Of Sand and Malice Made is a prequel to Twelve Kings (Twelve Kings in Sharakhai in the US) and tells a story in the earlier life of Pit Fighter heroine Ceda, aka The White Wolf. The book is made up of 3 novellas that make a whole tale.
In this story Ceda comes to the notice of Rumayesh, one of the Ehrekh, ancient beyond years. What Rumayesh wants she gets, how will Ceda escape her clutches.
With this prequel we return to the desert city of Sharakhai, destined to become one of the great creations of modern fantasy fiction. The whole city is almost a character in itself with it's markets, fighting pits, shadowy back streets and the docks where the mighty sand ships come and go. The story itself is very Arabian in feel, it reminded me of both Aladdin and one of my favourite TV series of recent years, Atlantis. It is certainly a nice change to get fantasy fiction in a different setting to the usual Euro Middle Ages that most Fantasy Fiction seems to have.
As a lead character Ceda really works well, she spans the gap between child and adult without being too much of either. She is a fighter to be feared, one of the best pit fighters there is, but still enough of a child to keep her sense of fear and wonder. Travelling the streets of Sharakhai with her is a joy.
As for the book itself, this is a really nicely put together volume. The cover art is lovely and there are two maps (and I do like a good map). The only down side really is that some of the interior art is a tad on the dark side but that doesn't detract from an excellent story.
As a prequel 'Of Sand and Malice Made' works as both a continuation of Beaulieu's Sharakhai series and an entry point for those who have not visited before. Whichever you are, this exotic, mystical city will catch hold of you and never let go.