Book Review: The Sandcastle Empire by Kayla Olson

The Sandcastle EmpireTitle: The Sandcastle Empire
Author: Kayla Olson
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: June 6, 2017
Pages: 464
Format: Harcover
Source: Publisher
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: Dystopian

When all hope is gone, how do you survive?

Before the war, Eden’s life was easy—air conditioning, ice cream, long days at the beach. Then the revolution happened, and everything changed. Now a powerful group called the Wolfpack controls the earth and its resources. Eden has lost everything to them. They killed her family and her friends, destroyed her home, and imprisoned her. But Eden refuses to die by their hands. She knows the coordinates to the only neutral ground left in the world, a place called Sanctuary Island, and she is desperate to escape to its shores. Eden finally reaches the island and meets others resistant to the Wolves—but the solace is short-lived when one of Eden’s new friends goes missing. Braving the jungle in search of their lost ally, they quickly discover Sanctuary is filled with lethal traps and an enemy they never expected. This island might be deadlier than the world Eden left behind, but surviving it is the only thing that stands between her and freedom.
Dystopian read for the year – check. Awesome development of character and action – check. They say that plot grows from character and I found it proved true with this story. Kayla Olson is a debut author and I think she did a fantastic job, so much so that her book has been picked up by the people producing films under Leonardo DiCaprio. It’s not hard to see why – especially since this story is very focused on environmentalism and aspects that will most likely affect our very existence in the year this is based which is 2055.

This book chimes in at 400+ pages and to divulge bluntly, it didn’t feel that way. Olson’s writing is seamless, and beautiful while atmospheric, that I just flipped the pages, not noticing the length because the writing is just that good.

The story begins with an escape. An escape from the norm and towards what can be a new world, a refuge. The world has been ravaged by war and a fight for resources. The other day I saw an article that stated in the year 2050, 25% of our world's population won't have access to water. So, this book is a great conversation starter. Maybe it’s time for dystopian novels to come back to the YA canon and this might be the book to mark its place.

We have Eden, a tough-as-nails main character whose personality, daily thoughts, and survival instincts are greenlit due to the war. She's been orphaned and her only hope for a better life is a guidebook filled with notes by her father. It’s extremely hard to reveal too much without spoiling the story, but I will say, this was reminiscent of a sexier, fast-paced Lord of the Flies mixed with something that is altogether new and sci-fi. Maybe The Beach, maybe something else I can’t quite put my finger on. I appreciated the world we are introduced to as soon as Eden arrives at the island (with company) and again, I read this as quickly as the action unfolded. I liked a lot of the relationships developed throughout the book, especially Alexa, which was unexpected but welcomed.

Lonan was a strong, great character although I really wasn’t on board with the romance that developed between him and Eden. Things also became a little murky for me, action wise, somewhere around the 65% mark as I felt that things sort of slowed down or were a bit confusing/dense but it didn’t diminish my 5-star rating I gave this fantastic read, especially with the action that occurred in the last quarter of the book. There were twists and turns and I would absolutely continue to recommend this one to anyone who will listen. Maybe not your typical beach read recommendation but I’d throw it in any one of my friends’ beach bag.


  1. I have been seeing a lot about this book recently and I'm really intrigued. The size of it did intimidate me but since everyone keeps talking about it, I might need to give it a try.

    Great review!
    Brittany @ Brittany's Book Rambles

    1. These huge books can be soooo intimidating but I'm telling you, I didn't feel it with this one. Thanks for the compliment and thanks for reading Brittany!


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