‘The Sandcastle Empire’ Captivates from Beginning to End

Author: Kayla Olson
Release Date: June 6, 2017
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Spoilers: Low
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Rating:
Before the war, Eden’s life was easy—air conditioning, ice cream, long days at the beach. Then the revolution happened, and everything changed.

Now a powerful group called the Wolfpack controls the earth and its resources. Eden has lost everything to them. They killed her family and her friends, destroyed her home, and imprisoned her. But Eden refuses to die by their hands. She knows the coordinates to the only neutral ground left in the world, a place called Sanctuary Island, and she is desperate to escape to its shores.

Eden is one of those characters that is super badass while retaining a relatability you don’t find in other dystopian characters. Caught on an island, she’s forced to work for the people who killed her family and destroyed her, and everyone’s, normal life. Her only escape is to another island. Of course, once her plan has been carefully made, it all goes awry. Now she’s leaving with three other girls, all bent on escaping the hell they have been thrust into. But, the island is not what it seems, and what Eden knows of the world is about to be tossed on its head. 

It’s really difficult for me to find a dystopian novel these days that isn’t the same trope-y story we’ve all read a hundred times before, but The Sandcastle Empire held me from the first scene to the last. The world that Olson builds is vivid, realistic, and crazy. The twists had me guessing at every turn, and I honestly was not able to predict a single thing.

While this is a standalone right now, I am hoping this turns into a series, and I am not a big series person since the dawn of the trilogies. Olson’s writing is beautiful and easily devoured. This really is a one-night read. 

However, this book does move fast and does seem to switch pace into more of a sci-fi novel than a straight dystopian. The story could also be classified as a type of survival book, as most of the book is spent on, well, surviving the bad guys, traps, island, and the world at large. It really depends on your individual lens through which you judge dystopian books. The ending isn’t as cleanly wrapped up as one would like in a stand-alone, which is what leads me to believe there may be a second one to neaten things up. 

Overall, this is one of my top dystopian books of this year. I thoroughly enjoyed every moment reading it, and did pull an all-nighter to finish it. Immensely entertaining, and a world you can actually see has me suggesting this book to all who ask for a recommendation.

Eden is one of my favorite main characters of the summer with her skills, sharp mind, and general kick-ass attitude. If you have been looking for a new end of summer or start of fall read, this is one to check out. It’s captivating, interesting, and just plain good.