Monday, September 11, 2017

Audiobook review: The Sandcastle Empire by Kayla Olson

Title: The Sandcastle Empire
Author: Kayla Olson
Publication Date: June 6, 2017
Publisher: HarperCollins
Pages: 464
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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.

With the promise of a thrilling dystopia, survival, and possibly even conspiracy, The Sandcastle Empire is the kind of book that is right up my alley. When I saw it was available through my local library, I eagerly snatched it up and began reading. I was immediately sucked in and fully anticipated a fantastic dystopian read to make up for all the mediocre ones I've read this year.

Eden has lived through the war and its aftermath. Formerly a rich, spoiled child, she now lives alone on an island controlled by the Wolfpack, her captors. She has bided her time and finally has the chance to escape, setting course for Sanctuary Island, a safe haven her father wrote about. I thought Eden was a pretty decent character. I liked her, but didn't love her. I thought she was strong without being unbelievably so and, although she was naive at times, she was also sympathetic. I understood her difficulty trusting someone she had inherently distrusted for good reasons. The one thing I didn't understand with Eden was her whirlwind island romance.

If there was ever a book that didn't need romance, it was The Sandcastle Empire. This book is all about the huge mystery of the island and why it exists, its traps and obstacles, and then, randomly, romance. Fairly early in the book, Eden and Co. are joined by three boys, including one named Lonan. He's mysterious and maybe good, maybe bad, and for some reason he becomes Eden's love interest. It never got less awkward to hear about how he compared to her pre-war boyfriend and Eden's lustful reactions to him during life or death situations were completely out of place. Lonan wasn't a bad character, but the romance here seemed extremely forced and should have been left out.

The world building was an area The Sandcastle Empire excelled at! From the work camp island to Sanctuary, all of the locations were amazingly described and easy to picture. I loved the illusions and security features on the island and would loved to have read even more about them. I honestly wish there had been more exploration and less politics.

While the plot was fantastic at first, it slowly became more convoluted and ridiculous. Things moved at a quick pace, but I found myself zoning out in the second half of this book. Without getting spoilery, once the group started towards their final goal, I steadily lost interest in what was happening. There were some pretty cool reveals that I admittedly saw coming, but some that I was completely surprised by were just too far fetched.

I expected a dystopia survival story from The Sandcastle Empire and instead got a more hard sci-fi romance. While that isn't necessarily a bad thing, it's definitely something readers should be aware of when picking up this book. Although the main character was well-written and the world building was incredible, it couldn't completely make up for the out of place romance and far-fetched plot. That being said, if you're a fan of science fiction and don't mind the romance, you may still enjoy this one!