This week’s Biblioshelf Musing is ‘These Divided Shores’ by Sara Raasch which is the sequel to ‘These Rebel Waves’. I first read TRW when it arrived in the August 2018 Mutinous Pirates Fairyloot box. At first, the series wasn’t quite what I was expecting as the pirates were more riverboat looters (Stream Raiders) than the swashbuckling kind (which I guess speaks more about my stereotyping of what I consider pirates to be…). Given the motivational push of lockdown and my birthday, I finally took the plunge and ordered the sequel to tick the sequel off my TBR list.
[🚨Although there are no spoilers ahead for These Divided Shores, this review may naturally feature some spoilers for the first book in the series These Rebel Waves.]
Book: These Divided Shores by Sara Raasch
Genre: Fantasy / YA
Publication Date: 27th August 2019
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Synopsis (from Goodreads)
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.
For me, the botanical magic elements are my favourite part of the series. Both books have a few page inserts between different phases of the story which contains a drawing of a magical plant and it’s various attributes and uses. This type of magical system felt so fresh compared to the wand-waving, elemental ‘magic-from-within’ types. I was really interested in the parts of the plot which discussed the accessibility and uses of these plants by both Grace Loray and Argrid. If you like plants and potions then you’ll probably enjoy reading about this magical system!
The setting of These Divided Shores really compliments the botanical magic system in the novels. Places such as the Backswamp and the numerous streams and rivers which dominate the island all added to the jungle feeling and, even though I’m not from the US, it gave me a bayou feeling from somewhere like Louisiana or Florida mixed with a little bit of Amazon. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a sucker for any types of ‘water’ features in books or settings so Grace Loray was right up my street and the waterfall episode in the first book was one of my standout parts of the whole series.
Vex, Ben and Character Diversity
I really enjoyed how we got to explore the relationship between cousins Vex and Ben. It brought a fresh dynamic to the story rather than focusing on just the romantic relationships between other characters. I also enjoyed the way in which same-sex relationships were portrayed in the book. One of my pet hates is when same-sex couples feel forced into novels just for the sake of whereas in the Stream Raiders series they were included strongly but subtly at the same time, reinforcing them as normal parts of everyday Grace Loray lifestyles. Gunnar is a particular favourite character and it was nice to see a strong, masculine character also addressing his emotions and feelings openly.
Mini Battle, Mini Battle, Big Battle, End
For me, the pace and plot in These Divided Shores was a little on the slow side to get me through to the end of all 560 pages. In short, the aim of the book is to try and stop Argrid from making permanent magic and enforcing everyone to their rules. The Stream Raiders, having their own cultures and beliefs want to keep Grace Loray as part of a haven for all those who don’t want to surrender to the Pious God. To me, I don’t think I needed all of those pages, and what felt like battle after battle, for all of that to be resolved in the way it was. It always seems that post-battle resolutions get thrown in very quickly at the end even though quite often many nations and lives end up needing to be rebuilt. The ending of These Divided Shores felt slightly rushed compared to all that had happened before the final chapter. Thankfully, I enjoyed the setting, magic and characters enough to finish it all off but at times I did find it rather slow-going for me.
The Stream Raiders series is definitely different to other fantasy books I’ve read and I’m glad that I actually bought the sequel to finish it off and see what happened to the characters and magical island which I had enjoyed reading about the first time round. If you enjoy stories about uprisings and the tactics behind different revolts then you’d probably enjoy it. Equally, if you’re after a different style of fantasy setting to the typical medieval castle types then you might just enjoy a little trip along the streams, rivers and botanical magic of Grace Loray!
Have you read These Divided Shores? What is your favourite type of fantasy setting? As always, drop me a comment to chat!