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Race the Sands: A Novel Paperback – April 21, 2020
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“National Velvet with monsters and a big helping of palace intrigue, Race the Sands is monstrous (literally), heartwarming, and empowering in equal measure. An incredibly fun and inspiring read.” (Katherine Arden, New York Times bestselling author of The Bear and The Nightingale)
“Sarah Beth Durst is one of the most prolific authors I know, yet each of her beautiful stories is infused with exciting action and fully rounded characters whose struggles are both relatable and fantastical. Race the Sands is a fast-paced adventure that will have you falling in love with its heroines and the monsters they ride.” (Peter V. Brett, New York Times bestselling author of The Demon Cycle?)
"RACE THE SANDS is not only a blistering rush through a brilliantly credible and original fantasy landscape, it's the story of resolve, family, and personal destiny we all need. Highly recommended." (Julie E. Czerneda, author of THE GOSSAMER MAGE)
"Race The Sands is a rousing standalone fantasy adventure....If you're in the mood for monsters or racing or a primarily female cast surviving against all odds, Race The Sands delivers on all counts, in one delightful package that doesn't require a series commitment!" (Fantasy Book Critic)
"Durst’s latest delivers the same sweeping prose and lush worldbuilding as her “Renthia” series, with strong female protagonists and lively supporting characters. This compelling fantasy will please fans and engage new readers."
About the Author
Sarah Beth Durst is the award-winning author of sixteen fantasy books for adults, teens, and kids, including The Queens of Renthia series, Drink Slay Love, and The Stone Girl’s Story. She won an ALA Alex Award and a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award, and has been a finalist for SFWA's Andre Norton Award three times. She is a graduate of Princeton University, where she spent four years studying English, writing about dragons, and wondering what the campus gargoyles would say if they could talk. Sarah lives in Stony Brook, New York, with her husband, her children, and her ill-mannered cat. For more information, visit her at sarahbethdurst.com.
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It says something about Race the Sands that the overpowering motivation for one of the main characters, Tamra, literally everything she does even unto endangering her own soul is for her daughter, Shalla, who she calls my star.
The other main character is Raina, who is like a second daughter to Tamra, but also is the tool Tamra must use to secure her family's future. Raina is the only one who can ride the black lion kehok-- or reincarnated tormented soul doomed to spend its life in this desert kingdom in the body of a horrific chimera. The people of Tamra & Raina's land race the kehoks and sometimes are killed by them.
But the black lion is special in many ways that will influence the political fate of their kingdom. But meanwhile, Raina and Tamra have to concentrate on training (which in many ways is about a transcendental like meditation focusing on here and now and your own will) to ride in the race-- so we get alot of fun training scenes, scenes of Raina dealing with the rejection of her parents, political machinations, and the overbearing, fussy noblesse oblige of Tamra's patron, the indomitable Lady Evara and her towering assortment of ridiculous hats. (and I LOVE the fact that one of the hats gets to be an anchor in a rioting storm later on and bascially help save hte day).
Yes, there's a Prince who is kind and misses his brother, and an auger, or reader of souls, who is basically good in the way of a naive hobbitt, but the stars of this book are all female as is often the case in Durst books. I love that while there is some death and gore, the horror of it is felt and not ignored but not dawdled in, and that the racing fun and saving of the kingdom is done mostly by women and girls . Safe enough book for even younger YA readers.
The world is a unique and unusual setting and the story takes some great turns.
This book combines a coming of age story, a redemption arc, the excitement of races and sports competition story and the twists of political intrigue into a really wild and satisfying ride.
There is politics, drama, racing, love, betrayal, and discussions of goodness. I liked this book a WHOLE LOT. It's standalone (at least for now), and very worth reading.
I loved the description of this novel, but having let it sit in my queue for a few months until near publication date, I went in with the assumption that this was a YA novel. I mean, the cover looks like a YA novel, and the desert empire setting is quite common among YA. When I started reading, I was like, oh, yeah, this is an adult fantasy. And it is one of the best adult fantasy's I have read in quite some time. While the book felt a bit slow at first as I was getting to know the world and characters, for each new character introduced, it felt sluggish until I found out how each new character tied in to what is going on. This is brilliant writing craft, well thought-out, and just a masterpiece of fantasy.
The book takes place in the empire of Becar, a collection of cities in the middle of the desert, surrounded by the raging sands, with potential rivals across the sea of sand waiting for the opportune moment to take over the Becaran Empire. In this world, all souls are reincarnated, but what they become in their next life is determined by how pure they were as a person. They could become a beetle, which may then be reborn as a rabbit, which may then become a human once more. Augurs are people of the purest souls who can read the aura of a soul, and they help guide people to make the right moral choices in life for the best possible outcome in their reincarnation. A person who has committed a serious crime, such as murder, will be reborn as the lowest of the low for the rest of eternity: a kheok. Kheoks are mindless monsters that pop into existence in the middle of the desert. They have no recollection of their previous lives. They kill with ease. And they are used by the people of Becar for sport.
Tamra is a kheok trainer. Backed by Lady Evara, a lover of the Becaran Races, Tamra is sent to search for a new racer to win enough money to pay for damages done by Tamra and her kheoks in the past, as well as to continue her payments to the augurs for her daughter, Shalla's, augur training. Tamra is known for being a skilled controller of kheoks. The monsters can only be controlled by a person's force of will. Though she is also known for a race from a year prior, in which a rider died. Who would want to train under Tamra now? Well, not only must Tamra find a good racer, but a rider who is willing to train with such a dangerous monster.
Raia is more than eager to be the rider Tamra seeks to train. She ran away from home for more than a few justifiable reasons, and what better way to make a new life in the world than to win the Becaran Races and use the gold to break away from her past? When Tamra not only brings Raia, a complete newbie to kheok riding, but a massive black metal lion kheok, no one believes they will have what it takes to win.
Meanwhile, political turmoil is about to unsettle the Heart of Becar where Dar, the emperor-to-be, waits somewhat impatiently for the augurs to find the reborn soul of his older brother, the late emperor Zarin. In order for Dar to be officially coronated, the soul of his brother must be found. Based on all the augur readings, his brother must be a golden monkey, or some such being oh high and more pure status that other creatures. When the late emperor's souls still cannot be found, Yorbel, augur and friend to Dar, assumes the worst: what is Zarin was reborn as a kheok? That cannot be possible, as Zarin was read as a good and kind soul. But somehow, this has become his fate.
I love the reincarnation aspect of this book, as I hope to be reincarnated as something...that isn't a kehok. There is also so political highs to this novel. There's the Emperor, but also the augurs, who are esteemed the most pure and are a major aspect to the way this society is run. An upturn of either of these will cause chaos. There is also looming war. The races are one of the fun, exciting aspects of this novel, though only a few are described in detail.
This fast-paced stand-alone novel has a very fulfilling aspect to it (I haven't read a good stand-alone in quite some time). The writing is eloquent and complex, just like the characters. There is a story here that tells of what it means to be family, the difference between right and wrong, and the importance of giving second chances. I could not put this book down, and I believe the same of anyone who is looking for a unique fantasy read should give this book a shot.