THE SANDCASTLE EMPIRE
Written by Kayla Olson
Published by Harper teen, June 6, 2017
My star rating: 3 stars
Before the war, Eden’s life was easy—air conditioning, ice cream, long days at the beach. Then the revolution happened, and everything changed. Now a powerful group called the Wolfpack controls the earth and its resources. Eden has lost everything to them. They killed her family and her friends, destroyed her home, and imprisoned her. But Eden refuses to die by their hands. She knows the coordinates to the only neutral ground left in the world, a place called Sanctuary Island, and she is desperate to escape to its shores.
Eden finally reaches the island and meets others resistant to the Wolves—but the solace is short-lived when one of Eden’s new friends goes missing. Braving the jungle in search of their lost ally, they quickly discover Sanctuary is filled with lethal traps and an enemy they never expected. This island might be deadlier than the world Eden left behind, but surviving it is the only thing that stands between her and freedom. (Goodreads)
I had been so excited to read this book as soon as I found out about it. But sadly, I finished it feeling underwhelmed and disappointed.
My first issue with it was the pace. The pace through the whole book was generally slow with spikes of entertainment and excitement. The beginning was painfully slow though. There was a great amount of detail as far as their surroundings and what they were doing, which I appreciated, but it lacked some serious detail that I needed to get invested into the characters and the story itself. There was a lot of vague talk about “before” the wolves took over the world. She spent time with her dad and her (I could only assume) boyfriend, summers eating s’mores and chocolate, and sailing. She mentioned her mom but never in detail. I just needed more detail! I needed to know who the “wolves” were and why this was happening. I needed to know who these important people in Eden’s life were and what happened to them. Basically I needed some info dumping so that I could connect with Eden and the story. I knew information would be released in time but the lack of detail prevented me from connecting to the story in any way – I was basically just confused for the majority of the time accepting the fact that I was thrust into this world. In time I was able to relate to Eden more but, in general, the characters felt as though they were kept at arms length due to the lack of detail and the mystery created behind them.
My absolute favourite part was the island! The mystery of what was happening and where they were going was just insane! But sadly I can’t walk about that in the review as I wouldn’t want to spoil a single thing. The island was a maze of twists, turns, crazy situations, questioning reality, and traps galore. I absolutely love the island itself and the writing here was fantastic. So very descriptive and emotional.
And yes, there was a romance (come on – it’s a YA book so of course there’s a romance!) but it wasn’t overwhelming and instant which I greatly appreciated. It wasn’t even a romance in the usual sense. It was more of a realization that you can have feelings again after you’ve lost. It wasn’t a major plot point, just kind of a side note that added depth and connection. I actually liked how this “relationship” was handled.
My main problem with this book is that I predicted everything. I mean EVERYTHING – well, aside from the craziness of the island. Nothing about what they did, who they met along the way, or who they could trust, surprised me. So that, in and of itself, made the whole book feel anticlimactic and underwhelming. I really don’t know what I expected going into it but this wasn’t it. When I hear of a book where the world is taken over by a group and there’s a resistance to take it back, I guess I just expected something more in depth. I needed more answers, details, and political subplot. I can see why people love this book. It’s not bad in any way! It’s just not one that I can fall in love with sadly.
Before this book was even released there was talk of this being turned into a movie. I think this would actually work really well on screen. But for a novel, it felt underdeveloped and lacked the detail to draw me in. But the plot and the world was really great. My thoughts are having a hard time arranging themselves with this one!
Have you read this one yet? Did you love it or find it missed the mark?
Until next time, happy reading!