Of Sand and Malice Made - Bradley Beaulieu

Of Sand and Malice Made - Bradley Beaulieu

It's initially a little disappointing to find that Of Sand and Malice Made turns out to be not the long awaited follow-up to the first book in Bradley Beaulieu's Song of the Shattered Sands series, but rather a short three-part prequel novella. We will have to wait until February 2017 for Blood upon the Sand's continuation of the imaginative Arabian fantasy outlined so thrillingly in Twelve Kings, but all is not lost, as Of Sand and Malice Made proves to be a fine reminder of just what was so good about the first book, and it has plenty to recommend in itself.

If you haven't read Twelve Kings, Of Sand and Malice Made is actually not a bad place to start. You'll very quickly be introduced to Çeda, a young girl - who appears to be fifteen in this book and nineteen by the time we get to Twelve Kings. Çeda is however already making preparations for her life mission to destroy the Twelve Kings of Sharakhai who she believes are responsible for the death of her mother in fairly horrible circumstances. She might only be fifteen, but she is determined to be capable of carrying out such a seemingly impossible revenge, or perhaps she doesn't really know just what she is letting herself in for.

Çeda works as a courier for Osman, a powerful figure in Sharakhai who is involved in all kind of shady deals and smuggling operations. It certainly helps Çeda learn to find her way around the desert city and get to know the types of characters who inhabit its darker corners. Çeda also hones her fighting skills in deadly combats as a masked pit fighter. Known as the White Wolf, Çeda has never been beaten and her reputation is growing. Part of the reason for her success is the amount of practice she puts into developing her skills, but she is also able to call on the properties of a flower petal that gives her enhanced speed and agility, as well as healing powers.

She's going to need the petals from the adichara plant for more than that, as Çeda is also going to find out that there are darker and more dangerous powers at large in the deserts surrounding Sharakhai that she is going to run into later on her mission. We get a good sense of the nature of those dark agencies here in Of Sand and Malice Made, of the kind of gods and demons that form an important part of the creation of this desert world, as a creature of old threatens to possess Çeda. Spells and wisdom bought from shadowy figures with arcane knowledge help Çeda penetrate some of the mysteries of this ancient creature, but it's going to take all her strength and determination not to succumb to its formidable powers - and there may be a terrible cost to pay even if she does succeed.

Beaulieu's Sharakhai is an exotic Arabian Nights inspired fantasy world where skiffs sail over desert dunes, where powerful rulers are protected by dark magic in large palaces, where thieves and pickpockets roam the backstreets of the city, where swords flash and tempers flare, and Bradley Beaulieu has found a terrific situation and intriguing characters to draw you into all aspects of that world. Even if Of Sand and Malice Made seems to go over old ground to some extent, there are still many new aspects of characterisation and legend to be found in this new adventure. Whether you approach this as an appetiser for the main series or as a palate cleanser to set you up for the next course of Song of the Shattered Sands, this is a delightful return to Beaulieu's Arabian nightmare.

image

Of Blood and Malice Made by Bradley Beaulieu is published by Gollancz on 8th September 2016.