Race the Sands
by Sarah Beth Durst
- Genre: Fantasy
- Publisher: Harper Voyager
- Length: 544 pages
- Available: April 21, 2020
About the Author: Sarah Beth Durst is the award-winning author of sixteen fantasy books for adults, teens, and kids, including The Queens of Renthia series, Drink Slay Love, and The Stone Girl’s Story. She won an ALA Alex Award and a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award, and has been a finalist for SFWA’s Andre Norton Award three times. She is a graduate of Princeton University, where she spent four years studying English, writing about dragons, and wondering what the campus gargoyles would say if they could talk. Sarah lives in Stony Brook, New York, with her husband, her children, and her ill-mannered cat. For more information, visit her at sarahbethdurst.com.
Summary: Within the desert lands of Becar, kehok racing is king, and these animal abominations, formed from the reincarnated souls of the realm’s most morally corrupt individuals, have long been hunted down, captured, and ridden into glory. For Tamra Verlas—a former rider turned trainer—these bloodthirsty monsters are more than just sport, they are a way of life. Now, after a training accident threatens her livelihood, Tamra must take a chance on a young runaway named Raia and a ferocious lion kehok with unnatural intelligence if she wants to stay in the game and support her family. But, in a time of political upheaval and class dissonance, this unlikely team will soon find that the dangers that lurk at every turn aren’t limited to the race track.
It is Sarah Beth Durst’s bold and lively approach to worldbuilding that makes this novel worthy of respect among its competitors, but it is her confidence as a storyteller that really sets it apart, especially on a crowded shelf of high fantasy churn-outs. With a prolific history of noteworthy works in her wake, this fact should be no surprise, but there is, still, something singular about Race the Sands. From Becar’s rich detail, to the intricacies of its social order and political systems, Durst sets the reader free in a world that feels much bigger and more ancient than what is on the page. Add to that a formidable, female-forward cast of characters, all of whom bring something fresh and compelling to the table, and what the reader gets is a riveting experience that will leave them clamoring for one more chapter long after the final page has been turned.
Where the novel really hits its stride, though, is in its critical attention to issues of class which, despite the fantasy backdrop, feel tastefully introspective and worthy of deconstruction. Becar is a world of those who have, and those who have not, where wealth and status equal power—and power is everything. Excitement and adventure aside, this dive into the self-serving, sociopolitical world built on the antiquity of the kehok races gives the reader a firsthand look into an incestuous, imbalanced system that serves the rich and disparages the poor. As Tamra and Raia start to pick apart the system brick by brick, the reader can’t help but cheer them on, not just as underdog heroes hellbent on the gold, but as revolutionaries fighting to take power away from those who would abuse it, restoring it to its rightful place among the people.
Race the Sands hits the mark as a standalone fantasy novel, bringing with it enough heart, action, and originality to send it racing to the top of the TBR piles. Whether you are a casual reader, or a die-hard fantasy enthusiast, you will find something to love about Sarah Beth Durst’s colorful world, memorable characters, and approachable style, all of which have come together to create something of substance that sticks with you long after the dust has settled.