These Rebel Waves by Sara Raasch

(Last Updated On: June 25, 2019)

If you are looking for an action-packed story full of political intrigue, colonization, oppression, war, disillusionment, and religious fervorthis is the first-in-duology book for you!

About the Book

Publisher: Balzer + Bray ย |ย  Release Date: August 7, 2018ย  |ย  Pages: 474
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasyย  |ย  Format: eARCย  |ย  Source: Publisher via Edelweiss

Adeluna is a soldier. Five years ago, she helped the magic-rich island of Grace Loray overthrow its oppressor, Argrid, a country ruled by religion. But adjusting to postwar life has not been easy. When an Argridian delegate vanishes during peace talks with Grace Lorayโ€™s new Council, Argrid demands brutal justiceโ€”but Lu suspects something more dangerous is at work.

Devereux is a pirate. As one of the outlaws called stream raiders who run rampant on Grace Loray, he pirates the islandโ€™s magic plants and sells them on the black market. But after Argrid accuses raiders of the diplomatโ€™s abduction, Vex becomes a target. An expert navigator, he agrees to help Lu find the Argridianโ€”but the truth they uncover could be deadlier than any war.

Benat is a heretic. The crown prince of Argrid, he harbors a secret obsession with Grace Lorayโ€™s forbidden magic. When Benโ€™s father, the king, gives him the shocking task of reversing Argridโ€™s fear of magic, Ben has to decide if one prince can change a devout countryโ€”or if heโ€™s building his own pyre.

As conspiracies arise, Lu, Vex, and Ben will have to decide who they really are . . . and what they are willing to become for peace.

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My Review

If you are looking for an action-packed story full of political intrigue, colonization, oppression, war, disillusionment, and religious fervorthis is the first-in-duology book for you! These Rebel Waves is not quite what I expected (pirates sailing the open seas ๐Ÿดโ€โ˜ ๏ธ), but fortunately for me, I love books like this! I think that if you have expectations about this being your typical pirate adventure you will be disappointed, so it is important to go in knowing what to expect with this one since the blurb doesn’t really help in that respect and the rumors circulating about this being about gay pirates are setting people up for disappointment.

“None of this was a game. War was a necessity.”

The prologue sets the stage five years in the past and begins strong with snippets of the harsh world and conflict through the eyes of the three young main characters and their stations within the world. I was swept away into the narrative with this engaging and well-written introduction; I was hooked and ready for more!

Following the prologue, we jump to five years into the future after Grace Loray overthrew Argrid and becoming independent, but we learn that things post-revolution aren’t full of sunshine and roses.ย  Tensions are high within Grace Loray and we are brought in as peace treaty negotiations between Grace Loray and Argrid begin (I am confused as to why it took 5 years after the war ended for this, but okay).

It is important to note that there is a LOT of backstory and worldbuilding that happens in this book and I will admit that following the prologue I felt a bit overwhelmed. I struggled for the first 16% or so with the rapid-fire alternating perspectives and trying to keep everything together. Here’s a brief breakdown of the main historical context that will help situate you while reading:

โžก๏ธ Argrid is a theocratic society that is ruled by the King chosen by the Pious God. The regime is oppressive, absolute, and violently opposed to the magic of Grace Loray, seeking to purify everyone that doesn’t repent by fire. Argrid controls its citizens not with an army but with the Church, and its control on its citizens is complete. The Pious God has vilified magic used by Grace Loray and the punishment for sins is purification by burning. Much like the Salem Witch Trials, the citizens inform on one another and clamor to be purified. It’s frightening and heavy-handed in its fervor and made me very uncomfortable.
โžก๏ธย Grace Loray is a magic-rich island that is a melting pot – not unlike the United States – whose revolutionaries overthrew the oppressive Argridian government with the help of the unified support of the Stream Raiders.
โžก๏ธย Stream Raiders are the pirates of this world and are broken down into syndicates that closely align with their heritage. They are mistrusting of other syndicates as well as the Council established by the revolutionaries, and tensions are high between them and the new government of Grace Loray. The raiders on Grace Loray essentially live in squalor since the Council established after the end of the war monetized and legalized the sale of magical herbs, cutting into their livelihoods. The Council lives essentially in a bubble that is unaware of the really bad conditions many of its citizens live in.

