Of Sand and Malice Made is not, as I had originally thought and hoped, the sequel to last year’s wonderful Twelve Kings of Sharakhai. Should you wait, then, until With Blood Upon the Sand comes out in February? You could, but believe me, if you enjoyed Twelve Kings you will enjoy a chance to return to Sharakhai.
Çeda, the heroine of the novel Twelve Kings in Sharakhai, is the youngest pit fighter in the history of the great desert city of Sharakhai. In this prequel, she has already made her name in the arena as the fearsome, undefeated White Wolf; none but her closest friends and allies know her true identity.
But this all changes when she crosses the path of Rümayesh, an ehrekh, a sadistic creature forged long ago by the god of chaos. The ehrekh are usually desert dwellers, but this one lurks in the dark corners of Sharakhai, toying with and preying on humans. As Rümayesh works to unmask the White Wolf and claim Çeda for her own, Çeda’s struggle becomes a battle for her very soul.
Çeda and the world Beaulieu created made Twelve Kings in Sharakhai, and it is no different for Of Sand and Malice Made. The city is as alive and vibrant as ever. The sands that surround it as daunting and enticing. Çeda as badass and human. It’s a much smaller story than Twelve Kings epic, but the djinn-like ehrekh is a wonderful villain.
It would be fair to wonder how a prequel novel works when the original book was so flashback heavy. In general, the events of Sand and Malice take place between the events of Twelve Kings. Do they tell us very much about that story? No, although they don’t clash with the events of Twelve Kings either. I have seen that Beaulieu has suggested that they do have ramifications that will be seen in Book 2 of the main series.
Sand and Malice started as a shorter work and grew in the telling, as they do. I’ve seen this described as three novellas, and that might be right. But it hangs together as a single coherent story, and should be read straight through. It does have an episodic quality to it that enhances, rather than detracts, from the reading experience.
Disclosure: I requested and received an advance copy of Of Sand and Malice Made via NetGalley.