Friday, July 7, 2017

Book Review: The Sandcastle Empire by Kayla Olson

Owlcrate's June theme was "Make It Out Alive," which centered around dystopian and survival stories. I have to say I was genuinely surprised with the book selection for this month, and I can definitely say it was my favorite part of the box. The book was The Sancastle Empire by Kayla Olson, a dystopian survival-thriller for fans of Lost and The Hunger Games.


When the Wolfpack takes over the world and its resources, Eden loses everything--her home, her family, her freedom. Her father, however, tells her about Sanctuary Island, the last neutral ground left on Earth. Determined to find both answers about her father's disappearance and a safe haven away from the Wolfpack, she escapes along with three other girls. But when they get to the island, things aren't what they seem. The island is full of deadly traps and new enemies, including the people Eden has come to know and care about. 

My Thoughts

I stayed up late finishing this book, and when I turned the last page and closed the book, all I could think was: WOW. I was surprised while reading The Sandcastle Empire. I've been wary of dystopian novels ever since The Hunger Games prompted tons of YA dystopians that were half-baked ideas of disappointment. But The Sandcastle Empire is far from disappointing or half-baked. It's clear while reading that Kayla Olson took her time developing the world, the characters, and the plot of her book. The Sandcastle Empire was terribly beautiful.

The world-building was believable, despite how scary that is, and how everything is explained over the course of the book worked well. We didn't get all the information right away, which made the book feel like it had a slow start. But this book is far from slow. There's a lot of tension and thrills throughout. Sanctuary Island is one creepy place, and it was intense to read.

The characters were also well-developed. I could easily tell the difference between the four girls, and later the three boys, after a only few pages of their introductions. Eden's first person POV was stunning. I never felt annoyed that I only had her side of the story. Her thought process was beautiful and full of so much meaning. The Sandcastle Empire also did an excellent job portraying anxiety and characters who help one another with anxiety. It was empowering to read.

The entire plot and story unfolded in an organic, logical way. Everything seemed to connect and work together to build upon the conflict and resolution. There was a little bit of romance, but it worked well. It wasn't the focus. There was a connection between characters. It happened. But the entire book didn't revolve around character A and character B getting together. There were more important things to do than finding a boyfriend or sleeping with someone. So I'm extremely satisfied with that. (Honestly, give Kayla Olson bonus points for writing a YA novel without all the typical YA tropes.)

The Sandcastle Empire is a slow read that builds, but in the best possible way. This is not a book to rush through; it's a book to take in, to let the words sink into your bones, and to think about what's being said. For now, it's a standalone, and I'm also grateful for that. I would like to spend more time with these character, to learn what happens after, but I'm also okay with the book being done and over. We'll see, though!

Basically, this book surprised me in the best possible way. I couldn't put it down. I read half of its 455 pages in one sitting, and I stayed up late trying to finish the rest of it. It was that good. The Sandcastle Empire reminded me of Lost, The Hunger Games, The Handmaid's Tale, and The Maze Runner all wrapped up in one, but it's definitely more than that. And I think I enjoyed it more than any of those other titles. I'm grateful this book was in June's Owlcrate because I'm not sure I would have picked it up otherwise, but you definitely should read this book. It was well-written and kept me on the edge of my seat. It already jumped high on my list of Best 2017 Reads. Kayla Olson is someone to keep your eye on.

~I received The Sandcastle Empire by Kayla Olson in the June 2017 Owlcrate box. I chose to write a review of the book of my own free will. All opinions are my own.~

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