And she knows just how to obtain one: by offering her hand in marriage to the victor of the Solstasia competition.
When Malik rigs his way into the contest, they are set on a course to destroy each other. But as attraction flares between them and ancient evils stir, will they be able to see their tasks to the death?
As soon as I saw this YA novel pitched as ‘Aladdin if Aladdin and Jasmine were trying to kill each other’, I knew I needed to add it to my TBR. I’ve since seen so many good reviews that I need to get to it soon.