Set on the fantasy island Grace Loray, These Rebel Waves creates a mystical world of botanical magic, raider syndicates, and rebellious souls. Adeluna, or just Lu, was a daughter of the revolution that freed Grace Loray from the Argrid mainland and its religious oppression. Vex, an infamous unaligned stream raider, has been running the past few years from the terrors he faced under the thumb of the Argridian church. And Ben, Benat the Crown Prince, has been in a stupor since the church took its first victims in the fight against magic. The three of them are each rebels against the tides of change and danger, each trying to maintain the tiniest of threads of sanity in their own worlds.
What is These Rebel Waves about?
These Rebel Waves follows the stories of three young people growing up in a time of revolution. Lu is the daughter of politicians now, but her childhood was spent as spy and assassin under a band of rebels fighting for Grace Loray’s freedom. Ben, Crown Prince of Argrid, watched his uncle and cousin burned alive for heresy and now struggles with his own sinful nature and desire to please his father. Vex was once just another prisoner of the monxes of the Church and still bears the scars of their torture though he now acts as one of the most notorious stream raiders.
Argrid and Grace Loray are in treaty talks to finally settle the war caused by the Lorayans’ rebellion and independence. But with the raider syndicates still resisting Grace Loray’s Council, and Argrid seeking to strangle the trade of botanical magic, tensions are high and the stakes are higher. Ben, Vex, and Lu want freedom each in their own ways but are still tied to the tragedies of their childhoods. And now, with war looming on the horizon once more, each are determined to put a stop to it for their own reasons.
Genre: Fantasy Adventure
Yes this story is definitely a fantasy adventure. The setting is a pure fantasy world, though not explored very much (as I’ll explain in a later section). The adventure aspect of it is largely due to Vex and Lu’s adventuring, and the “high seas” spirited atmosphere the story takes on. Nobody goes particularly far to be honest, but there’s just enough travel to justify the adventuring spirit of the writing.
Tropes: All the Tragic Backstories
Vex, Lu, and Ben all had their childhoods stolen from them in one way or another. All three are walking tragic backstories, motivated by secrecy and misery. Their lives are tangled up in the revolution of Grace Loray and Argrid’s continued religious oppression. Not to mention, botanical magic, the secret weapon of Grace Lorayans.
Plot: A Set Up!
Just about this entire book serves as a set up for the rest of the series, which is…not great. It necessarily stands alone as the first book in the series, but there’s definitely a lot more exposition than real plot.
I liked Lu and Vex as characters, and there were quite a few moments between them that made me laugh or caught my feelings. Their stories are more closely intertwined and told as two halves of the same whole, whereas Ben’s chapters interject into this joint story telling. Lu and Vex are good foils to one another, each running from something in the past and with goals that compliment one another. Neither denies being attracted to the other, but neither has time to pursue anything either as much as they may want to. I found this a refreshing approach to the idea of an immediate attraction between the characters. There’s no tragedy or denial of feelings keeping them apart, they just don’t have time to address their attraction because they’re trying to stop a war.
There were times when the worldbuilding in this book, and the settings described, were very interesting. Then again, there were times where the descriptions were confusing and half-written at best. Some early notes I took included that the prologue was the single most confusing introduction to a fiction book I have ever read. It introduced all three of the main POV characters, but I learned essentially nothing concrete about the world except for the traumas that motivated Lu, Vex, and Ben for the next six years jumped over to the start of the first chapter. There was no concrete introduction to the world, and because the exposition was given in fragmented pieces in the rest of the book I never firmly grasped the world this takes place in until halfway through.
Descriptions were also strangely scarce. Some settings were described quite well and I was able to imagine them, but there were other times where I’d realize partway through a scene that I had absolutely no idea what the surroundings were. I think this may have been a drafting issue, that this book didn’t go through enough editing stages, because the writer is clearly capable of describing things well.
I didn’t like Ben’s perspective. Lu and Vex have a very nicely integrated story that reads like two sides of the same coin. And I honestly think the story wouldn’t lose anything without Ben there. Perhaps as a side character, who participates in the ending of the story, but he was largely unimportant despite having his own perspective for several chapters throughout the book. Additionally, the plot twist at the very end concerning Ben’s family was…underwhelming. It should have been a big emotional lead up, but I felt like it was just thrown out there for the twist of it all. I didn’t feel like it affected anything. Ben would’ve still acted the way he did without the twist, and the twist largely didn’t affect Lu or Vex whom I’m actually invested in. The story would’ve been less confusing and more interesting without the intrusion of Ben’s perspective in my opinion.
This book certainly presents an interesting story. The themes of religious oppression and rebellion against it are likely ones familiar to and interesting to read for many people. The inclusion of same sex relationships casually in the side characters and one of the main characters is also a nice aspect of the world and storytelling. Despite my lack of care or connection to Ben, I liked the way Vex and Lu developed as characters and the way their chapters complement one another. I found myself far more invested in the botanical magic than the political intrigue, and I hope that the next book focuses more on the quest for magical cures than on the conflicts between Grace Loray, its citizens, and Argrid. I didn’t care for the plot twist at the end, but depending on how that’s handled moving forward it could make for an interesting development in the story, and I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next for Vex and his crew.