Race the Sands – Sarah Beth Durst

five stars black
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Pages: 544
Release Date: April 21, 2020

In this epic standalone fantasy, the acclaimed author of the Queens of Renthia series introduces an imaginative new world in which a pair of strong and determined women risk their lives battling injustice, corruption, and deadly enemies in their quest to become monster racing champions.


Life, death, and rebirth — in Becar, everyone knows that who you are in this life will determine what you are in your next life. The augurs can read your fate in your aura: hawk, heron, tortoise, jackal, human. Armed with that knowledge, you can change your destiny with the choices you make, both in this life and your next. But for the darkest individuals, there is no redemption: you come back as a kehok, a monster, and you will always be a kehok for the rest of time.


Unless you can win the Races.


As a professional trainer, Tamra was an elite kehok rider. Then a tragic accident on the track shattered her confidence, damaged her career, and left her nearly broke. Now Tamra needs the prize money to prevent the local temple from taking her daughter away from her, and that means she must once again find a winning kehok . . . and a rider willing to trust her.


Raia is desperate to get away from her domineering family and cruel fiancé. As a kehok rider, she could earn enough to buy her freedom. But she can’t become good enough to compete without a first-rate trainer.


Impressed by the inexperienced young woman’s determination, Tamra hires Raia and pairs her with a strange new kehok with the potential to win — if he can be tamed.


But in this sport, if you forget you’re riding on the back of a monster, you die. Tamra and Raia will work harder than they ever thought possible to win the deadly Becaran Races — and in the process, discover what makes this particular kehok so special.


Race the Sands was a pleasant surprise! It’s a standalone fantasy novel rooted in morals and ethics all housed in a story about monster racing.

Race the Sands follows a rider and her trainer as they attempt the impossible of winning the racing championship to relieve themselves of financial trouble. The only caveat is that they’re racing on the backs of monsters, Kehoks, who have the reborn souls of the truly despicable of society.

For the most part, the novel follows Raia and Tamra as Tamra attempts to train Raia on how to control and ride Kehoks. It’s a battle of wills as Raia squares off with strong willed creatures who are born to cause destruction and chaos.

Tamra is a character haunted by her pass, but refuses to give up because she lives for her daughter. She’s often forced to face her shortcomings which threaten her livelihood. This makes for an interesting and complex dynamic as Tamra navigates the perilous world of Kehok racing.

Raia is a seventeen year old girl escaping her future. Raia doesn’t come off as complex or multifaceted as Tamra. Instead, is a stereotypical character seeking refuge from her life and happens to be at whatever obstacle she must overcome.

Despite Race the Sands being a standalone fantasy novel, Durst has created a truly complex and interesting world that feels full and lived in. There are no obvious info dumps as readers learn about the world and its intricacies organically. I particularly loved the Augurs who act as the moral compass for this world’s citizens. They are tasked with the responsibility of reading souls to determine what animal or being someone will be reborn into. They are the literal interpretation of being a on high horse.

Overall, Race the Sands is an incredible standalone fantasy that conveys a full story housed in a lived in and well established world. I would definitely recommend Race the Sands to fans of S.A. Chakraborty’s The Daevabad Trilogy as they are similar in tone and vibe.

*** I received an ARC via Edelweiss for an honest review.

Have you read Race the Sands? What did you think?

3 thoughts on “Race the Sands – Sarah Beth Durst

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