Of Sand and Malice Made by Bradley P. Beaulieu fantasy book reviewsOf Sand and Malice Made by Bradley P. Beaulieu

Of Sand and Malice Made is a prequel to Bradley P. Beaulieu‘s 2015 novel Twelve Kings in Sharakhai, introducing the teenaged main character, Çeda, along with her best friend Emre, and aspects of the desert city of Sharakhai they call home. Çeda is a pit fighter, and Beaulieu writes her training and fight scenes well, conveying action and Çeda’s thoughts during the fights in brisk prose. The primary impetus for the plot is that a demon-like creature called an “erekh,” which can take on various human guises in order to go unnoticed, has taken a sudden interest in Çeda and won’t accept “no” for an answer. Çeda is initially willing to endure the erekh’s attention despite the obvious threat to her sanity and life, but when the creature threatens the safety of her friends and business associates, Çeda must defend them to the best of her abilities.

Of Sand and Malice Made consists of a trio of linked-yet-separate stories: “Irindai,” “Born of a Trickster God,” and “Bright Eyes and a Wicked Demon Grin,” which only becomes obvious in the third story, when pertinent details are repeated as though enough time has passed that readers won’t remember who certain characters are or why Çeda is so desperately seeking clues to the erekh’s weaknesses. This approach makes sense if parts are being posted serially, either online or in a print magazine, but is slightly odd when the three sections are bound cheek-by-jowl in a print edition.

The hardcover edition includes detailed maps of both The Amber City of Sharakhai and The Great Shanghazi Desert surrounding the city, and it’s easy to lose time poring over far-ranging caravan routes or the twisting streets and alleyways that are a second home for Çeda. Descriptions of the city and its people are just detailed enough to distinguish them in the reader’s mind, but Beaulieu restrains himself admirably, keeping his focus on Çeda’s conflict with the erekh and some malicious godlings, interspersing their interactions with morsels of mythology and history. If you’re already familiar with Sharakhai, you’ll be able to fill in the blanks on your own; if not, Of Sand and Malice Made is sure to whet your appetite for the full-length entries in the SONG OF THE SHATTERED SANDS.

Readers who haven’t yet read Twelve Kings in Sharakhai may want to read Of Sand and Malice Made first, as an introduction to Beaulieu’s style, characters, and world-building skills. Enough backstory and character details are included here to intrigue new readers and give them a taste of what they’re in for if they want to go on with the series (which I highly recommend).

Published September 6, 2016. 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.

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  • Jana Nyman

    JANA NYMAN, with us since January 2015, is a freelance copy-editor who has lived all over the United States, but now makes her home in Colorado with her dog and a Wookiee. Jana was exposed to science fiction and fantasy at an early age, watching Star Wars and Star Trek movie marathons with her family and reading works by Robert Heinlein and Ray Bradbury WAY before she was old enough to understand them; thus began a lifelong fascination with what it means to be human. Jana enjoys reading all kinds of books, but her particular favorites are fairy- and folktales (old and new), fantasy involving dragons or other mythological beasties, contemporary science fiction, and superhero fiction. Some of her favorite authors are James Tiptree, Jr., Madeleine L'Engle, Ann Leckie, N.K. Jemisin, and Seanan McGuire.