Novella Review: Of Sand and Malice Made by Bradley P. Beaulieu
A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Series: Book 0.5 of The Song of the Shattered Sands
Publisher: DAW (September 6, 2016)
Length: 240 pages
In my review of Twelve Kings in Sharakhai by Bradley P. Beaulieu, I called the book’s main character one of the best female protagonists I have encountered in years. Needless to say, I was thrilled when I learned later that there was also a prequel novella in the works, and that Çeda will once again be the focus of this tale.
And so I read Of Sand and Malice Made, despite my usual disinclination to pick up novellas and short-form fiction, because that’s just how much I adore Çeda. The book opens with an introduction to her as a young teen, but already she has made a name for herself as the indomitable White Wolf in the fighting pits of Sharakhai. Around this time, Çeda also begins her smuggling work for Osman, running contraband for him to earn some extra wages. Life goes on, until one day a problem with a previous delivery comes back to haunt her, landing her in hot water with a wealthy client.
However, there’s more than meets the eye about this client, as she turns out to be the ehrekh known as Rümayesh, a malicious magical creature made long ago by the god of chaos. The ehrekh likes to toy with its victims, possessing their bodies and forcing them to do its bidding. And unfortunately, this demon has fixated her attentions on Çeda, targeting our unsuspecting protagonist with her nasty minions and dark magic. Now it’s clear that Rümayesh is out to take away everything Çeda has ever cared for, including her friends, her secret identity, and her very soul.
Of Sand and Malice Made is structured so that its three distinct parts form a larger narrative detailing Çeda’s encounter with Rümayesh, and even includes some gorgeous illustrations between each section. For a book that’s already on the shorter side though, I wasn’t quite sold on this format which further breaks the story down into even smaller parts, and I think any issues I had with pacing stems from this issue. Still, I liked how each section had its own unique feel, and because of this style we also got to see several sides of Çeda. Taken as a whole, this book does a pretty decent job showing us who she is and, more importantly, what makes her tick.
This novella also serves as a good introduction to the magic-steeped world of the series, showcasing the wonders of the magnificent desert city of Sharakhai. The world-building blew me away when I read Twelve Kings in Sharakhai, and it felt great returning to this setting for another adventure, one that explored a darker and more mythological side of the lore. The story itself is satisfying, and manages to pack a whole lot of action, intrigue, and emotion in this small package.
Still, I can’t stay this one hit me on the same level as the novel, but then again, that was to be expected. Obviously, it would not be fair to compare the content of a novella to what you can get from a full-length 600 page novel like Twelve Kings in Sharakhai, but if you want to start your journey with The Song of the Shattered Sands series, this could be the perfect jumping-off point to get your feet wet. And if you like what you see, do consider picking up the full novel; Twelve Kings was a masterpiece in epic fantasy world-craft and characterization, and if you haven’t read it yet, you should do it as soon as possible. Now I’m waiting on pins and needles for the sequel, and even though Of Sand and Malice Made wasn’t that book, reading it sure sated my hunger a little and made the wait slightly easier to bear.
More on The BiblioSanctum:
Review of Twelve Kings in Sharakhai (Book 1)