Sands by Kevin Nielsen
Page count: Paperback, 283 pages
Release date: July 23, 2015
Series Status: Book 1 of the Sharani Series
Summary (from Amazon):
For nine months of the year, the sands of the Sharani Desert are safe. The genesauri—giant, flying, serpentine monsters who hunt across the desert in enormous packs—lie dormant. The smallest of their kind is able to take down a single man with ease, and the largest is able to swallow entire clans. The people of the desert have always been able to predict the creatures’ appearance, but this year, the genesauri have stopped following the rules.
When the genesauri suddenly attack her clan, seventeen-year-old Lhaurel draws a sword in her people’s defense—a forbidden practice for women of any clan—and is sentenced to death by her own people. Chained to a rock and left to be eaten by the next wave of genesauri, Lhaurel is rescued by a mysterious, elusive clan said to curse children at a glance, work unexplainable terrors, and disappear into the sands without a trace.
With the fate of the clans hanging in the balance, Lhaurel discovers she possesses a rare and uncontrollable power—one that will be tested as the next deadly genesauri attack looms on the horizon and the clash between clans grows more inevitable by the hour.
Rating: 4 "mystic" stars
Okay, so this book was pretty awesome. As I've said before, I love strong heroines. Strong heroines are awesome people, friends that I want to have. And Lhaurel is definitely a strong heroine.
The moment I picked up (well, bought with one click lol) Sands, I was reminded of Dune. I mean, duh, even the summary on Goodreads calls attention to Dune fans. However, I hadn't read many books that took place in deserts and the characters sounded cool so I decided to give it a try.
I'm so happy that I did. Usually, I devour a 300 page book at about 100 pages per hour. This book took me about an hour and a half. After I finished, I regretted not savoring every description Mr. Nielsen gives us. Oh well, I had homework to do.
This book is seriously awesome. That is the adjective I'm naming this with. It's just awesome. Awesome people, awesome abilities, awesome creatures and awesome plot. Awesome, awesome, awesome.
As seen in the summary so kindly provided by Goodreads, Sands is about a girl named Lhaurel who is kicked out of her clan, the Sidena, for raising a weapon. If you can't tell already, this is an extremely sexist society where girls are left to die for holding weapons. In this society, women are property of men and have no say in what happens to them. They are only there to give the men children--specifically sons. *The feminist in me roars*
Anyway, in this horrible society with gender equality, Lhaurel is a rebel. She tries her best to disobey in small ways. When she is forced to marry the old warrior Taren, Lhaurel is horrified but unable to stop it. Until the genesauri attack her clan. The genesauri are basically three types of monsters, the smallest of which (a sailfin) is bigger than a grown man. The biggest of them all can easily swallow entire clans. Luckily for the Sidena clan, the genesauri that attack them are sailfins. However, the loss of life is still devastating and when Lhaurel tries to defend her best friend with a sword, she is knocked out by the people in her own clan and left to die.
Lhaurel is saved by a mysterious man named Kaiden, one of the Roterralar, a secretive clan seriously feared by the rest of the clans. They are said to be demons and to have strange abilities that no one has seen before. However, as always there is a twist: people's perceptions of others aren't always truthful I won't give away what the Roterralar do but it isn't that surprising when you think about it. Lhaurel is plunged into the world of this mysterious clan full of intrigue and newness. The Roterralar indeed have powers, powers that they reveal to Lhaurel. And as Lhaurel assimilates into the clan, she discovers that she has a rare hidden power that is unlike anything anyone has seen before...
All in all, I really liked this book. It was fun, amazing and really cool. As I've said over and over again, I am a fan of awesome characters with badass skills. And Lhaurel is both badass, mentally and physically. She is so caring of others but she has a strength about her that told me that this girl can kick ass when she wants to. I also loved the aevians--falcon-like creatures that carry the clan people of Roterralar around. When the Roterralar come of age, each get their own aevian. I love animals so I was totally down for reading about the aevians. They are hilarious, awesome creatures and reminded me a little of Buckbeak from Harry Potter. :P
Of course, there is always room for improvement. I would've liked to see more development in some of the characters in Sands. For example, my favorite character in the book is a snarky, sweet man named Tieran. He was hilarious and I would've liked to see more facets of his personality. If Tieran and a few others were more developed, I feel like this book would be even better. Also, I think more description of the scenery would have made me love it more. The desert is so beautiful in its own way and I would've enjoyed hearing more about the setting.
Furthermore, the book was a bit predictable. Maybe it's because of my immense prescience (lol, not) but I felt like I knew what was going to happen before it happened. I knew ten pages before Lhaurel figured it out her power. If the book was a little more unpredictable, perhaps I would love it even more than I do now!