I wish that the information been spread out a bit throughout the book rather than presented largely at the front of the book to give me a bit more time to acclimate to the world and its cast of characters; however, I am really glad that I stuck with it because I definitely settled into the narrative around 20% in, and it was around that time that the POV shifts weren’t as frequent.

While I will admit that I struggled a bit with having three perspectives, I really appreciated having the points of view from a raider (Vex), a revolutionary (Lu), and an Argridian royal (Ben) as it humanized each side. In a world where another war is brewing and conspiracies abound, it is hard to know who to trust and falling in love with characters from each side helps to blur the line a bit for the reader. I once read a section of Talal Asad’sย On Terrorismย for one of my theory of religion courses in university and the main takeaway that stuck with me that this book reminds me of is that one person’s terrorist is another group’s revolutionary. History is written by the winners, and each of these sides feels justified in their actions. I found this incredibly thought-provoking and something I look forward to seeing developed further in book 2 of this duology.

I adore these characters completely; I found each of them to be complex with their own motivations and experiences that shape their worldview, and it is interesting to see their reactions when they encounter the harsh reality that challenges those experiences. While the blurb doesn’t really ready the reader for what this book is truly about (and rumors of this being about gay pirates circulating the book blogging community doesn’t help), it does give a fantastic introduction to the three main characters so I won’t reiterate that. I appreciated the cast of secondary characters and their relationships with one another, especially Jakes and Nayeli, and I cannot wait to see what is in store for everyone. While I was a bit frustrated with Lu’s repetitious revelations in her mind, it did feel very human and the way a person’s mind would be reeling – it just didn’t translate well in writing (I kind of wish the POVs were in first person rather than third). As a fun note, one of my tweets mentioned that I kept picturing Vex as Vex from Lost Girl and Sara Raasch commented to let me know that it was an intentional homage! So that’s pretty cool, although it didn’t help the whole picturing Vex to look like this.


‘Ours is a family of tragedy,’ Elazar would say. ‘The Pious God ordained us in blood.’

This is as much about the period following a revolution, when the revolutionaries succeed in ousting out the oppressive government and set out to create a better society for all, but as is often the case it isn’t better for everyone and sometimes the people trade one oppressor for another. Each character struggles to reconcile their view of the world with the reality others experience.

“Grace Loray was a country of second chances. So Lu believed, with all her heart.”

In my reading, I saw an allegory for what it means to live in an assimilated culture like the United States. The characters grapple with identity – either holding onto their cultural heritage or forgetting it completely. This is definitely a coming of age story as well as a tale about growing up to realize the reality of the world is different than your idealized version. I see so much of myself in Lu’s character and I love that her idealism motivates rather than cripples her. She is not one that will simply accept the world as it is!

I love the diversity of this book, especially that the Church doesn’t care about sexuality. For all of this world’s faults and oppression, same-sex relationships are normative (provided you aren’t sinning before marriage, that is!) and I appreciate fantasy worlds that have LGBT+ representation. While yes there are technically gay pirates (f/f), they are side characters and there isn’t much dedicated to that relationship (yet). While two of the three main characters are men, I definitely feel like the women of this story take center stage and would love to see more of Vex’s skills being used because I feel like he was just going along with what everyone thought (and that doesn’t jive with the reputation he has).

If you are looking for a good pirate fantasy, this book isn’t it (yet) but I think the duology is building to it. This first-in-series lays down a lot backstory and worldbuilding and is largely focused on the political posturing, intrigue, and threats. I have a feeling that the second book will be a lot better with the bulk of this book being backstory and set-up. But be warned that this ends rather abruptly with probably one of the worst cliffhangers I have ever readย and I am going to sit here anxiously for the second book to find out what happens! Overall I enjoyed this book and recommend it to those who enjoy political fantasy with themes of oppression, colonization, and disillusionment.

