ARC Review: These Rebel Waves by Sara Raasch

These Rebel Waves (Stream Raiders, #1)These Rebel Waves by Sara Raasch
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Release date: August 7, 2018

Adeluna is a soldier. Five years ago, she helped the magic-rich island of Grace Loray overthrow its oppressor, Argrid, a country ruled by religion. But adjusting to postwar life has not been easy. When an Argridian delegate vanishes during peace talks with Grace Loray’s new Council, Argrid demands brutal justice—but Lu suspects something more dangerous is at work.

Devereux is a pirate. As one of the outlaws called stream raiders who run rampant on Grace Loray, he pirates the island’s magic plants and sells them on the black market. But after Argrid accuses raiders of the diplomat’s abduction, Vex becomes a target. An expert navigator, he agrees to help Lu find the Argridian—but the truth they uncover could be deadlier than any war.

Benat is a heretic. The crown prince of Argrid, he harbors a secret obsession with Grace Loray’s forbidden magic. When Ben’s father, the king, gives him the shocking task of reversing Argrid’s fear of magic, Ben has to decide if one prince can change a devout country—or if he’s building his own pyre.

As conspiracies arise, Lu, Vex, and Ben will have to decide who they really are . . . and what they are willing to become for peace.

Warnings: mentions of torture, child abuse

Raasch’s latest fantasy comes in the form of an island trying to maintain its sovereignty from its original colonizers. Grace Loray has been a punching bag for Argrid long enough, and now, 5 years into its freedom it is gearing up for an important peace treaty to put a definite end to the war with the fanatical kingdom. The island is a melting pot of cultures, with immigrants from all five mainland countries living in a delicate balance, and separated by pirate syndicates that want to retain their original countries’ culture and not assimilate into the main island culture because they are considered criminals by the latter. The treaty, and the machinations of Argrid form the backdrop for our three main characters, Benat (the crown prince of Argrid), Adeluna (the daughter of two prominent Councilmembers of Grace Loray) and Devereux (an infamous Stream Raider with no allegiance to any of the syndicates).

If you were expecting a swash-buckling pirate adventure (perhaps informed so by the Goodreads genres), this will be a bit of a disappointment. It is more political intrigue than high seas adventure, and the plot proceeds very slowly. It is, in parts, both character-driven, and plot-driven (though I would argue it is more of the latter) and takes you through a series of revelations about the nature of the relationships between the different cultures, and the magic of the island. And by magic, I mean ‘Really Advanced Botany’ – the magical plants of Grace Loray are said to be fed by the waters on the island, which make them useful for trade, but Argrid’s fanatical interest in holding the island is so that they can ‘cleanse the heretics from the devil magic’.

Ben was interested in the plants and how they can be used for good in his childhood, but after his uncle and cousin were both burned for their interest, he had to keep his down really low. His father is the head of the kingdom and church, and so wields enormous power as well as a iron-fisted hold over his subjects, with the slightest hint of subversion being met with torture and executions. Lu was a part of the freedom struggle from a young age, as a spy and soldier in the revolutionists’ arsenal and has come away with bloody hands and a heart full of regrets, and idealistically believes in the Grace Lorayan Council until shown the truth through Vex. Vex, for his part, has a lot of secrets in his past, the least of which is his torture by the church, and the hold Argrid has over him. When she recruits him to help her find the diplomat, she is still under the impression that things will change from that one small act, but they soon realize that the schemes of Argrid go further than what they both knew.

The world-building of the novel takes place throughout the book, giving us hints into the cultures of the original mainland countries, but also showing it in the diaspora of the syndicates. Some of them are attached to their countries, but others want to work for the future of Grace Loray instead. The races described are mostly POC, including Argridians, and there are some multiracial characters, including Lu, so it goes into how it defines them, as well as the plight of immigrants onto the island. Another theme is how just because something isn’t as bad as before doesn’t make it right, as evidenced by Lu initially clinging to her prejudices because she holds the Council in high regard. One thing I loved in this fantasy world is that there was no homophobia, not even in one of the countries (yep, not even in the uber-religious one, which was especially a relief as Ben is gay); it does, however, have class divide and racism.

On relationships, there are few developments, but the prominent romantic ones are Ben-Jakes and Lu-Vex. I was particularly amused by how Vex is continuously surprised and amazed by Lu throughout the book, and she slowly warms up to him over their shared tortured childhoods. Lu’s and Teo’s relationship as foster siblings is also a key decision point for her, something that keeps her grounded while she is getting lost in her past, and also as a foil for her own childhood. Ben’s disintegrating relationship with his father and his kingdom is saddening, as he in parts doubts his own leadership and fears his own subjects who are one mistake away from clamoring for his blood, but eventually he stands up for what is right. There are strong secondary characters, too, like Vex’s crew (Nay was such a firecracker!) and the Tuncian syndicate.

Overall, it a lavishly built fantasy series, with lots of political drama and an excellent set of characters, but suffers from a slow pace.

Is it diverse?

Most of the cultures depicted in the book have POC people. One of the protagonist is biracial, and the other is gay. Another secondary character is a lesbian.

Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review from Balzer + Bray, via Edelweiss.

View all my reviews

Buy links

Amazon | The Book Depository | Wordery


6 thoughts on “ARC Review: These Rebel Waves by Sara Raasch

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