Cover Image: Race the Sands

Race the Sands

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Member Reviews

I've been putting off The Queens of Renthia because I really don't have time for another fantasy series, but I've always wanted to read Sarah Beth Durst's works.

Then I found this title:

A standalone fantasy in a richly created world with badass characters, and monster racing! What more could you want? Beautiful storytelling, engaging characters, and a world that I hope Sarah Beth Durst visits again one now. Perfect for the fantasy fan who needs a break from the never ending fantasy series, without losing world-building, characters, or storytelling.

Now I have to go read her other books. 

Thank you to the publisher for the free arc. All opinions are my own.
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This book was my introduction to Sarah Beth Durst's work and I think she has officially made my auto buy authors list. There aren't many authors who can write a standalone adult fantasy and make it feel like a complete story. Nine times out of ten, I feel as though I've missed something or some part of the overall story has been rushed. 

While Race the Sands didn't officially hook me until around 30%, after that point I found it impossible to put down. The stakes were high and I felt the nerves and anticipation right along with Tamra. I also loved the way that the reincarnation was done, and the political intrigue kept me on my toes throughout. 

Overall I loved how easy this book was to read, while still managing to be complex and intricate. I can't wait to read another book by Sarah Beth Durst.
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Race the Sands is a standalone fantasy novel set in a world where everyone is reincarnated after death, whether it is as an animal, insect, or a horrifying monster. People spend their lives having their auras read to determine if they are on the right path, and the worst thing that can happen to someone is that they are reborn as a kehok, an unnatural monster from the desert.

Of course, humans are still humans, so they have found a way to use those kehoks to supply entertainment for the masses. Some brave few will take their chances and ride these murderous beasts on a race track to seek fame and fortune. A former kehok rider, Tamra, is now a down-on-her-luck trainer who really needs a win in order to pay her daughter’s school fees — or they will take her away forever. Raia is running from her awful family and needs to find a safe place for herself, and maybe being a kehok rider will the the change she needs.

The country is in turmoil after the death of the Emperor and the Emperor-to-Be cannot be crowned until the reincarnated former Emperor is found. Without a proper Emperor, there can be no treaties and no new public works, and the economy is stalling. With the high intensity of the races combined with the high anxiety of the masses, the whole situation is ready to explode.

I really enjoyed the world-building created in this book — the whole society is bound up in reincarnation, and everyone is obsessed with making sure they are reincarnated as something good. The very hint of a rumor that your soul is unclean can be your ruin, and of course it leads to discrimination. The plot is pretty well-crafted once it starts to unfold. A lot of fantasy novels nowadays are multi-volume, highly plotted, twisty stories where the author tries to get in as much shock-and-awe as we can take, but this standalone is a pretty straight-forward fantasy romp and I appreciated that a lot.

I think if you enjoy the straightforward language in Brandon Sanderson’s novels, you will enjoy Race the Sands.
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It's always great to read a fantasy book that can stand alone & doesn't need to be part of a huge or expansive series. However, this is a rich story
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WOW! This book packs a punch from the very first page!! I love Durst's adult titles and how amazing they are!! Monster racing is everything you dream it is and more! This story had everything from an unforgettable setting to empowering female characters!  This epic fantasy is unlike any others!
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I was unable to read the book but will be featuring it in a series called "I With I'd Read That". Text below:

Race the Sands sounds like exactly the kind of fantasy I love to read. The description promises a truly epic story featuring powerful characters in a monstrous world. It sounds like an equal mix of societal examination, thrilling intrigue, and athleticism. I was excited to dive into something unique that wasn’t a part of a longstanding series! Unfortunately, I didn’t make it to this one thanks to 2020, but I’d love to hear from those of you who had the chance to read it! If this sounds like something you’d love, check out the author’s site below or pick up a copy for yourself. And of course, a big thank you to Harper Voyager for giving me the chance to dive into this world.
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Thank you, Netgalley and the publisher for the e-arc.

I love Sarah's writing so much that I will read anything she puts out. This book was no less than what I expected. The beginning lagged but the pace picked up quite a bit after that. With three POV's I didn't have a problem. I love more than one perspective, and enjoy it so much when they converge. I loved the writing and every chracters. The world building was spot on. I believe I felt disappointed that this was a stand alone, but still satisfied by the ending. 

