Cover Image: The Book of Sand

The Book of Sand

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Member Reviews

Using 2 different, shifting timelines, desert wanderers must find a water source before others do, having to lock themselves in at night to avoid djinns determined to kill them. Mackenzie, a young student dreams of sand every night, even encountering a lizard, but not knowing why she is fascinated with the sand...thought provoking and recommended.
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Wow, this book is dystopian, fantasy fiction at its best. I was completely absorbed in these complex, unique characters from page one. We begin in a desolate land where a group of unrelated strangers have been forced to form a family to survive. We know that they have been tasked with keeping each other alive and that they are searching for something. Then we flip to the US, modern times with a teenage girl who is experiencing unusual visions. It's not clear at first how these two stories fit together but the journey to that reveal is utterly amazing.

Both stories experience a ton of strife both from the environment, their peers and from monsters trying to destroy them. There are moments that are hard to watch, moments of triumph and both the good and bad of human relationships. The writing is so vivid and evocative that I was there beside them every moment, feeling the thirst and the pain and rallying to survive and solve the puzzle. You won't always know what's going on but enjoy the journey, it does come together.

If you are a fan of Hunger Games where strong, complex characters are put in unusual and dangerous situations in pursuit of winning a game that may cost them their lives, definitely check this one out. It's a gorgeous tome of fantasy, I love a chonky book and this one is fascinating on every page of the 600. We do get a satisfying ending although as it's a series not every detail is answered but I was happy with it.

Thanks to Netgalley for advanced access to this novel. I did go on to purchase a copy on my own. All opinions above are my own.
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This was a unique and intresting read. The characters and settings are very lifelike, and the storyline kept me reading.
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Twelve strangers find themselves brought together in the afterlife in a strange place called The Cirque, a desert world filled with replicas of earth cities that have been abandoned. Styling themselves the Dormilones, they must compete with other "families" to find a mysterious object called the Sarkpont, while avoiding the dreaded djinn. If they can't find it in time, they'll meet a horribly unspeakable fate. 

Meanwhile, in a parallel storyline in Virginia, teenager Mackenzie Strathie has an obsession with deserts and has started hallucinating a giant lizard. What connection does she have with the Dormilones? Fascinating page turner, as readers will want to discover the mysteries of the Cirque and how Mackenzie fits in. The ending does seem a bit anticlimactic, and some mysteries are left unanswered as presumably there will be a sequel.
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Good stuff. An engaging story, creatively told. I liked the plot more than the characters, but that's just me, The characters are certainly worthy humans. I hope the author continues write. 

Thanks very much for the free ARC for review!!
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This book is apparently the first in a fantasy series.  Written by writer Mo Hayder (under the pen name Theo Clare),  it is being published posthumously following the author’s passing in 2021.  It’s a story that shifts between two worlds – one, a dystopian desert world not all that removed from our own, where a nomadic family unit searches for an elusive object; the other, our world, where a young girl, McKenzie, begins to experience strange occurrences that would seem to suggest some sort of bleed between the two realities.  What is going on?  Unfortunately, since it was planned as the initial installment to a longer series, we don’t really get much in the way of answers.  It’s very interesting set-up, but ultimately feels unfinished and so, as a unique read, I found it unsatisfying.
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The Book of Sand oscillates between two very different “worlds” and character POV’s and leaves you wondering what on earth is going on but you’re unable to stop reading. This book was WEIRD in a great way and there is honestly nothing else I can say about it.
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This book is written in a very interesting way, alternating between two different people at times from one paragraph to the next. It takes a little while to adjust to this style when reading and to keep track of what’s going on. At times I wished there was more explanation offered regarding unfamiliar words and concepts. Overall an interesting story. Thank you NetGalley for the opportunity to read an advanced copy!
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The Book of Sand
by Theo Clare (Mo Hayder)


In the desert with deserted cities similar to those on Earth, there's a family trying to survive as they search for the way out before one of the other families finds it. 

In Virginia McKenzie is obsessed with sand, with the desert, with a sand-lizard only she can see until another person claims he can see it too.

Why does the sand fascinate McKenzie so much and what is her connection to the family in the desert, who are hunted by the Djinni during the 'gray' nights?

It all sounds like a really good plot but sadly the story itself jumps around. One paragraph is about the family and two paragraphs later it's McKenzie. There's not a lot of separation between the two 'worlds' in the chapters.

There are some vivid details but not really enough to make the desert or McKenzie's life seem real, and I couldn't connect with any of the characters because of the jumping from here to there. There was no time to get to know the characters, especially the family. Only two really stand out, and one is a camel. I couldn't tell you much about the rest of the family because their descriptions and roles were vague.

Designated chapters for each 'world' would've made the story move along better, allowing the reader to learn about the characters instead of dreading the next jump in the story. Designated chapters would've given the book another star.

2 Stars
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The Book of Sand is an unusual book that takes the reader on a trip through purgatory somewhat akin to navigating the circles of hell in Dante’s Inferno. It begins with two seemingly divergent narratives, one involving a teenage girl who thinks there is some mystery involving her father and the CIA. That one takes place in D.C. In the modern era. The other narrative takes place in a desert environment where constructed “families” or tribes made up of diverse people are in a race with other families to find the Sarkpoint, that is, if they survive the unforgiving environment and the Night djimmi who are ready to devour anything. It is a strange world these people find themselves in, sort of a metaphysical gameboard where they attempt the impossible. Although perhaps not for everyone, the story I filled with fascinating characters and an oddness of a world that defies all rules. Quite an interesting read.
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The story idea and the world is intriguing and kept me interested until the end of the book. 
Part-way through the first half of the book, the story split into 2 worlds. The original world had slogged on to where I didn't really care about the characters. I continued reading because the new story was compelling.  I actually skipped reading when the story jumped back to the original world if it didn't seem to contain anything new.  The second half of the book finally connected the two storylines. I still had no desire to read the sections I had skipped. The connected story was again enough to keep me interested. Unfortunately I cannot say anything good about the ending. The story simply stopped mid-plot when I reached the end of the book. I am sad to say that I have no interest in reading a sequel.
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I was completely unaware of Mo Hayder and her mystery novels until came across this soon to be posthumously published novel. While the premise of The Book of Sand seems to be the standard fare for sci-fi and fantasy (what attracted me to the book in the first place), the book is far more than what it seems at first glance. It weaves the stories of a desert quest occurring in harsh and brutal conditions, along with the search by a teen in Virginia who believes there’s more to her identity than she’s been told, into a complex tale that is more than your standard fantasy fare. For me, this was a page turner that was totally original in concept. Well written with strong lead characters. I can only hope that the reported future second volume will answer the questions raised by this impressive book.

My thanks to Blackstone Publishing and Netgalley for an ARC of The Book of Sand in exchange for an honest opinion.
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Clare will be best known to her legion of fans as Mo Hayder, the author of some of the most disturbing and best written mystery books I’ve ever read. I was so sad to hear of her passing last summer, as I have been hoping for a new mystery. And while that will never happen, she has written at least one (possibly two books) as Clare. This book is completely like her other work, no mystery, but rather a fantasy combined with what may or may not be standard fiction that tells the story of two different worlds, one a world where beings struggle to survive under brutal conditions in what’s left of their world under a white hot sun in a merciless desert. The other world is in Virginia, where a teenager discovers a sand lizard in her bed. McKenzie is beginning to awaken to the possibility that she is not who she has always believed herself to be. This story is complex and multilayered and I don’t know how much more of the saga Clare got to finish before her death. I am hoping for a conclusion and answers to some pressing questions. Readers of sci fi and fantasy will enjoy this unusual story
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