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Literature / The Song of the Shattered Sands

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The Song of the Shattered Sands is a High Fantasy series by Bradley P. Beaulieu.

Sharakhai, the Amber City, jewel of the Shangazi Desert, has been ruled for four centuries by an alliance of twelve kings. Seemingly immortal, blessed by the gods themselves with longevity and mysterious powers, their rule is absolute. Though rival kingdoms scheme and the Moonless Host, an alliance of city rebels and desert tribes, constantly skirmishes, nothing seems capable of toppling the kings from their thrones.

Ceda is the White Wolf, the youngest champion of Sharakhai's gladiatorial arena, and her dream is to see the kings dead, in vengeance for her mother, who was executed on their orders. In her pursuit of the lost knowledge of the kings' weaknesses, she forges a bond with the ghoulish asirim who protect Sharakhai and uncovers truths about herself and the city that will shake the foundation of all she knows. She will also cross paths with her childhood friend Emre, who is being drawn ever further into the schemes of the Moonless Host, the budding scholar Davud, who was secret powers even he is unaware of; Ramahd, emissary of the kingdom of Qaimir who has his own enmity with both the Kings and the Host; and Ihsan, the Honey-Tongued King, who has his own agenda that may run counter to that of his brethren.


In time, their stories will converge... and the Kings' oracle predicts that a storm is coming that will shake Sharakhai to its foundations...

This series consists of:

  1. Twelve Kings in Sharakhai (August 2015)
  2. With Blood Upon the Sand (February 2017)
  3. A Veil of Spears (March 2018)
  4. Beneath the Twisted Trees (July 2019)
  5. When Jackals Storm the Walls (TBR Spring 2020)
  6. A Desert Torn Asunder (TBR Spring 2021)

As well as a prequel novella, Of Sand and Malice Made, recounting one of Ceda's adventures several years before the first book, along with several short stories.


This series contains examples of:

