Monday, September 16, 2019

These Divided Shores by Sara Raasch

These Divided Shores by Sara Raasch
Release Date - August 27, 2019
Publisher Website - Harper Collins Canada
Publisher Social Media - Twitter/Facebook/SavvyReader/Frenzy
Pages -  560 pages
My Rating - 4/5
**received from the publisher for an honest review**

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
The thrilling sequel to These Rebel Waves—full of deadly magic, double crosses, and a revolution—from Sara Raasch, the bestselling author of the Snow Like Ashes series.

As a child, she committed unforgivable acts to free Grace Loray from King Elazar of Argrid. Now Elazar’s plan to retake the island has surpassed Lu’s darkest fears: he’s holding her and his son, Ben, captive in an endlessly shifting prison, forcing them to make a weapon that will guarantee Elazar’s success. Escape is impossible—unless Lu becomes the ruthless soldier she hoped never to be again.

Vex failed to save Lu and Ben—and that torments him as much as his Shaking Sickness. With the disease worsening, Vex throws himself into the rebellion against Argrid. The remaining free armies are allied with the stream raider syndicates—and getting them to cooperate will take a strength Vex thought burned on a pyre six years ago.

Imprisoned, betrayed, and heartbroken, Ben is determined to end his father’s rampage. Watching Elazar sway the minds of Grace Loray as he did those of Argrid, Ben knows he has to play his father’s game of devotion to win this war. But how can a heretic prince defeat the Pious God?

As armies clash and magic rises, Lu, Vex, and Ben will confront their pasts . . . or lose their futures forever.
The Stream Raiders series is an enticing blend of action, magic, romance, and politics. The first book hooked me with its compelling characters and impressive world building so I was excited to get my hands on the sequel. Luckily the sequel not only offered more of what I loved but also a fitting, if rushed feeling, end to this series.

The time frame between reading the first and second novel was a long one for me and as a result I felt a little adrift when I first dove back into this series. I highly recommend reading the first book again if you are able prior to starting this one. I did eventually find my footing in the story again and once I did I was completely back into this world. The feeling of disjointedness was not helped by the switching of viewpoints during chapters. There are three main points of view and you would sometimes get all three during one chapter with nothing to differentiate them until you got a sense of the character voices. It made connecting back with the story a little harder at first, but eventually became something I barely noticed.

Those looking for a more pirate centric series may be a touch disappointed. Piracy is a small part of the world that has been created but the plot itself mostly dives into revolution, war, religious zealots, and its characters dealing with their pasts. It is, at times, a much darker read than the first book was. The war that was a possibility in book one is a probability in book two. There is torture and intense action scenes that make for a more heavy read.

The characters were a large part of why I loved the first book so much and that fact continues to be true in this sequel. Raasch manages to infuse so much into her characters and you come to care deeply for them. The romantic entanglements are some of the best I have read as well. The character shifts and arcs are subtle at times but so often richly rewarding. She allows the things that happen to the characters to impact them in meaningful ways. They carry that baggage around with them in a way that feels so authentic.

Lu and Vex are still some of my favourite characters from the ensemble. Lu's journey of making a sort of peace with what was done to her and the role that the people she cares about played in those events is heartbreaking. She struggles so much with the weight of the things she has done and you ache for her. Her wish for peace is something you desperately want for her. Her exhaustion is palpable even as she pushes forward. Vex's battle with his own body and the shaking sickness that plagues him is just as crushing as Lu's story. His anger and frustration steeps into every scene and interaction he has. All of the characters within this story stand out in some way but I found these two tugging at my heart a little bit more fiercely.

The world that has been created still enthralls me. The system of magic and the politics at play are both so nuanced and richly crafted that the reader could become engrossed simply because of them. I appreciated that world continued to be explored in this sequel and that the magic elements continued to evolve. It's a world filled with endless potential for spin off stories and still feels like one we've only just begun to explore.

The pacing of this novel becomes unsteady in the back half of the story. The ending, for me, felt rushed when compared to everything before it. The result is that the book feels a little less cohesive than I recall the first one being. The ending itself is satisfying but the way in which we reach it feels a little dizzying.

A duology that  boasts strong characters, incredible world building, and an imaginative story. Even though a had a few, mostly minor, issues with its ending I still highly recommend this series to anyone who is a fan of fantasy reads.

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