Review: These Rebel Waves - Rivers don't have to make sense if they're magical

These Rebel Waves by Sara Raasch

title: These Rebel Waves
pages: 474
format: Hardcover
buy it: Amazon | B&N | BookDepository | Goodreads
rating: 3/5
genre: Fantasy
topics: War, Rebellion, M/M Romance, Pirate

The war isn't really over...

The island country of Grace Loray used to be a colony of Agrid. Six years ago they won their independence through a bloody revolution, and now they are trying to build a new society. But they are beset by internal struggles as the new government tries to bring together disparate immigrants, not helped by the strictly-separated raider enclaves that resist integrating with residents from other countries. To make matters even worse, during a treaty negotiation with Agrid, the Agridian delegate vanishes. The raiders are blamed, and Agrid demands the new Grace Loray government punish them, and act which cold bring about civil war.

The story is told from three alternating points of view: Lu, a former revolutionary who reluctantly brings old skills back up to find the missing delegate; Vex, a criminal-turned-folk-hero who gets pressed into helping Lu; and Ben, the crown prince of Agrid who is trying to make Grace Loray's magic more tolerable to the ultra-religious Agridian peoples.

There is a lot going on

The plot had so many concepts and subplots and moving parts, and it wasn't always to the book's credit. Two of the POV characters were together (Lu and Vex), but the third was in a different country and essentially had an entirely different plot going for him. Both plots kind of had the same problem: the undercurrents were way more interesting and compelling than the main points.

Lu and Vex had all sorts of things to deal with, like lingering trauma from the war, found family dynamics, political machinations between the raider enclaves and 'legit' government, racial tensions, learning about magic, commentary on colonialism and integration, on and on and on, it seemed every chapter was bringing up a new concept to play with but...yeah, that missing guy they were looking for? The supposed plot of the book? Kept falling out of focus. And the ending reveal was kind of weird and anti-climax.

Same deal for Ben and his attempts to frame magic as something 'good' in a way that his ultra-religious countrymen can accept. So much going on, from his romance with one of his guards, his fraught relationship with his dad, his constant fears of being found out as a heritic, his slowly learning about some fucked up shit going on, so on and so forth. But the magic thing? Not really so interesting, or even dwelt on. He spends more time freaking out about studying magic than he does actually studying magic. And, again, the end result is kind of...meh.

The Characters

There's a wealth of characters in this novel, most of them with small roles but all of whom are distinct and interact with Lou in unique ways, which contributes to a feeling of the world being well-rounded. I particularly really loved her parents, and family in general is a big factor in this book. Not just nuclear family - they visit extended family and mention said family members often. Lou's friends and fellow-paper-students are great, too, and her best friend delivers a great little speech to Lou at the end.

In fact, that little speech is one of my faves, because throughout the book Lou can feel a little bland. But she's not. The narrative just did such a thoroughly good job of putting me in Lou's mindset that it felt completely naturally and kind of invisible. And then when her flaws get called out near the end, I had a real sense of 'oh shit, I totally got sucked into that' which was very interesting.

Some Random Other Things

    • I have, let's just say, strong feelings about fantasy maps and rivers in particular. These rivers are...weird. But I guess rivers don't have to make sense if they're magical. (Not that that's how magic works in this world, so I'm still annoyed, but of course it's a personal pet peeve only.)
    • Considering it was such a big factor, I wish the magic had been explored more. There's a lot of talk about how there's ways to use the plants that no one's ever thought of and then...yeah, nothing, that's it, that's all we get.
    Will I read this author again? Yup.
    Will I continue this series? I ain't against it, but let's see what my TBR looks like.

    More Reviews for These Rebel Waves

    The Book Prescription - These Rebel Waves Review
    Madison's Library - Book Review: These Rebel Waves
    Reader, Writer, Fanboy - Review: These Rebel Waves

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