  • Achilles' Heel: All of the Kings have some place, item, or concept that will nullify their magic if they're exposed to it, along with a poem penned by the gods providing clues as to what it is. Ceda spends much of her time trying to track down all the poems so she can figure out how to kill the Kings.
  • Acrofatic: Onur is fat, but he turns out to be this.
  • Action Girl: Ceda is the most prominent, but her mother was one too, there are a fair number of other female arena fighters, and of course, all of the Blade Maidens. Action Girls in general are fairly common in this society, and it's mentioned that the tradition dates back to the nomadic tribes who first settled Sharakhai, whose women were expected to fight in defense of their settlements even when all the able-bodied men were off hunting.
  • The Ageless: The Kings don't age, and can recover from most injuries. But they can be killed, as Ceda proves definitively when she kills Kulasan. By the end of the second book, the original Azad, Kulusan, Mesut and Yusam are dead. The third book adds Kiral and Onur, the fourth Besir and Sukru and the fifth Zeheb and Cahil.
  • All Women Are Lustful: Many examples. Virginity or celibacy means nothing to the women in this series. Ceda herself is often thinking about banging Osman, Emre, Ramahd and later on Sumeya.
  • Amazon Brigade: The Blade Maidens, the Kings' Praetorian Guard are, as their name suggests, all women. They're also some of the most feared warriors in the desert.
  • Animorphism: Onur can turn into a panther.
  • Asskicking Equals Authority: Downplayed. Many of the Kings are terrors in personal combat, but not all of them are. King Ihsan is a self-admitted Non-Action Guy.
  • Authority in Name Only: After King Kulasan is killed, his son Alasan takes his crown. However, it's made clear that the other Kings promoted him solely to keep their number at twelve and don't actually let him be in charge of anything or even speak unprompted at council meetings.
  • The Big Bad Shuffle: On one side you've got all twelve of the Kings, who are essentially allied but each have their own agendas with Ihsan's faction opposing Kiral's, opposed by the Moonless Host led by father-and-son team Ishaq and Macide, who are also less than morally pure, and the resurrected sorcerer Hamzakiir playing both ends against the middle while the gods and ehrekh watch and scheme from the sidelines... it all leaves it very hard to tell just who is going to be responsible for the cataclysm that's apparently coming to Sharakhai. It's Meryam.
  • Big Bad Wannabe: Hamzakiir makes a very good showing for the Big Bad position, but according to Yusam's visions he is only one thread in the doom facing Sharakhai, and not the biggest, because that would be Meryam.
  • Blood Magic: The most common form of magic practiced in and around the Shangazi, apparently taught to humans by the ehrekh. The kingdom of Qaimir is where the art is most developed, but Hamzakiir is the strongest individual blood mage so far depicted.
  • Compelling Voice: This is Ihsan's ability and it works on anyone, regardless of their willpower.
  • Daddy's Little Villain: All of the Blade Maidens are daughters of one or another of the Kings; the one who best fits is Yndris, who is one of the most vicious of the Maidens and has an unusually close relationship with her father Cahil, the most overtly evil of the Kings.
  • Death Seeker:One of the last chapters of the first book hints that Kulusan was this. In the second book Cahil and Mesut confirm it.
  • Deal with the Devil:
    • The Kings made one, ironically enough, with the gods in order to gain the power to protect Sharakhai from an invasion centuries ago; they turned the thirteenth tribe into the asirim and in return attained immortality and various other powers.
    • Ehrekh are also prone to making these with humans. Both Meryam and Hamzakiir treat with the ehrekh Guhldrathen, who is still furious over how Hamzakiir cheated him in some way a century ago.
  • Dramatic Irony:In the first book, Sumeya refuses to take Ceda into her team, saying she is undeserving, citing her lousy lineage and utterly despising her. Turns out that same girl is actually her half-sister on her father's side. While proving herself in front of Husamettin and Sumeya, Ceda says that Emre is the only real family she has left.
    • To add to all of this, Sumeya ends up abandoning the kings for Ceda, swearing loyalty to her and falling in love with her.
  • The Dreaded: Out of all the kings, Ceda fears Husamettin the most. She is very right to do so.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: Alasan and to a lesser extent Yusam, do not get the respect their positions should give them. Many Kings keep calling Yusam a weakling behind his back.
  • Evil Is Not a Toy: The Qaimiri princess Meryam thinks that she and Rahmad can control Hamzakiir, as Meryam is a powerful blood mage herself. He rather forcibly proves them wrong.
