Title: The Sandcastle Empire
Author: Kayla Olson
Page Count: 455
Original Publication Date: 2017
Genre(s): Young adult, Dystopian, Science fiction
Before—Eden’s life was simple. Easy. She had wealthy parents, amazing best friends, and a comfortable lifestyle.
After—Everyone Eden loves is dead. The Wolfpack controls the world now. Resources are scarce, and the formerly wealthy people, like Eden, are no longer living comfortably. Thanks to the Wolves, they live their lives as slaves, starving and fearful of being shot every day. Eden plans her escape for years—until finally, she makes it to the island.
Now—Eden and three others she escaped with are now stranded on the island they hope is their sanctuary. But can she trust these girls, the only friends she has left? And is anywhere actually safe?
Where. To. Begin. I’ve had this book on my shelves for 2 years now. I received it in one of my OwlCrate’s and put it off month after month. Finally deciding to read it, I was not exactly excited—more like hopeful that it wouldn’t disappoint. Well, unfortunately, it did.
Let’s start with the plot. It seems incredibly interesting and not far off from a possible future reality—nature goes haywire, floods and tsunamis wreck the planet, resources are scarce, only the rich have a chance at surviving, war ensues. Interesting premise. The story follows Eden in her journey to escape the island. Still interesting. Eden, along with three other girls, wind up on an island that is supposed to be their saving grace, but turns out to be a horrifying mystery. And still I found this to be interesting. And then…everything kind of sinks. Hard.
About 150 pages in, a few things happen. 1) The story gets far too convoluted for its own good. I was super super happy with a survival story. Such a cool dystopian premise with heart-pounding action and some mystery thrown in. Totally diggin’ it. But then the plot goes crazy in a bad way. Like, way too busy. And confusing. But mostly it was confusing because… 2) Bad writing. I’m not sure if it was just the thrill and action distracting me in the beginning, or if the writing just worsened the higher the page count, but man… I could not follow along. I didn’t like the writing at all. It was so confusing. Nothing was making sense because it was like pieces of the narrative were missing. I had to keep re-reading sentences to make sure I didn’t miss anything, because I didn’t understand how I got from point A to point B. But nope, it just wasn’t there. And nothing was flushed out, which leads me to… 3) It was rushed, especially the ending. Like, the slow build-up lead to…that? None of it made sense. Which leads me to my final point… 4) World-building was not strong enough. I needed so, so, so much more, especially with such a busy plot.
And let’s talk about the characters. So, Eden is supposedly this rich girl who had it all and now has nothing. And typically in these types of stories, we’re supposed to dislike the MC and then slowly realize she’s not so bad after all, yadda yadda. Well, I never really disliked Eden. I didn’t care enough about her, but I also didn’t dislike her. I felt like she could have been flushed out more. And all the secondary characters felt extremely secondary. We don’t learn much about any of them. They didn’t feel important, they just felt there.
I hate disliking a book. I especially hate writing negative reviews. But I really had to trudge through this one. I really wanted to like it. I think the writing and world-building need to be improved. I think it would take a lot for me to read a Kayla Olson book in the future. But remember, just because I didn’t like the book doesn’t mean you won’t! Just wasn’t for me. Strong start, but weak follow through and conclusion. Will not be keeping on my shelf.
***I apologize this review is a mess. I was half-asleep when I wrote it.
–“It’s never quiet in my head, so I don’t always realize I don’t speak much.”