This was my last book for July. It was amazing and I wish I could give it a five, but I just didn’t like one of the main characters enough.
In other news, I’ve had this review sitting in my to post for weeks now. I’ve been saving it for the day when I ran out of new book reviews to post (since it was coming so late since publication anyway). It is finally time to post!
Customary warning: This is a reminder that these are my personal opinions. My thoughts and feelings are not your thoughts and feelings. I may not always be the target audience for a book; sometimes I am. If I do not like a book, that doesn’t mean you’ll dislike it. If I love a book or simply like a book, you may hate it. Take everything I say with this knowledge. If it sounds interesting to you despite what I’ve said, then go ahead and read it. You’ll only know you like something if you read it yourself.
That being said… Spoilers ahead.
These Rebel Waves by Sara Raasch
Synopsis From The Book
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.
Initial Thoughts Before Reading:
Three perspectives is my perfect cup of tea. Add to that the fact that we have three drastically different characters: a pirate, a heretic, and a soldier? I am ready. Also their names are all so perfect: complicated and then they have nicknames. (I have a soft spot for nicknames, cuz I have a nickname). This is my last new book for the month to read, and I think we are ending this month off right!
Initial Thoughts After Reading:
For most of it, I liked it but the twists were what got me. The specific twist for Vex really got me. In general I just enjoyed reading Ben’s parts more than Lu or Vex’s, mostly because I was invested in the holy Argrid kingdom and its super religious nature. I’ve read too many rebelling country stories and Argrid is interesting. They hate magic and anything that isn’t part of their religious tenants, but pretty much anything goes for Ben in many ways. I read this in two sittings, half and half. The second half moved far faster than the first half, that is for sure.
In general, this woulda got a five if not for Lu. She was great, but I didn’t love her enough to care about her or anything she wanted.
The book is told in three perspectives and to narrow down what is going on, I will explain the basis of the three lines and how they converge.
We begin with a synopsis of the three character’s lives that changed them. For Ben it was watching his uncle and cousin burn for heresy. For Lu it was her having to become a soldier at eleven. For Vex it was being tortured for heresy. The main story takes place six years later. (Making Ben 19, Lu 17 and Vex 19).
Ben’s story is in Argrid, a costal country of the mainland that is heavily influenced by the Pious God. Church and State are one, and the King is the voice of god. Ben has grown up loving magic, but having to hide that love due to its heresy. He is also already considered a sinner prince. He gets drunk and has sex a lot, despite it being against the customs of his people, mostly to toe the line of what is sin and what is heresy. Ben is in love with a boy named Jakes. One day, after Ben has done a disaster of a job in gathering sinners (raiders), his father gives him the task of investigating magic. His father wants him to study magic and to find the cure for multiple diseases that wreck havoc, in hopes of being able to turn the minds of the people from full out fear of magic to acceptance of it in some forms.
Ben begins his study of it, drunk on the madness that he can finally investigate and study what has hindered his mind for years. He needs the assistance of the raiders he captured earlier, and in trying to save them from burning outs himself as investigating magic. The people riot and Ben is put toe to toe against his father, who he believes may be aiming to kill him. Afterall, while hope is great, tragedy spurs on stronger emotions for their family’s reign.
Meanwhile in Grace Loray Lu is trying to stay hopeful about the incoming peace treaty between Argrid and Grace Loray. The two were at war for years and finally there may be progress for their peace. She attacks a pit-pocket in the streets, Dex, and sends him to jail. At her council meeting, it is asked that the raiders (who are basically pirates of this world) be condemned and persecuted in full. This would be the only way for Argrid to accept the treaty, however one of their ambassadors is kidnapped (disappeared) and the motion to ban the raiders passes. Raiders are neither good nor bad, but they help with commerce for Grace Loray, as well as spread magic in a positive sense, even if they are selling the magic illegally. Lu realizes this may be a ploy by Argrid to take Grace Loray under their control again. After the death of someone close to her, Lu breaks Dex out of jail and gets him to help her find the missing ambassador.
The two escape with a child named Theo (who is close to Lu), and they travel with his crew to meet with some Tuncay raiders. The raiders help Lu and Vex to discover that the ambassador is with raiders called the Mecht raiders. Lu finds out that Vex was working for the Argridians and runs with Theo only to be captured by the Mechts (Theo is safe). While being rescured, Lu and Vex see that the Mechts have a lab and are mass transporting herbs. Lu speaks to Vex after escaping about what he was doing with the Argridians and learns that he knew her. He tells her a story of her past and the truth that she beat shaking sickness (a torture method by the Argrid government).
Ben continues with his research. He asks the raiders he captured (Mecht raiders) for assistance. He gets and idea and goes with it. When aiming to test it, he discovers that Jakes is in league with his father. It is here that he discovers that his father has basically caused sleeping sickness in his tests to make people invincible. Ben has to figure out a lie and lie well in order to keep his head and his father from knowing that Ben believes all magic can be good and that he thinks his father is crazy.