  • Evil Overlord: The Kings are ruthless in their enforcement of their rule, but their actual evilness level varies from King to King. King Cahil is probably the most overtly villainous, and King Onur wouldn't be far behind if he wasn't too lazy to actually do much. King Yusam and King Husammetin, in contrast, are depicted as still ruthless, but more reasonable and personable. AS time goes on, it turns out Sukru is just as bad as Cahil and Onur stops being so lazy and starts to show just how vicious he can be.
  • Evil Sorcerer: Hamzakiir, the blood mage son of King Kulasan, is a classic example. A century ago he used his powers to raise an army to try and seize Sharakhai. At the end of the first book he's resurrected, and he spends most of the second preparing for another go.
  • Fate Worse than Death:After Zeheb threatens Ihsan's unborn child, Ihsan uses his Compelling Voice to make Zeheb listen to all the whispers.....all of them around the world.
  • Foreshadowing: There are hints early on as to the identity of Ceda's father.
    • Ceda trains hard, yes, but even so she is still exceptionally gifted with the sword, just like Husamettin.
    • Husamettin urges Sumeya to think about acting rashly. He was trying to prevent Sumeya from harming her sister.
    • When Cahil is intent on "interrogating" Ceda in Veil of Spears, Husamettin is not having it and comes very close to killing Cahil.
  • Friends with Benefits: While Meryam and Ramahd are stuck in the desert, they get it on a lot. Meryam is the aggressor.
  • Gender Bender: After King Azad's death, his daughter Nayyan took his place, using magic to assume his form. She can shift back and forth between her original body and her father's at will.
  • Gender-Blender Name: The leader of the Kings is named Kiral and he is off course a man. Kiral is a real-world name, but it's a Turkish girl's name.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Sumeya and Melis end up leaving the Kings to join up with Ceda.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Onur.
  • Immortality Inducer: Most people assume the kings are simply immortal as part of their bargain with the gods. The truth is more complicated: the gods taught one of the kings, Azad, to make an elixir that grants agelessness and can cure most wounds and poisons. Unfortunately, Azad was assassinated by Ceda's mother about a decade before the series began, and his replacement is desperately trying to figure out how to recreate the recipe before the stocks run out.
  • The Leader: Kiral, King of Kings (fits all 4 types, but especially 4 as he is the most feared and respected), is, as his title suggests, the most powerful of the Twelve Kings. However, this is downplayed in that most of the other kings oversee their own areas without needing direct instruction from him, coordinating with each other as required. They do generally defer to him in matters concerning all of Sharakhai, but they still don't have to do what he says. Ihsan is even plotting against him. Unfortunately for Ihsan (who has Yusam, Zeheb and Azad at his side), Kiral is very good at building coalitions as well and Mesut, Husemattin, Cahil and Sukru (who together happen to be the 5 most martial kings) all have his back. Onur's a Lazy Bum, Kulusan is dead and Besir doesn't seem to really care about either side, being stuck with the tough job of handling Sharakhai's finances.
  • Legacy Character: King Azad is actually the second King to bear that name. The original Azad was assassinated by Ceda's mother a decade ago. His daughter Nayyan used magic to assume his identity; the other Kings know, but no one else does. Ihsan explicitly notes that they picked Nayyan for the deception because, if she ever got found out, she could simply assume Azad's position in her own right as his eldest living child.
  • Lightning Bruiser: Onur is ridiculously strong, but also very fast.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Partway through Twelve Kings, Ceda learns that her father was one of the Kings, though not which one. In the next book, matters are further complicated when she learns that Ishaq, the supreme leader of the Moonless Host, is her maternal grandfather, making his son Macide, the Host's field leader, her uncle. The third book reveals that her father is Husamettin.
  • The Man Behind the Man:Hamzakiir's strings were pulled by Meryam from the very beginning. She orchestrated her father's death to gain her country's throne, allowing her to more aggressively go after what she really wants, the throne of Sharakhai.
  • Master Swordsman: King Husamettin is called the King of Swords for a reason; he's considered the best swordsman in Sharakhai, having honed his skills over the course of centuries, and demonstrates that this is no idle claim several times on page. Even Ceda fears having to face him one-on-one. He is also Ceda's father, which partially explains why she is so ridiculously good with swords.
  • Mooks: Several levels. The Silver Spears are Sharakhai's normal army and police force, commanded by King Onur. The asirim are undead Elite Mooks called out in times of greater need, commanded by King Mesut. The Blade Maidens are the Kings' Praetorian Guard (and daughters) called out for truly important matters and commanded by King Husamettin.
  • Mouth of Sauron: King Ihsan is Sharakhai's chief diplomat, and his job also entails delivering pronouncements from the Kings in general to foreign dignitaries and the populace at large, unless they are important enough for Kiral to do so himself.