I highly reccomend.
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As an introduction to Sarah Beth Durst’s works, you can’t go wrong with Race the Sands. This stand-alone epic fantasy adventure features hair-raising monster racing, an older woman as a protagonist, and found family elements all set against a backdrop filled with intense political machinations. 

Tamra is thrust into the midst of these politics in a way she never could have anticipated. She works as a trainer for youths hoping to participate in the Beccaran races, riding the dangerous, violent kehoks. In her desperation, she bets on an unproven kehok and an orphan girl to win the races in their very first year. The kehok she’s found, however, is not all it seems; often, it seems to understand more than it should, or acts with something almost resembling compassion. 

This behavior is utterly unheard of in a kehok. Kehoks are the product of the worst souls in humanity reincarnating into their next life; they were unsalvageable. Murderers. Rapists. People who had not even an ounce of empathy for their fellows. They’re monstrous patchworks of metal and animal, and their only instinct is to hurt and kill. Their riders and trainers can control them, but only by imposing their will and overcoming the instinct to murder. 

As Tamra and her protogee, Raia, discover more about their kehok… well, they also discover that whether or not they win the races has much more riding on it than they ever expected. 

Durst combines masterful pacing alongside some very solid prose to pack a full, epic adventure into a single volume. As someone who rarely has time for lengthy, multi-volume epic fantasy, this was novel truly hit the spot. Admittedly, there are a few loose ends left untied by the completion, but I found that both Tamra’s and Raia’s story arcs wrapped up in a way that was both satisfying and well-suited to the novel as a whole. 

Their dynamic was wonderful to see, especially as Raia gradually becomes an adopted daughter to Tamra. I’m a sucker for found family, and this was no exception. The themes of hope, rebirth, and catharsis are well-developed and reflected in each part of the story.
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I got this ARC forever ago, and I read the book, but then forgot to review it. This was a solid fantasy book, I enjoyed the world building, the characters and the problems. If you were a "horse girl" growing up, I think you may enjoy this book. I liked it, but I didn't love it. I was a little more interested in the back story, then the figuring out of the mystery of this story. I am ALSO super intrigued with what will come next from this story, so if she writes more books written in this world, I think I would be interested.
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this was such a new and original idea. I loved the characters, she was not just a chosen one, she was a person who was doing what she had to to protect her family. she never set herself out to save the world only her daughter. This is a hidden gem that i think more people need to read.
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A book that gets your heart racing in suspense.

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. 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.
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Race in the Sands by Sarah Beth Durst is an amazing and beautiful adventure! I would highly recommend it to young adult and fantasy readers.
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This book was so much more than I thought it was going to be. It was very atmospheric and much more dense than anticipated. There was a lot of really good character development and the plot definitely had my heart racing at times. I do enjoy that it’s a fantasy stand-alone also. I feel we don’t get enough of these.
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I loved this world, in which Becar, a precarious desert kingdom, politics are based on karmic “readings” by Muses of a person’s past lives. The stressed, disenfranchised populace is distracted by races involving vicious, mindlessly destructive chimeric monsters called kehoks, the reincarnated souls of those so evil and depraved as to be beyond hope. When the King dies at a youthful age and quite unexpectedly, his brother cannot take the throne until the King’s spirit is identified, presumably in a traditionally noble beast. The search intensifies as neighboring kingdoms scent weakness and prepare for an invasion. Unstable conditions like this form the perfect settings for taut, dynamic stories, don’t they? Enter a failed Muse student who finds a new life as an apprentice jockey, a woman who trains racing monsters to pay her daughter’s tuition at Muse academy, her patroness, a socialite with a flair for politics, a Muse agent charged with locating the King’s spirit, and assorted other characters. What links them together with the Prince is the black-iron lion, a kehok even more volatile and dangerous – and intelligent -- than others of his kind. With him, the trainer and her new apprentice jockey have a chance to win the grand championship, and with it, financial security and independence. With war brewing and the search for the King’s spirit intensifying, with their rivals resorting to ever more desperate sabotage, it’s a race against time as well.

