race the sands

4.5 stars

Wow. Who knew a book about a young girl racing a monster in the sand would blow me away. This book was so fricking good!! Of course, I expect no less from Sarah Beth Durst. I love her writing and this latest book is a must read.

In Becar, how you live your life determines what physical form you will take when you are reborn. Priest-like individuals known as augers can read a person’s aura to determine their fate. Knowing their fate, a person can make choices to help them in the afterlife. But, for the darkest and most evil of individuals, you are reborn as a monster called a kehok, and will remain a kehok for eternity.

Being chosen to be an auger is an honor. If a family has the money, they can pay the academy for the “privilege” of keeping their children at home with them while they attend the academy. If not, the children are plucked out of their families and must live and train at the academy.

A popular pastime in Becar is kehok racing. Tamara was an elite kehok rider until she had a terrible accident. It ended her career, ruined her reputation and left her broke. She eeks out a living training rich kids to race kehoks. She desperately needs one of her trainees to win a race so she can pay the auger academy to keep her daughter at home with her.

Raia runs away from her domineering family who betroths her to a cruel man after she flunks out of the auger academy. With no skills or way to support herself, she decides to train as a kehok racer, hoping to win enough money to buy her freedom.

Both women entrust their fate on a strange lion-like kehok that at times appears to understand what they say. But Raia can never get too comfortable, because given the chance a kehok will kill everything in sight.

As I said, I love this author’s writing. She has the ability to grab your attention on the first page and not let it go until the satisfying end. Tamara and Raia were fully developed characters that grew throughout the story in a natural and believable way. Tamara is a strong, capable woman without being harsh or overcritical, particularly when training Raia. She is a loving mother and is willing to do anything to protect her daughter. Raia starts out as a timid girl with no confidence and grows into a fierce champion able to stand up for herself.

The story has an even pace and doesn’t lag in the middle like a lot of books tend to do. While kehok racing is a central component of the book, there is just enough action to get a feel for the racing without it dragging out and becoming boring. Despite being 544 pages, the book is a fast read that you won’t want to put down.

Stand alone fantasy books are hard to find, so this would be a gem even if it wasn’t so good. Luckily, this is a fantastic book that is a must read for any fantasy book lovers.

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.