Empire Of Sand, by Tasha Suri

Second paragraph of third chapter:

Below her, echoing up from the central courtyard of her home, came the sound of a woman weeping.

I got this because the author and I were both guests of honour at this year’s Eastercon, but did not get around to reading it until now. We’d previously had brief communication when she was a finalist for the first Astounding Award in 2020, though I’m sorry to say that I did not get around to reading the extract from this novel included in that year’s voter packet (there was a global pandemic on, and some things slipped through the cracks).

It’s similar to the standard fantasy romance (arranged marriage which works out, against the odds, with both couples having magical powers), but there are a couple of very interesting twists. The fantasy world is based on Mughal India rather than medieval Europe, and that gives a whole new set of cultural references to play with. There’s court politics among both the empire where the protagonist is from and her husband’s people who are very culturally different. And the settings are vividly realised. Recommended. You can get it here.

This was the top SF novel on my unread pile. Next on that list is Roadside Picnic by the Strugatsky brothers, which I have previously read but a very long time ago.