  • Oh, Crap!: This is Ihsan's reaction, when he finds out that Kiral has discovered the Moonless Host's plot to attack Sharakhai and already executed a preemptive attack. This ruins Ihsan's plan to undermine the other kings.
  • Older Than He Looks: All of the kings count, but Cahill is a notable example. It's mentioned by Ceda that Cahill looks like he's about the same age as her. He is, off course, hundreds of years old.
  • One-Man Army: With Blood Upon the Sand makes it clear that King Husamettin is this. He tears through scores of Moonless Host soldiers like they're nothing.
  • Our Genies Are Different: The ehrekh, which are the creations of the god Goezhen's attempt to replicate the elder gods' creation of life. Though immortal and immensely powerful, the ehrekh do not truly possess life as humans do, a fact that fills them with consternation. Ehrekh aren't evil, per se, but their morality tends towards the Blue and Orange and they're prone to tormenting humans to try and figure out what makes them tick.
  • Papa Wolf: When Cahil is intent on interrogating Ceda, Husamettin comes very close to killing him.
  • Red Baron: The Twelve Kings.
    • Kiral, the King of Kings, also known as the Sun King.
    • Husamettin, the King of Swords.
    • Sukru, the Reaping King.
    • Cahill, the Confessor King.
    • Onur, the King of Spears.
    • Mesut, the Jackal King.
    • Besir, the King of Shadows, also called the Golden King and the King of Coin.
    • Yusam, the Jade-eyed King.
    • Ihsan, the Honey-tongued King.
    • Azad, the King of Thorns.
    • Zeheb, the King of Whispers.
    • Kulasan, the Wandering King.
  • Replacement Goldfish: How Sumeya begins to see Ceda. Sumeya tells Ceda she reminds her of Nayyan.
  • Revenge: Ramahd wants revenge on Macide for killing his wife and daughter. Later on the two work together to disrupt the Kings.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized: The Moonless Host opposes the Kings, but are perfectly willing to massacre civilians and deal with Hamzakiir if it helps their cause.
  • Royal Blood: Most of the Kings have fathered dozens if not hundreds of children over their lives, but since they are immortal, their blood doesn't count for that much. A particularly skilled son might get a government position and a daughter join the Blade Maidens, but otherwise there aren't that many options. Sometimes, as is the case with Hamzakiir, these children take issue with that.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: With the exception of King Onur (who is allegedly the commander of Sharakhai's military and police force, the Silver Spears, but spends most of his time debauching) most of the Kings take a very active role in whatever aspect of Sharakhani society they oversee.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: The blood mage Hamzakiir was put into a coma after his defeat and interred in the tombs underneath his father's secret palace. At the end of the first book, he is successfully revived.
  • Seers: Yusam, the Jade-Eyed King, can see visions of the future in his reflecting pool. However, his visions show possibilities rather than certainties, only show his fellow kings vaguely, and Yusam himself not at all.
  • Slashed Throat: How Ceda kills Onur. It almost becomes a Mutual Kill, but Ceda actually has people who want to keep her alive, unlike Onur.
  • The Starscream: With Blood Upon the Sand reveals that King Ihsan is scheming to overthrow Kiral, kill off the other Kings, and rule Sharakhai with Nayyan at his side.
  • Surprise Incest: Almost happens in book 2, when Sumeya comes very close to having sex with Ceda. They end up making love in book 4 anyway.
  • Torture Technician: King Cahil, the Confessor King, is in charge of getting information from the Kings' captives, a job he typically attends to personally and enjoys a little too much. Cahil subjects Ceda to this near the end of book 2, after which Yndris continues it. Bad move, as both of them end up paying dearly for it.
  • Villainous Friendship: Sukru and Cahil, fittingly two of the most evil kings, always have eachother's backs.
  • Villainous Glutton: Onur. He eats people too.
  • Warrior Prince: King Husamettin is the greatest warrior of the Kings, but King Kiral, King Mesut, King Zeheb, King Cahil, and King Sukru are all capable of holding their own as well and will personally lead troops in battle as needed.
  • Was Once a Man: The asirim, the ghouls who serve as the Kings' Elite Mooks, are actually the remnant of the thirteenth tribe of Sharakhai, cursed into that form and enslaved as part of the Kings' original bargain with the gods.
    • Monster Lord: Sehid-Alaz was the king of the thirteenth tribe at the time of Beht Ihman. He was transformed into an asir along with his subjects, and yet retains his position of authority and respect amongst them. He is the root of the curse which binds the asirim to the will of the Kings, which is why they keep him alive. Ceda is eventually able to liberate him using Night's Kiss, and in doing so frees all asirim from the Kings.