23 May, 2017

{ ARC Review } The Sandcastle Empire by Kayla Olson

The Sandcastle Empire by Kayla Olson
Standalone Novel
Publishes June 6, 2017 by HarperTeen
e-ARC provided by Edelweiss
When all hope is gone, how do you survive?

Before the war, Eden’s life was easy—air conditioning, ice cream, long days at the beach. Then the revolution happened, and everything changed.

Now a powerful group called the Wolfpack controls the earth and its resources. Eden has lost everything to them. They killed her family and her friends, destroyed her home, and imprisoned her. But Eden refuses to die by their hands. She knows the coordinates to the only neutral ground left in the world, a place called Sanctuary Island, and she is desperate to escape to its shores.

Eden finally reaches the island and meets others resistant to the Wolves—but the solace is short-lived when one of Eden’s new friends goes missing. Braving the jungle in search of their lost ally, they quickly discover Sanctuary is filled with lethal traps and an enemy they never expected.

This island might be deadlier than the world Eden left behind, but surviving it is the only thing that stands between her and freedom.


My Review

♫ ♫ ♫ ♫

The Sandcastle Empire was a surprising book for me. I didn't expect to love it as much as I did. It's definitely a strong debut, one that takes a different direction than most dystopian novels usually take. 

Several decades in the future, the world is controlled by a group referred to the Wolf pack. Having lost everything to them, Eden makes an escape to an island—the only neutral territory left behind—that her father mentioned in his survival guide book that Eden carries with her everywhere. She's joined by three other girls on the way to the island, only to find that it isn't quite the sanctuary they'd hoped it would be. When one of the girls goes missing, well. Let's just say it kind of solidifies it's not what they were expecting.

The unique thing about this book is the way the world seemingly met its end. It focused on climate change and how that was partially the reason they are in that place right now. Of course, it's more complex than that, but I don't want to give too much away. I liked this, though, because it wasn't because of some war or invasion that ravaged us. Kayla Olson writes a novel that's highly plausible, and it's actually a bit scary to think about. This continually plays a role in the book so I'm just going to end it there.

I found the writing to be spectacular, which was definitely a reason I fell in love with the book. It was paced well, never lingering too much in one part, but moving along at a good pace, so you were caught up with the action and adventure. The prose itself was quite stunning! It wasn't flowery, like I've seen so many fantasy books try to be, so much so that the plot is often lost under the purple prose. The way Olson writes would normally seem at odds with a book in the dystopian genre, but she made it work and pulled it off beautifully! More often than not, she also made me take a lot of what I have no for granted, seeing as nearly everything in Eden's world is limited.

Speaking of Eden, the author did an amazing job with the characters! I loved Eden and her voice throughout. She was determined, and her love for her dad kept her going even when things seemed hopeless. More importantly, I loved how level-headed she was. She never rushed head first into things or made brash decisions—she thought things through and decided the best course of action. She was smart and capable and an amazing narrator.

There were great side characters, too. I particularly loved Alexa, even though she came off as really rude upon the girls' initial meeting. But she created a... well, I don't know about close, but definitely a decent friendship with Eden, enough that they both relied on one another, and eventually going far enough to trust the other.

The blurb doesn't say anything about a romance, which I personally found a selling point. But there is one, and if you've heard rumours about a love triangle, rest assured, there isn't one. I won't lie, I was very wary about the romance for very superficial reasons—I thought it could have been out of the picture entirely, but c'est la vie. But the two complemented one another and they worked great together. More importantly, the romance didn't overtake the plot or Eden's mind or whatever and it was well written, so no complaints from me.

There were a few twists in the end, and I should have expected them but I didn't. They didn't catch me off guard, really, or surprise me, even, so that was a bit disappointing.

Overall, I'd definitely recommend this. It's a pretty great debut and I really enjoyed it! 4 stars.