These Divided Shores (Stream Riders #2) by Sara Raasch
These Divided Shores is the action-packed conclusion to the Stream Raiders duology. This one is full of betrayal, fanaticism, and sacrifice.
About the Book
Publisher: Balzer + Bray | Release Date: August 27, 2019 | Pages: 560
Genre: YA, Fantasy | Format: eARC | Source: Publisher via Edelweiss
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.
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Narrative style: third person | Perspective(s): multiple (Lu, Vex, Ben)
While this review is spoiler-free for These Divided Shores, tread lightly if you haven’t read These Rebel Waves yet as this review has spoilers for the first book.
What a wild ride the Stream Raiders duology was. I’m not going to lie: I was hoping that this installment would bring some piratey seafaring adventures, but unfortunately, that’s not the story this duology is telling. (15/10 would read a spinoff adventure with Teo the raider, though!) If you enjoy complex political revolutionary stories filled with political intrigue, colonization, oppression, war, disillusionment, and religious fervor then this series is for you!
“You won’t even feel it happen – something will become more important to you than fear, and you will find yourself doing amazing things.”
Ben, Lu, and Vex are all at a crossroads in this book, very much struggling with who they are and trying to reconcile their pasts – which was forced upon them – with the present. Each of them has been put through the wringer, and the sorrow is not over yet. As a result, this is a darker book than the first, and I found myself missing the levity and banter between the characters. But this is war and their reactions to their actions make perfect sense and really does a good job of depicting the effects of war on people, both those who choose to fight and the innocent people that are affected through no choice of their own.
I found Ben’s character development to be particularly compelling to me because it touches on complacency and not standing up until it affects you directly. I admire his unwavering support and wishing to atone for his father’s crimes, but refusing to stoop to the same methods in order to stop him. He is a revolutionary figure you want to see succeed because you believe he will make things better. Teo is as precious as ever and must be protected at all costs. We do have two romances in this book, a m/m and m/f relationship, both of which kind of sit on the backburner for the first two-thirds of the book. I did find both of the relationships to be organic in their development, although I wish the tension between old and new love interests had been addressed a bit more than just longing glances.
A major theme in the book looks at what becomes justified when fighting in a war. Do the ends justify the means? Or do you lose a part of your soul when you use the methods of the oppressor you fight against?
“Permanent magic wasn’t the most dangerous weapon to bring to war. Devotion was. And Elazar had already mastered it.”
The religious fervor and persecution is tough to stomach. Elazar has painted himself as the Pious God Incarnate, and the devotion his people have for him and his holy persecution against the magic of Grace Loray is alarming but does touch on charismatic leaders that stoke the fire of hatred through fear-mongering. He is a villain who you have no difficulty hating, although I do wish that some insight into why he has done all he’s done had been offered. I like my villains to be more than just evil and think it would be interesting to see just how he got to be the way he did.
Unfortunately, I did struggle a bit with the pacing of the book and found the middle to drag a bit. I think this is in large part due to the multiple POVs: at times the perspectives contained the same information and revelations because the characters weren’t all privy to the same information and the plot progression felt stunted to me. The narrative voice being in third person also didn’t help the situation because the perspectives didn’t feel distinct to me – there are times where I am honestly not sure the section was from Vex or Ben’s POV. This is a struggle that I often have with multiple POVs and could very much be a me-thing.
Overall, I found the Stream Raiders duology to be a compelling fantasy tale of revolution. It is heavy on the political themes and won’t be for everyone, but as a reader who enjoys these kinds of explorations of humanity I enjoyed this one despite the hiccups with pacing. I definitely would recommend a re-read of These Rebel Waves before diving into this one because the world-building and history is very complex, and I found that I enjoyed the first book more the second time that I read it!
Content warnings: imprisonment, inferred abuse, religious persecution, torture
Representation: lgbtqiap+, m/m relationship
Many thanks to Balzer + Bray for providing me with an eARC via Edelweiss for my honest review. Quotations are taken from an uncorrected proof and are subject to change in final publication.