‘Of Sand & Malice Made’ is the prequel to ‘Twelve Kings Of Sharakhai’, where we get to follow Çeda and see her story prior to book 1 in the series. This book is a set of three short stories, all related to each other in which Çeda manages to cross paths with a particularly nasty creature called Rumayesh, which inhabits human bodies while toying with the inhabitants of Sharakhai. This is one of the many beings known as ehrekh, which are spirits created by the God of chaos, so you know this is not going to end well. Rumayesh decides it is going to claim Çeda as its own and it is not afraid of destroying people as it goes. All three short stories have a feel of the traditional fairy tale or a story from ‘The Arabian Nights’ in the way they’re written and the magical elements within them.
Now, although this is book 0.5 in this series I actually read it after reading book 1 and personally found this to be a good order to read in as I came to book 0.5 knowing a lot of the people and places mentioned in this prequel. I wasn’t ruined for this prequel but had a lot of knowledge that I found useful to make sense of the ways particular characters behaved for example.
Having already read book 1, I know that Beaulieu’s style lends itself more to the larger book, he really goes in for a lot of world-building, so I was a little nervous if he would be any good as a short story/novella writer. I should not have worried at all as this set of short stories is beautifully written with just enough detail for the reader to understand exactly what is going on. Now, as I’ve said, I did read book 1 first so I’m not sure if there would be enough detail for a totally new reader, this is something I’m unable to say. I have to mention that because these stories are much shorter than book 1, the pacing is completely different, these fairly race along in comparison which I have to say I enjoyed. I do hope that the other longer books in this series retain some of this pacing since we’ve had so much world-building in book 1.
One thing I truly love about Beaulieu’s books is the way he explains about the tastes and smells in his world. I came away feeling quite hungry from these books, which is odd for a fantasy series. He really does make things particularly mouth-watering and, in some cases, truly disgusting when talking about some of the more rancid tastes and smells.
I realise that the next point is useless if you’re a kindle book reader but this book is gorgeous! It’s one of those hardback books that has no dust jacket, just a beautifully illustrated cover that I’m finding a lot of novellas are now being published as. It also has some fantastic maps which you don’t often find in a novella, but which I found pretty useful while reading.
Life is definitely harsh in this series, with hideous creatures ready to take over your body at a moments’ notice, and characters that are just as likely to turn on you as to rescue you. But even though it’s harsh, I really want to read more from this world and I can’t wait for book 2 and the rest of this series.
follow me @shelbycat
(pub: Gollancz. 226 page small hardback. Price: £12.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-47321-845-1)