Overall, this book is really well done, especially for a debut novel. When I learned that Sands is Mr. Nielsen's first book, I literally freaked out. What. Talent. There are also some serious gender issues that are raised in Sands. For example, gender equality. As a pressing issue in our own society, I liked that Mr. Nielsen incorporated some of that into the world of Sands. I seriously recommend this book. Be prepared for a wild ride full of excitement, cool mythological creatures and kickass characters.
Adjective I would use to describe this book: Awesome
Interview listed below!!
Interview with Kevin Nielsen :)
SN: Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview, Mr. Nielsen. There are a few questions I would like to ask you regarding your book Sands. First of all, Sands has some similarities to the famous science fiction book Dune by Frank Herbert. What type of book were you trying to create with Sands? What type of book would you classify it as in terms of genre?
KN: Sands does have some certain similarities to Herbert’s Dune, though more in the environment than the scope of the novel. Dune has a far richer level of complexity and mysticism than does Sands.
When I started writing Sands, my intent was to create a new, exciting epic fantasy world, but geared more toward the current YA audience rather than just an adult readership. I think I was able to pull that off. I would classify it as YA epic fantasy, especially since it was intended to be a five book series.
SN: Throughout the entire book, Lhaurel and other women in the clans are discriminated against because of their gender. Is there a message you are trying to send with Lhaurel's subsequent actions in the book?
KN: There are certainly messages I’m trying to send. All books, even and sometimes especially children’s books, have some sort of message they are trying to convey. However, I will leave it up to the readers to determine what that message (or messages) is. As an author, my intent is more to ask questions and present possible answers rather than to give you “the” or “a” right answer. So through the Sharani Series readers will see lots of scenarios that would defy initial stereotypes and see some that fall well within them. Each are there for a reason and have a purpose in helping the reader to find their own answers.
SN: There are a lot of awesome butt-kicking characters in Sands. My personal favorite is Tieran. Which character is your favorite and why? What or who is the inspiration behind him or her?
KN:Well, that’s a tough question. All the characters in Sands, even the “bad guys” are special to me in their own way. They all have their own stories to tell and I’ve enjoyed experiencing those stories with them.
However, that’s not the question. The question is “who is my favorite,” yes? Well, my real favorite character is no longer in the book in her original form. In the first draft Khari played a much smaller role in book. She wasn’t even a mystic. She had a niece, Kharienerah, who was and who ended up being the one who taught Lhaurel both how to use the sword and how to recognize and understand her powers. Throughout the course of edits, however, that character ended up having to merge with the “then Khari” to form the hybrid character which is the Khari in the published manuscript. While I still like her, there were bits of Khari’s personality which weren’t my favorite and changed the character of both women enough to create a new person. I still have a certain fondness for that original character though.
I guess my favorite character from the published book would have to be Gavin, though. He’s a representation of everything I’m not, in some regards. He’s optimistic, naïve, quick to judge, and a little rash. Yet there’s an enduring earnestness to him that resonates with me too. You’ll see throughout the series where he goes and understand his vital role in this world as it progresses.
SN:What is the point of the aevians in the book? Are they just cool magical creatures that you thought would've made the book more interesting or do they represent something more?
KN: The aevians are both cool creatures and represent something more. They are a representation of balance. The genesauri monsters needed to have an enemy, something that would hunt and feed off them in some regard. Also, the Roterralar needed some way to travel the Sharani Desert. I combined the two to create the falcon-like aevians.
There are other reasons, of course, but I’ll have to give you a “read and find out” (RAFO) on those as the rest of the books in the series come out.
SN: In the book, the three kinds of mystics are very important to the Roterralar. However, as the book proceeds, we realize that Lhaurel is something entirely different. Is there a reason you chose what you chose for her magical ability?
KN: Short answer, yes – there’s a very specific reason why Lhaurel has the ability she has. Long answer – you’ll need to read the rest of the series. Lhaurel’s abilities are at the core of the series and the world in which she lives. I’ll give you a hint though, Lhaurel is not the only one you’ve seen who has abilities greater than what she should – and there’s a reason for both of them.
SN: At the end of the book, there are a series of revelations that come to life. Can you give us an idea of what characters will be playing big roles in the second book?
KN: Well, pay attention to Lhaurel, Gavin, and Khari – the three main ones you see in the epilogue of Sands. There are some minor characters from Sands who will take on larger roles in Storms (the sequel to Sands). You’ll also be introduced to some new characters – one of whom is the most complication character I’ve ever created. Storms comes out on January 7th so hopefully you’re looking forward to that with as much anticipation as I am. Trust me, it’s even better than Sands.
SN: Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview! Sands is a wonderful book!
SN: Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview! Sands is a wonderful book!
"I am of the sands and stones. I am he of the aevians, a warrior of the sands and metal that make up our world, a man of the Rahuli people."
"This was freedom. To pass through the skies, move through the limitless currents of space--it defied reason and time. It was exhilarating. Pure, unadulterated joy."