An added delight was the effortless skill with which Durst moved from inner to outer action, her subtle handling of tension, her compassionate portrayal of her characters and their situations, and her imaginative magic. Recommended for adult as well as YA readers.
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A fierce feminist fantasy is always a  good read for me, and Race the Sands was no different! Chocked full of interesting world building, characters, and plot lines this book had my heart 'racing' start to finish. This was my first read by Durst, and I have nothing bad to say! I thought the main character was compelling, and I loved following their arc in this book. The stakes felt appropriate, and the tension built really well throughout the book. All in all a really enjoyable read!
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Race the Sands is a fast-paced, standalone fantasy filled with plenty of action, outstanding characters, and solid politics. Sarah Beth Durst is phenomenal at creating detailed, beautiful, lush worlds and fantastic characters to fill them. In a world where reincarnation is very real and what you do in life will determine who you are in the next. If you lived a relatively good life, you could be born as a human. The fate for the worst individuals is to come back as a Kehok, a vicious monster, for the rest of eternity. Unless you win the races. Kehoks can be trained for riders to race. There is so much more to this story with our protagonist, a rider who became a trainer when seriously injured in an accident. She needs the prize money to save her daughter from being taken from her.

If you enjoy fast-paced fantasy that will draw you in and not let you go, this is the one to read! There is strong crossover appeal for both young adults and adults. Be sure to check out Race the Sands today!
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The cover is what drew me to this book. I know they say not to judge a book by its cover, but I do. It’s what draws my attention. And then I read what the book was about and I was intrigued. Kehoks are people who have been bad in their past life causing them to be born into this hateful beast. But in the book, these people use them to race, which is a dangerous thing. Kehok’s cannot be reasoned with. But there’s a twist in here and it’s a good one. I began to suspect a bit but I was still into it. It was a bit of a slow start and I didn’t truly get lost into it until the ending but the premise of the book is amazing. I just couldn’t get completely lost in it like I do some books. However it wasn’t a bad read at all. Just the first part of the book went on a little too long.
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Now, I’m cheating a little because I technically haven’t finished reading this book yet. I had to put it down because it was trending toward being a little too exciting. See, my reading time these days normally happens when I’m winding down for sleep — and I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with sleep. So anything that might keep me up — like, say, a good book! — sometimes has to give way to the practicality of adult life. Right now, the practical thing is to avoid additional stress. There’s enough of it in the world right now.

Which is my long-winded way of saying that, while I haven’t finished this book yet, I didn’t want to wait to point this book out to you. It’s already available and you really don’t want to miss it. If you want to read a fantasy book about strong women smashing class barriers, then you want to pick this one up.

Now, I find the bits about reincarnation and a priest-caste that can assess your soul and tell you where you’re headed in the next life a bit odd. It seems to be an actual talent and not just a pay-us-and-we’ll-upgrade-you type of thing like one would normally expect in a world full of severe class differences. Does this book say anything significant about that? I’m not sure. Not yet, it hasn’t, but I’m barely halfway through the book.

If you pick up this book, I’d like to hear your opinion. Please be sure to come back and leave me a comment.
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Thank you Harper Voyager for sending me a copy of Race the Sands for review. This in no way affected my opinion. 

I really like Sarah Beth Durst's writing and Race the Sands was just as fantastic as I was hoping. The beginning started off a little slower but, quickly picked up.  There are three POV's one is the future emperor looking for his brother, Tamara a Kehok trainer and Raia a Kehok rider. Tamara was such a nurturing character with drive to keep her family intact while becoming an elite trainer again. Raia has an emotional journey of finding herself by discovering who she is and what she will allow in her life. We all wish we had good loving parents but that is not always the case. Raia's parents who are anything but loving. Raia finds bonds that are stronger and provide a healthy balance in her life. 

The world building and character development in this standalone were done impeccably. I even really enjoyed the political aspect of the story. Nothing felt to heavy or complicated even though the story is original and unique. I was never lost or confused. I am highly recommending Race the Sands.
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Always a fan of the writings of Sarah Beth Durst. I’ve been reading her novels for many years and her heroines maintain an impressive balance of being badass and caring each time. I enjoyed reading Race the Sands for many reasons, including racing with kehoks who come in so many different shapes and only have one thing in common: their nasty temperament. Of course, having a metal lion as the main kehok in the story is bound to draw attention to something great in store for the characters. 

I went into this book thinking Raia would be my favorite, but Tamra ended up being the most memorable character for me as a reader and as a person. The badassery she showed at the end with the kehoks and how she used her will as both a shield and a weapon to save the people she loves blew me away. Which makes sense, given the author states in her acknowledgements that Tamra was named after Tamora Pierce, an author whose works have influenced her over the years and one who writes heroines as great as Durst.
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