Secrets of the Sands

Secrets of the Sands - Leona Wisoker

This one was okay, I think. Not great, but not terrible, either. I'd probably have liked it better if it were one or two hundred pages shorter, since it seemed like a lighter read than most high fantasies I pick up. Maybe that was just the mood of it, though - maybe the abundant coincidences and the fact that I never actually felt the characters were in real danger kept me from taking it as seriously as I was supposed to.


No, that didn't sound right. This book tried to be sneaky, okay? It tried really, really hard to be sneaky. It kept trying to surprise me with betrayals, secrets, revelations, etc. I give it credit for that. I just . . . wasn't surprised by any of it. The whole book was just a tiny bit predictable.

Mostly, I pretty much just decided that most people in the book were lying at every turn, which made all the villains actually good guys, and vice versa. It got old about two hundred pages in, because by then the rest of the book was obvious. (Deiq was obviously a good guy, Pieas was obviously "misunderstood", Chac was an evil mastermind, et cetera.)

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The writing near the beginning of the book was really good, though. It got sadly lazy in the last couple hundred pages, but near the beginning I did enjoy it. And the pace was mostly good - I had time to get into the book and understand the characters, but the story wasn't too slow and I was never bored. I did end up rolling my eyes at the coincidences a lot, such as the timing between Idisio's and Alyea's chapters. Every time some revelation was given, (for example, the origins of the ha'ra'ha), both characters figured it out at the same point in the book. I can see where this came in handy avoiding repetitive scenes where I'd have to hear about the origins twice, but really? These two characters were in vastly different situations, surrounded by vastly different obstacles and types of people and terrain, and they always seemed to figure things out at the exact same time.....But I'll be fair, this probably annoys me more just because Alyea was obviously ten times as smart as Idisio, and it felt like he was slowing her down for the sake of the book's pace.


Anyway. I did like Cafad, when he wasn't ignoring or hitting those weaker than him. He was pretty awesome at times. I loved Deiq. Seriously. That guy was awesome. And I liked Riss, even though she whined a lot. harder for me to judge. She's a really good character, okay? I'm just not sure if I liked her as a person. I don't even know if I respect her - sometimes I do, but at other times she's She's hard for me to describe. She was really selfish and repetitive sometimes, and then other times she was just strong/quick/intuitive enough to be cool, without it being unrealistic.


I did not like Idisio. I'm sorry. I have the feeling that he's the one character the author really hoped I, as a reader, would like, but I couldn't do it. He's just so.....meh. He's obsessed with girls. I mean obsessed. I got so tired of hearing about how his brains scattered every time he saw a pretty girl (it was only when they were pretty, not when they were plain or older or anything), and how he tried not to stare at them, and how their curves looked, and how their body language affected him. Ugh. I suppose that thing Deiq said at the end was supposed to explain all of this, but it just didn't. It sounded like the author suddenly realized that Idisio's hormones were out of control, and decided to make up an excuse for it at the last second.


There were other reasons I didn't like Idisio, though. Sometimes he acted like a little boy about, say, seven years old? And other times he acted like an adult. I never actually figured out how old he was supposed to be, since the book neglected to tell me - I think mid teens, but I'm not sure. Near the beginning I was positive he was a little kid, so......


Another tiny little issue I had with the book - everything was too easy. Alyea's tests were mostly just a bunch of questions and stuff she had no control over. That's fine, because I understand that a personality evaluation was kind of necessary to becoming a desert lord, but they all made the tests sound so dire. Like, end of the world, life or death type. But no, nothing to worry about, it was mostly all just questions.

And I was offended when Alyea conveniently said that there was nothing worth dying for. It annoyed me because A) obviously there's some stuff worth dying for, that's the way the world works, okay? Hello, if you could save a million people by giving up your life, isn't it worth it? No? And B) because she didn't mean to say it at all. She meant to say something completely different, but as happened several times during her tests, some inner voice or something spoke before she could get the words out. And that inner voice gave the right answer every time, completely against her personality and instincts. It seemed horribly cheap and unrealistic.

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And I was never worried for an instant that any of the characters would die or be crippled or seriously harmed in any way, because something convenient happened to get them out of all the really bad situations, and the less bad ones....well, most of the characters were indestructible or protected by indestructible people or prized by indestructible people, so all I had to think about was, How do they get out of it this time?


Oh hey, but one thing that I did love about this book: the monsters/deities/dragons/whatever they were. The ha'reye. They were awesome. Cafad's fortress reminded me of an alternate-reality version of Michelle Sagara's Nightshade Castle, or something. I guess I'm just fascinated by sentient buildings. Maybe. But back to the point: the ha'reye (don't be scared off by the made-up high fantasy names, because as far as the genre goes, this book was actually pretty easygoing) were seriously cool. I'm probably going to read the next book in the series, and it's only because I liked them so much. The concept of them and their execution were both very well done - they were creepy without being evil, and cryptic without being mysterious, and.....well, I liked them, okay? I'll shut up and stop ranting now.


But I'm still going to read the next book just because I hope there'll be more of them in it.


And now, it's nitpick time. This goes under the spoiler tag because trust me, it'll be a long list, and it'll ruin the otherwise organized and sane (for me) review that I've scribbled out above. There are a couple of spoilers running around, but I don't think there's anything too serious.



First nitpick: the grins. Yeah, I know it sounds pitiful, but the grins, okay? I swear, the grinning was out of hand in this book. Everyone grinned no matter whether they were happy or sad or angry or amused or injured or dying or anything. They grinned. And it was always the same word: "grin". No variety. Ever. I literally got happy every time I saw the word "smile" put down, because it was so rare.


