SPFBO Review | Shattered Sands – W.G. Saraband

About the Book

For years, Tamazi felt she was nothing like the other slave-girls. It was not until her master disappeared, the Great Vizier of the desert kingdom of Rilmaaqah, that a power older than the sands themselves took hold of her; a power that could finally free her, or enslave her forever.

Rilmaaqah is in chaos. The fires of rebellion spread, and the winds of change threaten the Mageocracy, as the common people rise with the courage to claim their share. But the sands hide many things, and it falls to an unlikely group of people to put a stop to death, before she sings her lullaby to the living.

445 pages (ebook)
Published on August 7, 2015
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This book was part of the Self Published Fantasy Blog Off

Shattered Sands was a really interesting book, and in the end I think I wanted to like it more than I actually liked it. There was so much that was noteworthy and wonderful about the book, but ultimately I couldn’t overlook how dark and cruel the plot was. Now, I’m putting this first because I think readers should be aware of it. There is almost no light to balance the darkness. I enjoy dark plots, and I love blood and violence. I enjoy reading books about struggle, but this one had so much struggle and cruelty that it was almost oppressive and it made it hard for me to actually want to read this book. That sounds horrible, but sometimes it’s hard to read a book that you know will depress you. So be aware of that.

However, that’s really the only complaint besides some editing issues that I had. Other than that, this book really amazed me. The world building was absolutely superb. Set against a right Middle Easter-esque backdrop, full of all those details I tend to love so much, the world really shines. There are slaves, and class issues, the magic is woven through things perfectly. The culture is extremely well thought out and developed to play nicely against all that is going on in the plot.

The plot is a bit slow moving, and takes some time to really warm up and take off. The start might make some readers struggle until they get to the point where things really get going. In some ways, the author writes this book a bit differently. Instead of infodumps (no one likes those), Saraband assumes that readers will be able to pick up hints along the way and piece things together when necessary. That’s actually a pretty good way to write, but there are some issues when things happen and I’m not really sure why they happened. Inevitably I missed something along the way, but it happened, and it is possible to get a little confused by certain points if hints were missed or forgotten through the reading.

Shattered Sands is rather brutal, and there’s a brutal history that brings readers up to this brutal point in the book. However, I found it rather fantastic that women played such a huge, important role in a grimdark book. That’s not really something I run across often in grimdark, and I loved the fact that Saraband managed to not only make his protagonists female, but he managed to make them shine so bright in such a dark book.

Saraband has a skill for twisting and turning events, for pushing them to their limits and then making them break. This has the end result of making characters and people that you’d never really expect to read about. Nothing is what it seems to be, and none of the characters change in expected ways. It was a surprising delight to read a book full of the unexpected.

Shattered Sands is addicting, and it is uncomfortable, but that’s part of what makes it so damn noteworthy. It’s nice to be uncomfortable sometimes, especially if those thing that make you so uncomfortable also make you think and see things a bit differently. This book does accomplish just that in spades. In fact, unless I am mistaken, this was a debut novel, and that really surprised me. There is so much here, so much depth, and so much dark exploration and a world that is absolutely stunning. This felt more like the book someone would write after they’ve already written and published a few.

But in the end, I think I wanted to like this book a lot more than I ultimately did, and when I sit down to try and figure out why, the only thing I can come up with is how dark it is. I love dark books, but perhaps I’m getting to that point where my darkness needs to be balanced by some light, and I just didn’t really find that here. It made reading this book hard, and while I do think that some readers will really enjoy that, I struggled with it.

3/5 stars
6/10 SPFBO score


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