Adeluna is a soldier. When she was a child, she helped the magic-rich island of Grace Loray overthrow its oppressor, Argrid, a country ruled by religion. But postwar life is hard and peace talks have been filled with strife, most notably the disappearance of an Argridian delegate. Lu suspects something more sinister is at work.
Devereux is a pirate. As a stream raider outlaw, one of hundreds who run rampant on Grace Loray, he pirates the island’s magic plants and sells them on the black market. But Vex becomes a target after the abduction & the raiders’ suspected involvement. He agrees to help Lu find the Argridian—but the truth they uncover could be deadlier than any war.
Benat is a heretic. As the crown prince, his secret obsession with Grace Loray’s forbidden magic is dangerous. But 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.
Alright, I admit it.
Most of my Goodreads updates have been me complaining about how much I wasn’t into this book. And I still keep that feeling, but I’ve also been thinking about the story and the intricate plotting, and I’ve had a slight change in heart that pushed this book up a half star.
I can start of with this was definitely not what I’ve expected. I’ve never read any of Raasch’s previous works, but I’ve heard some good things. And I kind of expected These Rebel Waves to be a swashbuckling adventure across the high seas, kind of like Daughter of the Pirate King but more mature and dangerous.
This was not that.
This was a very politics-driven high fantasy about Spanish? Italian? influenced kingdoms that are at the brink of war. It was not very swashbuckling. It didn’t really get to the ocean either (more like some river banks).
And this was the redeeming part of this novel that contributed to the whole 3 stars of this book. I think Sara Raasch is wonderful at plotting books. This book is so intricate and has so many little details that make it up, you can’t help but be a tiny bit awed at how much she put into crafting this novel.
But it’s also hella confusing. The last 100 pages were top notch with all the political machinations because I actually understood who was who and what was going on. But the first almost 400 pages? Forget about it.
It’s just that there is so so much for you to learn about and be introduced to. You have to figure out the different countries (Grace Loray & Argrid) but also all the different race/ethnicities (not clear on the distinction, but Tunician, Argridian, etc.) and also the three different points of view.
It is a lot to take in.
I was overwhelmed by all the proper nouns–and there are a bunch of them–and it took me a really long time to figure it out. And during this time, I just kind of stumbled through the story guessing at who’s who.
If the political intricacy is this book’s greatest achievement, the confusing nature of all the details is this book’s downfall.
I get the want to avoid being called an infodumper, but it’s a lot for a reader accustomed to YA fantasy to take in all of these proper nouns with barely any background. You’re just kind of thrust in. This type of proper noun overflow is much more common in adult fantasy.
I thought the twists ranged from okay to WOW, and I did really enjoy how all three timelines ended up intersecting. But I didn’t connect to the characters, mostly for three reasons:
1. I feel like I was promised more gays. I know this is kind of my fault for believing rumors, but people keep saying “gay pirates!!! gay pirates!!!” and then you get your hopes up that there are gay pirates! But there aren’t. I mean, there are gay pirates in the world, but none off the main character pirates in this book are gay. *sniffles*
There is a gay prince though! And he was cool. Just…no pirates.
But it’s not just that which was disappointing; it was also because I wanted more examination of the characters and how people in the kingdom reacted to their crown prince being gay, and I feel like we didn’t really get that.
2. The assassin child thing was a tad unbelievable. I mean, this almost always happens for me with YA because what teens are good assassins? Not gonna lie, but a lot of us are awkward and gangly and probably don’t have good coordination.
But this is even more extreme, because Lu was an assassin when she was in her tweens. She was, like, 10 years old when she started killing people & was tortured and I just ???
That storyline was a bit out-there, and it was hard for me to connect with it because of my incredulity.
3. The character background was introduced far too late. It was past the halfway point in my opinion when Raasch really dove into character backgrounds and their different stories etc.
I thought their development ideas were good (except #2), but I just felt like it was too late for us to connect because we were already stumbling blind from the confusion of the beginning.
Overall, I think this book had a lot of promise, but the beginning just really messed things up and harmed the reading experience. If it was a little more understandable and eased the reader in better, I feel like my opinion would have been completely different.
(This book might have been a lot easier to comprehend with a map (which I think it’ll have) and a glossary (not available to my knowledge).)
Thank you so much to Edelweiss and Harper Collins for providing me with a digital review copy in exchange for an honest review!