And more specifically, the humorless grins. Let me show you a few of them.


"King's business," he repeated, and grinned. It wasn't a particularly friendly expression.


"Takes one to know one, they say," he said, baring his teeth in a humorless grin.


"Sorry." Her grin had more real humor in it this time.


A rueful grin appeared on his face.


Alyea grinned at him, knowing the expression held little true humor.


She allowed herself to grin, knowing there would be no real amusement in the expression.


Chac grinned unpleasantly.


"But there's no-" Alyea stopped, seeing the humorless grin spread across Deiq's face.


The man grinned, showing very white teeth in a dark face and deadly cold eyes above an eagle's nose.


Scratha's grin reminded Alyea of the snarl just before an asp-jacau snapped its sharp teeth into flesh.


Scratha grinned fiercely.


He grinned bitterly.


Pieas grinned sourly


Pieas turned, gave her a hard look, then shrugged and grinned ruefully.


She found herself grinning at him with no real amusement behind the expression.


.....And those aren't all of them. I mean, it's one thing when people grin because they're happy or surprised or expectant or whatever, but why would all these people keep grinning in these kinds of situations? Sometimes, yeah. Deiq's unfriendly grin was supposed to unsettle or test her. Occasionally a person will give a rueful or a sour grin when you're looking back on something else. Sometimes they'll give a scary, cold grin to frighten somebody. Okay, got it. But not all the time, okay? Please.


Nitpick number two: Idisio and his hormones. Ugh. As mentioned above. I swear, the guy literally could not form a complete sentence as long as there was an attractive female within twenty feet of him. It was annoying beyond belief.


Nitpick number three: on page 243, while Alyea was telling her story about the rubies and diamonds, Krilla broke one of the rubies. There were only two rubies to begin with, right? The means there was one left intact. One. But then I read this sentence:


But the rubies would not break, and the diamond would not break, and the priests prayed and cast exorcisms and at last demanded that Krilla break the gems herself, to be free of the evil.


Nitpick number four: on page 256, look at this sentence:


"You won't be needing me any longer. Tethkavit, Alyea."


Tethkavit. One word, no hyphen, and in italics. Okay. And then, just two paragraphs later, we got this:


"Teth-kavit," Alyea said in return, and added, "Thank you, healer."


......With a hyphen, and no italics. That was probably just a typo or something, but come on, it's hard enough to keep track of all these desert-y language terms and greetings and replies without them changing up on you every second time they're used. I saw this mistake a few times, actually, like the author couldn't decide whether it sounded more foreign with or without the hyphen and wanted to try it out both ways, then forgot to erase one or the other.


Nitpick number five: translations. There were a lot of random desert-y language phrases and sentences thrown around, and sometimes they'd be immediately translated, and sometimes they wouldn't be. Now, I read this on an e-reader, okay? That means that I can't flip to the book's endpapers to find the translation pages at the end every single page. I'd have appreciated a few more direct translations.


Oh, and sometimes people apparently said something in the desert-y language and then in English, effectively repeating themselves in two languages. That seems really redundant, doesn't it? Especially since they usually already knew the person they were talking to, and thus already knew which language said person would understand.


Nitpick number six: the scene around page 343 when Riss broke down crying on Idisio's shoulder. Another reason why I don't like Idisio - the poor girl's completely out of her depth, scared to death, and has a thousand reasons to cry, and instead of just lending her an arm to lean on or trying to comfort her like a friend should do, he hesitates to go in and see her. And then when he's basically forced into it and she leans her head on his shoulder to cry, all he can think about is how close she is, and that she happens to be female. Give me a break. I would have respected him for taking care of her and leaving his stupid hormones out of it for once, but nooooo. He just had to ruin it. And then he was relieved when Riss finally went to sleep, so he could escape. Relieved. Not worried about her at all or glad that she was feeling better, but relieved because he didn't have to stick around anymore.


Oh, and I find it slightly insulting that both Riss and Alyea broke down crying at the same time, with practically the same scene - one of the guys coming in to comfort her. If they did it at different times, it would've been fine - it's not like they don't have good reason to be upset. It's just that it was almost exactly the same scene, and the two main female characters were both the two who broke, while the guys (who also had plenty of reason to be upset) stayed strong enough to help them out.


Nitpick number seven: Scratha was the one who originally walked in and interrupted Alyea's blood ritual and demanded that Pieas take Chacerly's place. Scratha demanded it. He went out and fetched Pieas so that Alyea could kill him, okay? But then, when she finally does it, we get this sentence:


Nobody had moved to stop her, not even Scratha.


.....Scratha, whose idea it was in the first place. Why would he have moved to stop her, since it was his idea?


Nitpick number eight: on page 347, Deiq passes out on the bed next to Alyea, and she informs me that "she'd never seen him so relaxed before." Okay, fine. I get that he passed out from exhaustion, so he'd be plenty relaxed, and this sentence wouldn't bother me except that Deiq fell asleep in the tent next to her twenty pages earlier. So I know that Alyea's seen him asleep before. What, did he look less relaxed that first time than he did this time?


Nitpick number nine, and I promise this is the last one: typos. Yaaay. There were a lot of typos in this book. Not so many that I couldn't read it, but there were a good few. Maybe there would have been fewer in a paperback version of the book - I'm not sure. All I know is that there were enough to be pretty annoying. But oh, well.

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