Author: Sarah Beth Durst
Audience: YA & up
My rating: 4.6 stars
A desperate race between humans & monsters for freedom, for money, and for justice.
In a city that borders a desert, everyone is reborn into a new life after their death, but their type of rebirth will depend on their current actions. A good person will be reborn into a good life. An evil person will be reborn as a kehok, an ugly, monstrous, wild creature. The only way for a kehok to redeem itself, according to the augers, is to win the its way to the very last race.
Tamra, an experienced but unlucky kehok trainer, needs to win the grand race in order to afford her daughter’s tuition. If she doesn’t win, the temple won’t let her see her daughter again. Reia, on the run from her controlling parents, must win the races in order to earn her freedom back. But to do so, she’ll need to learn to ride the wildest, untamed, monstrous kehok of them all. The races are fast, brutal, & deadly. And in the background, the emperor struggles to maintain his throne and his life, as his enemies conspire to replace him.
As with most of Durst’s books, the world building here is fresh and unique. One feels as if they’re in the desert, watching hordes of monstrous creatures killing their way to the finish line. This book is a bit grittier than some of her other works, more on a YA level, but it’s well written and just as captivating as them all. I really enjoyed it once I got into it. The suspense of the races was so good, I practically felt like I was there in person, cheering on & racing with the kehok and rider.
The characters are strong and fierce, people with real struggles that we can identify with while cheering them on. I was impressed in that almost every character was given their own subplot. They weren’t flat characters there to just color the background for the main character. They were complex and well developed, adding lots of flavor to the story.
In particular, I liked the three women the book focused most on. They each had their own problems, their own personalities, and their stories weren’t marginalized by having them fall in love. Whatever romance there was in this book, if any, was minor and only hinted at as a potential future. This book focused on the characters and their conflicts.
The plot was nicely twisty and complicated. Secret plans and devious deeds abound. I thought this would be a simple matter of winning the races, but hard as that was, it was only the beginning.
I received a copy in exchange for an honest review.