Many thanks to HarperCollins for providing me an electronic ARC of this book via Edelweiss in exchange for my honest review. Quotations were taken from an uncorrected proof and are subject to change upon publication.ย 

Be sure to check out the other stops on this blog tour organized by the Fantastic Flying Book Club!ย 

these rebel waves ffbc

About the Author

Sara Raasch
has known she was destined for bookish things since the age of five, when her friends had a lemonade stand and she tagged along to sell her hand-drawn picture books too. Not much has changed since then โ€” her friends still cock concerned eyebrows when she attempts to draw things and her enthusiasm for the written word still drives her to extreme measures. Her debut YA fantasy, SNOW LIKE ASHES, the first in a trilogy, came out October 14, 2014 from Balzer + Bray. It does not feature her hand-drawn pictures.

spacer_wLet’s go on another adventure together!


  1. booksandblends

    August 8, 2018 at 7:44 AM

    Wonderful review Kaleena!

    1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

      August 9, 2018 at 7:11 AM

      Thank you so much, Kayla!

  2. Tammy

    August 8, 2018 at 9:51 AM

    This review has definitely made me excited to check this out. Good to know about some of the pitfalls, I’ll be ready for them:-)

    1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

      August 9, 2018 at 7:12 AM

      Glad you will pick this one up, I really enjoyed it but can definitely see how one would be disappointed if they were expecting swashbuckling instead of political intrigue. Can’t wait to see what you think!

  3. thebookprescription

    August 8, 2018 at 2:19 PM

    I finished this after it finished me, didn’t love the writing and the repetitions ๐Ÿ™

    1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

      August 9, 2018 at 7:14 AM

      I can definitely see how the writing wouldn’t be for everyone, and the repetitions/reiterations were definitely frustrating at times! I hope your next read is more up your alley, Hamad!

      1. thebookprescription

        August 9, 2018 at 9:22 AM

        Happy reading too ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Dora

    August 9, 2018 at 2:37 PM

    Awesome review, got me interested in the book! ๐Ÿ˜Š
    I have a post in which I’d like to include other people’s reviews of books released this week. Would you like to be featured? It would only mean that I would include a link to this post in mine. If you’re interested just say so, and I update the post with this review!โ˜บ๏ธ

    1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

      August 9, 2018 at 3:48 PM

      Thank you so much, Dora! I hope you do pick it up and enjoy it!!!
      And thank you so much for offering, I’d love to have the review shared so more people can see how awesome this book is when you go in with the right expectations!

      1. Dora

        August 9, 2018 at 4:06 PM

        I certainly plan to! ๐Ÿ˜‰
        I add your link to the post then! ๐Ÿ˜Š
        I plan to make this a weekly thing, so if you have a review of a newly released book at anytime, just let me know, and I share it in that week’s post! โ˜บ๏ธ

  5. Justine @ Bookish Wisps

    August 9, 2018 at 5:02 PM

    I read this too. But had to hold off my review, it ended out normally okay for me. I do agree with the representation and the characters being amazing. And that it isn’t the pirate book to read (yet). Awesome review Kaleena โค

    1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

      August 10, 2018 at 8:25 AM

      Thanks for commenting, Justine, and I cannot wait to see your review when you post it. I love Lu so much??? I am excited to see some swashbuckling hopefully in book 2!

      1. Justine @ Bookish Wisps

        August 11, 2018 at 6:34 AM

        I do have the same sentiment about Lu! I adore Lu.

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  8. Madam Mim

    August 15, 2018 at 8:21 AM

    Great review! It sounds interesting. I often have the same issue with multiple perspectives, I think it just has some inherent drawbacks as a technique… I might add this to my TBR though ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

      August 15, 2018 at 8:04 PM

      Thank you so much for commenting, and I do hope you give it a try because it is a great story.

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