Review: Race the Sands by Sarah Beth Durst

Alexis:

This is my third five star review in a row. This is so rare for me! Clearly, I did a good job choosing books from the library.

I found Race the Sands to be a complex book, full of politics and magic.

In Becar, everyone is reincarnated based on how you act in your current life. The lowest of the low are reincarnated as kehoks, savage monsters. Tamra is a kehok trainer, trying to save up enough money to fund her daughter’s education. And Raia is a seventeen year old trying to make her own life by becoming a kehok rider. She ends up riding a black, metal lion kehok, and together, Tamra and Raia work hard to win the Races.

Overall, I loved the characters, especially Tamra. This book felt unique from other young adult fantasy books that I’ve read lately.

Durst manages to balance several POV’s very well. I’m not normally a fan of books with more than two different perspectives, but it worked well for this world.

I enjoyed reading about the races, and all of the different kind of kehoks. I enjoyed reading about the augurs, the almost monk-like figures who read other people’s auras to determine how they will be reincarnated. I also enjoyed reading from Dar, the emperor-to-be’s, perspective.

There were only two small apects that I wasn’t a huge fan of, but they didn’t deter me from enjoying the book. The first is that one of the main mystery plot points in the beginning of the book is extremely predictable. Thankfully, the plot got more complicated as the book went on. The second is that a lot of the minor characters felt pretty one dimensional and had similar voices, but because they were the minor characters, it didn’t bother me too much.

While this book is still YA, it felt more adult to me than the average YA fantasy, especially since it features the POV of several adult characters.

If you’re looking for a book with great worldbuilding, strong female characters, racing monsters, and politics, then I recommend giving this one a try.

VERDICT: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Review: Deeplight by Frances Hardinge

Alexis:

Hi, everyone. I’m finally done with my first year of grad school, and you know what that means– I get to read for fun again!

Deeplight starts out as a slow burn. At first, it turned me off a little bit, but I know Frances Hardinge; she’s one of my favorite authors! She is a masterful worldbuilder, and she spends the first 100 pages exploring the world of Deeplight and letting you dig into the mind of her characters in order to set up a powerful punch later.

Synopsis: Deeplight follows Hark, a fifteen-year-old boy who’s a little lost in the world. He just feels like a sidekick to his longtime friend, Jelt, until he’s put on trial for a crime and sold as an indentured servant. If you couldn’t tell from the front cover, the story is set on an island, called Lady’s Crave, where thirty years ago, the sea gods “turned on one another and tore each other apart.” If the islanders are lucky, they can find relics of the dead gods called “godware,” which are powerful and valuable. Hark just so happens to find a heart, which saves the life of Jelt. But when it starts to change Jelt, and not in a good way, Hark searches for answers with the help of a girl named Selphin and an old priest named Quest. 

I think this is the first book I’ve read by Hardinge that has a boy narrator instead of a girl. I will admit: I kind of wish the story was told from the perspective of Selphin, a girl he meets on his journey. I connected with her character a little more than Hark. 

The plot picks up a ton during the second half of the book, and I found myself really appreciating how she set up the world in the first half. Hardinge’s plot always goes in a direction I’m not expecting, and her books (including this one!) are always the epitome of fantasy, always delving deep into her dark, imaginative world and filling them with masterful descriptions. And this is why she’s one of my favorite authors!

I love the morally grey characters, and how Hardinge focuses on a toxic friendship, a topic not often explored in fantasy. I think the character arcs were great. Hardinge also created a world where deaf culture is normal and accepted, and the characters often use sign language to talk to each other. Overall, this book is a well-drawn, imaginative sea story that travels in unexpected, vivid directions. 

VERDICT: ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5