Return to Sharakhai

Of Sand and Malice MadeOf Sand and Malice Made
Bradley P. Beaulieu
Daw Books
hardcover, 240 pages $18.00
ebook $9.99

I’d like to thank Bradley P. Beaulieu for providing me with the review copy.  I found reading the book to be rather frustrating, not because of any flaw in the story or writing.  Just the opposite.  Life has been chaotic for a number of reasons which are worth getting into.  I’ve been reading the book in snatches, with many interruptions.  I’ve wanted to simply dive in.  Unfortunately, that’s not what’s happened.

But I did manage to carve out some time to read most of the second half over the weekend and finished the last twenty pages tonight.  Of Sand and Malice Made is an excellent fantasy adventure.

It’s also a great introduction to the world of Shattered Sands, which we saw in the first volume of the series, Twelve Kings in Sharakhai (reviewed here).  You don’t have to have read that volume to enjoy this one.  Of Sand and Malice Made is a prequel, telling an adventure of Ceda before the tale of her quest for vengeance against the kings begins.  In fact the kings are hardly mentioned.

Here Ceda is delivering a package when she inadvertantly comes to the attention of two godlings, twin sons of a trickster god.  They’re in  the service of an ehrekh, which is like a combination of demon and djinn.  The whole Shattered Sands universe has a Thousand and One Nights feel to it in places, which is a good thing.

Things quickly go from bad to worse as the ehrekh, named Rumayesh, has the habit of capturing people and draining their memories.  And she soon has her sights set on Ceda.

One of the things I liked about this story is that it is three related stories that take place over a period of months.  I’m not going to go into too much detail because I don’t want to give away any twists.  The novel’s structure kept me guessing as to what was going to happen.  There are resolutions which set up further events lataer.  Things changed.  Situations evolved in a way that felt natural and organic.  Ceda has to live by her wits, not just her fighting skills.  There are plenty of eerie touches.

Bradley Beaulieu has become one of my favorite writers.  He’s not afraid to try something new, and his stories aren’t set in cookie cutter worlds that are thinly disguised versions of medieval Europe.  There’s always plenty of action and depth of character.  Anything he writes is going to be fun and fresh.

I think Mr. Beaulieu has hit a new level with this book.  The details of sight, sound, and smell he provided really pulled me in.  He weaves his tale with a level of finesse you often don’t see in more experienced writers.  Ceda is a complex character, one who struggles to do the right thing, even when it could cost her her life.

If you’ve wondered what the Shattered Sands is about, Of Sand and Malice Made is a good introduction to the world.  It doesn’t move the main story along, (it’s a prequel, remember) but it will introduce you to the world and many of the characters.  It’s a great place to visit, and like the bazaar in Sharakhai, you never know what you’ll find.

Highly recommended.

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