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.
Title: These Rebel Waves
Author: Sara Raasch
Category: Young Adult
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: August 7, 2018
Format: Print ARC
Length: 468 pages
Series or Standalone: Series (Stream Raiders #1)
Themes: Aftermath of war, family, national identity
POV: Multiple third-person
Why I Read It: The title and description sounded cool, and a friend happened upon a cache of print ARCs he shared with the Notes crew.
I’ll start with the obvious: “These Rebel Waves” involves very little in terms of waves or rebellion. The “stream raiders” do very little raiding and you don’t see a stream once in the entire book. And no, no gay pirates, although I’m reviewing this having known that going in. It’s been popular lately to do “aftermath” books in fantasy. Instead of showing the war, these stories look at what happens once the war has been “won”. It’s actually one of my current favorite premises. But it’s hard to do well, and very few have. These Rebel Waves succeeds no better. It felt like the author tried to a cram a whole bunch of different tropes/genres into one book. There was political maneuvering, sort of, but the main characters have no real effect on it. There’s “raiding” and smuggling in the background, but we never see it. There’s an evil monotheistic religion, but we know very little about it, and what little we do know makes no sense. The “Pious” God cannot be pious, because that means “devout” or god-fearing. He can’t very well be devoted to himself or fear himself.
And that shallow and crooked world-building is characteristic of everything in the novel. We know next to nothing about the stream raiders, except for the general idea that they smuggle magical plants out of the country. We never see them gathering or smuggling anything, except for one time, and that one times is an important plot-point that has nothing to do with the black market. They sort of kidnap some people, but they don’t do any regular raiding, or at least not where we can see it. The Grace Lorayan Council is some sort of legislative body, but we barely see them do any legislating, and despite having “won” the war and kicked out Argrid, they seem deathly afraid of them and more than willing to believe anything they say.
It feels like the best part of the story really would have been the war itself, instead of this jerky epilogue. The characters too suffer from being shallow and ill-formed. The clever independent raider acts stupidly and achieves very little. The troubled prince seems to have zero interest in the all-pervasive religion that’s supposed to run his country. Perhaps if we’d had a book all abut Benat and seen more of the details of his life and the lead-up to the current book, we could have had a very interesting take on the upper crust of a ruling caste not taking their own propaganda very seriously. Similarly, we could have had a great look at Vex the raider and his life and troubles in the wake of the war, and the official formation of the country of Grace Loray. Or, a fun look at Lu’s herbalist magic. But by stuffing three stories into one book, Raasch has over-strained her narrative foundation.
Finally, the interaction between the characters was rather disappointing. I didn’t really buy Lu’s relationships to Vex or the rest of his crew. There wasn’t a chance to compare and contrast their personalities in a way that would lead to any sort of character development, and Lu’s naivete was a constant irritant. Again, perhaps if there had been more time to explore it and how it related to her past experiences, it could have been a more interesting plot point. But as it was, it again felt like trying to dive into a two-foot deep pool.
In the end, the book was a huge disappointment. Perhaps that was my fault for believing the hype, but I’d genuinely enjoyed Raasch’s previous series, and I’d hoped she’d improved upon her flaws with this new one. I probably won’t be reading the sequel to These Rebel Waves, unless I get an ARC from NetGalley, or something.
Conclusion: 47/100 (A big disappointment)
Premise: 7/10 (Interesting but fails to deliver)
Plot: 5/10 (Rough pacing, very predictable)
Setting: 5/10 (Good idea, poor execution)
Main Character: 7/10 (Interesting, lots to work with)
World-building 3/10 (Is there any, really?)
Title 1/10 (It’s a lie!)
Supporting Characters: 5/10 (Cardboard cutouts, mostly)
Writing: 5/10 (Lots of odd/purple phrasings trying but failing to be evocative)
Themes: 4/10 (Interesting but un-explored)
Resolution: 5/10 (Major cliffhanger)
Buy Or Borrow: I would say borrow.
Any generic YA fantasy with a magical heroine and an enemies to friends/lovers.
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