Epic Fantasy Fix
"Like a child once lost, now returning to her mother, the sand embraced her." - Bradley P. Beaulieu
The Song of Shattered Sands Series From Bradley P. Beaulieu
When February 2017 rolled around, I was ecstatic. I had pre-ordered the second book Beaulieu's most recent series. The first book in the series, Twelve Kings in Sharakhai got me through graduate school finals in 2015 and I was looking forward to returning to the world of Sharakhai and the Great Shangazi.
I learned about the series initially from NPR Books. Nerdy, right? Then again I'm already writing about epic fantasy, so I suppose that's a given? Rhetorical questions aside, the book review enticed me and I bought the book on Black Friday from Amazon. As mentioned above, it was my saving grace during that fall semester's final essays and mounting piles of freshman college papers to grade.
From the description:
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.
At the time I wasn't really keeping track of my reading or reviewing. However, my Goodreads review of Twelve Kings in Sharakhai highlights that I loved the complicated mother-daughter relationship and that the plot surprised me. Both of these are good things! To add on to this, what truly caught my attention was the depth of characters and the world-building. Vaguely medieval European, highly masculine, with few nuanced female characters is not my jam when it comes to epic fantasy. So this series completely broke with that image of high/epic fantasy.
Returning to the present, again, I was excited to continue this series! And it did not disappoint. There are several reasons I loved this book (and series)
1. I really enjoy books from multiple character perspectives, especially when each character is fully fleshed out and has their own voice, histories, and motivations.
2. Badass female characters! Çeda (our protagonist) is an awesomely complex character. She's tough and tender. And there are a plethora of other female characters - good, bad, and morally ambiguous - for you to sink your figurative teeth into.
3. Refreshing takes on gender dynamics. Çeda and the other female characters are in control of themselves. Moreover, both books feature women making their own decisions about their bodies in regards to consensual sex, birth control, and same-sex relations.
4. Beaulieu's world building here is top notch! He clearly put a lot of thought and research into the culture, mythos, kingdoms versus tribes, etc. to fully create this world of gods, kings, and assassins.
I would definitely recommend this book series!
Also you can learn more about Beaulieu's work at his website quillings.com and his Patreon. I am a contributing member of Beaulieu's Patreon site and enjoy seeing updates about his work as well as insights into the writing process as I hope to write my own fantasy novel(s) in the future.
Have you read this series or other books by Beaulieu? What are your thoughts?