Released in North America on August 7, 2018, These Rebel Waves is a thrilling new fantasy series – full of deadly magic, double crosses, and a dangerous quest in a new world – from Sara Raasch, the New York Times bestselling author of the Snow Like Ashes series.
Adeluna is a soldier. Five years ago, she helped the magic-rich island of Grace Loray overthrow its oppressor, Agrid, 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 dangerous is at work. Devereux is a pirate. As one of the stream raiders who run rampant on Grace Loray, he scavenges 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.
I think that perhaps Sara Raasch’s writing just isn’t for me – even though her books always sound compelling, I always seem to find myself distanced from the story by the writing, unattached to the characters, and generally apathetic towards whatever was going on.
The story itself was well executed, but felt like a reiteration of a story of read a hundred times before – that is to say, that plot is reminiscent of many YA dystopian novels – fighting against a corrupt system only to discover there’s more beneath the surface – except it’s in a fantasy setting with pirates. It’s good, but not excellent, and as a whole, the story itself is largely unremarkable.
Now, onto the characters, who (as mentioned) I was generally unattached to. To be honest, the only one I particularly cared about was Devereux (or Vex), and only because he was the dashing, mysterious pirate type with an alluring backstory and witty humour. Adeluna’s character felt like a re-write of dozens of other YA heroines – seriously, the whole “good girl turned rebel” thing has been so wholly overdone that unless its excellently done (which it wasn’t), it winds up being somewhat bland. My biggest pet peeve though? All three main characters (Adelune, Devereux, and Benat) were given “long” names that Raasch seemed to feel the need to immediately shorten to nicknames (Lu, Vex, and Ben). Seriously, I love beautiful, fantasy-esque name, and it really grinds my gears when authors give their characters fantastic names, then immediately drop them.
Unfortunately, the romance was a bit lacking in this one. These Rebel Waves does prominently feature a LGBTQ2+ romance, but it was (unfortunately) poorly done, and didn’t really inspire many emotions beyond boredom. The other predominant relationship is also quite expected – the one between Lu and Vex. Their relationship was more intriguing than the other, but I wouldn’t say it’s the kind of relationship that readers will fall head over heels for. Partially because their romance has been done a thousand times in YA (and therefore there wasn’t enough to set it apart), and partially because it was hovering on the border of boredom as well. Honestly, I was more interested in the non-romantic relationships between characters, which were more well-developed, heartfelt, and complex than any forced romance Raasch tried to weave. I really appreciated the cast of secondary characters and their relationships with one another, especially Jakes and Nayeli.
So, if you are looking for a good pirate fantasy, this book isn’t it – however there is always the possibility that Raasch’s duology is building to something greater than the first book. This first-in-series lays down a lot backstory and worldbuilding and is largely focused on the political posturing, intrigue, and threats, which winds up producing a boring and lack luster plot that felt unoriginal and overdone. The characters were hard to connect with, and the romance uninspiring, but all the bones of a good story are there, if Raasch can weave them into something new and magnificent (2.5/5).