Vex has shaking sickness, and with many years and lots of care he has learned perfect control over his body but it is still there and it is killing him. Lu realizes that it isn’t a healing cure they need but to counteract all the plants that were put in him. They decide to try to find the ambassador and then return to the council with all these truths before the Argridians come. Lu gets a memory plant to help Vex with his memory on the plants used against him. They then get news that Grace Loray has declared news on the raiders and only with definite proof can they return. It is here they find the Argrid ships.
Ben, furious with Jakes, is on his ship to Grace Loray wen he breaks things off with Jakes. Although he loves Jakes, he can not trust Jakes since Jakes reports to Ben’s father. Instead, Ben turns for the last time to the Mecht prisoner. His name is Gunnar, and he agrees to help Ben in keeping Ben from discovering the truth of permanent magic. That night while on deck, Ben runs into Lu and Vex who have snuck onto his boat. Ben recognizes Vex as his long dead cousin.
Vex and Lu are captured. Lu is recognized as is Vex. Ben reveals he has betrayed his father, but can’t actually betray his father. In time Vex’s crew comes to save Lu and Vex, but their escape is cut off. Ben reveals himself as the heretic prince, and Lu sacrifices herself to help Ben, and gets Vex off the boat. The novel ends with her passing out.
What I Liked:
Benat/Ben; He was my favorite character for two big reasons. One, prince who has dissonance against his country norms trope. Two, he loves magic. His complexities of loving magic, thinking his father evil, and trying to maintain an image of perfection was an excellent combination. Watching how he had to analyze every step, every word, every action in order to make sure he couldn’t be claimed a Heretic was so brilliant. He doesn’t think himself a heretic, and he sees the hypocrisy of it, but he is fighting his father, the voice of god, and he has no chance of winning. He is all alone in the world, where as the other two characters have people they can trust. I really hope Gunnar can become someone he can trust in the future.
Devereux/Vex/Paxben; This reveal had me shaking. His backstory and story in general was the most complex, and personality wise I vibe with him the best. I have a soft spot for the cocky playboy sort in books. Outside of Ben, I loved Vex. I need more of him and in the next book he’ll be on his own without Lu, which I hope will help me love him more. (Likewise I hope Lu being with Ben will help me like her more).
Magic system; It is a magic system of plants. There is a permanent magic but otherwise it is all temporary and done with plants. This so refreshing in comparison to other magic systems I have read. Plant based, and plant only is such a great system. It’s science in understanding, but powerful in capabilities. A very hard magic system with rules, where anything can happen since we have an infinite combination.
God vs. Magic; Best part of the book (which mostly comes in Ben’s part) is the Pious God vs Magic aspect of the book. We see what radicalization of religion can do and how far it can push people. I love seeing this dichotomy play out and watching Ben have to toe the line. In general I always like seeing plots that are heavy in the god and magic connection, either where magic comes from the gods or otherwise. (Wicked Saints is an example). This book uses the different gods and perspectives on magic and twists them around each other. For is cleansing really cleansing if you aren’t using the thing you are cleansing and calling it god ordained?
Complexity of the world; We have multiple countries, multiple factions of raiders, a magic system, a super powerful religious country, multiple languages and government structures, plus the history of a war and country that did not formally exist until close to the start of the story. All of this is thrown in, and none of it feels like too much. We get a lot of the other country building through Grace Loray (Vex and Lu), which is pretty much a salad of the different countries. In comparison we get rooted in Argrid through Ben, and his perception of the world. It is a great contrast with the copious information and the ways that multiple different characters see and interact with the world. I liked how all of this was presented in this world.
Evil; The motive in this is pretty strong for a man who wants to take over the world and rule it with his iron thumb. Use magic to make an invincible army, and take over the wold by saying it was god ordained? Excellent, you got me against you and at the same time I understand the motive completely.
Side characters; They were nice. I don’t know what else to say, the main three were the major focus of this story and I feel that they will be expanded on later.
What I Would Have Liked or Changed:
I wish we got Gunnar’s name earlier. He’s the Mecht raider that Ben saved in the beginning.
Adeluna/Lu; I always seem to fall for these girls but I didn’t this time. I like her, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t love her. Her complexity and tragedy as a character (and she was betrayed by her father) are all so interesting but something about her in general just is off with me. I’m not sure how she could have been changed to make me like her more. She’s in this section, only because she is the main reason this book didn’t get a 5/5 from me.
Time Taken To Read
“While it may be your nature to lie, raider it is in my nature to control the truth.” – Lu, pg 105
“Dirt and sand, all across the land; the currents are ours, you see. No god, no soldier, no emperor, no king, can take my current from me. Flow on, my friends, flow on with me; together we flow as one. No god, no soldier, no emperor, no king, can erode what we have done.” – Song of the Grace Loray revolution, pg 131
“Everyone remain calm… I’m about to blow some shit up.”
“Nay! We’ve a kid here now, all right?”
“Sorry. I’m about to chaotically rearrange some shit up.” – Nayeli and Vex, pg 185