Book Review: A Crack in the Rock by Amber Gabriel

The first book in any series has a lot riding on it.

The first book is what hooks readers in for more, makes them fall in love with the characters, the world, the writing style.

A Crack in the Rock by Amber Gabriel does just that. And does it well.

The novel follows Sashia, a daughter of goatherds who finds herself facing incredible physical, emotional, and mental struggle on her journey to carve a place for herself in her country. Along the way, she also carves a place in the future King’s heart. But, will it be enough…

I loved this book.

I gave it a 5 Star rating on Amazon and Goodreads.

And I want to talk about it.

I had been eyeing off A Crack in the Rock for ages, after discovering author Amber Gabriel on Instagram. Finally, in the Christmas holidays, I felt like I had the time to dedicate to picking up a book just for fun.

I’m so glad I did!

First off, the characters.

First off, we have Sashia. Sashia is our heroine, and she certainly deserves that title. Throughout the story we watch Sashia grow from a fairly unimportant child of goatherders who is unfairly treated by her mother, to a confident young woman with dreams of making a difference. Her character goes through a lot more from there, but, you know, I don’t want to spoil it!

Gabriel has done a fabulous job of crafting Sashia into a genuinely, intensely likeable character. From Sashia’s humble beginnings, I was swiftly sympathising for her on account of her mother’s unfair treatment. There’s such a sense of victory as Sashia discovers a new life and a passion, and the story goes on from there.

Along the journey, Sashia becomes a strong leading lady, but never in that abrasive ‘I-don’t-need-no-man’/’men-are-useless’ kind of way that tends to grate on me as a reader. She comes across as a very real person, with varying wants and needs that change over time depending on her circumstances. She’s fabulous, I love her, and I wish she could have all she wanted out of life.

Alrighty, Cyrus is dreamy. He’s a sweetpea who once or twice makes a foolish decision – but I can’t hold it against him because he’s so earnest and genuine in his desire to do the right thing. The love he has for Sashia is so vibrant and real, and watching the two of them interact and care for each other is utterly beautiful. I feel like there’s a lot more I could say about this character, but for now I’ll just say *chef’s kiss*.

I love this character. Berush as a nation (where the story takes place) comes across as tough but fair in it’s laws, and within that context Lang’s character is a beautiful example of the importance of mercy. His incredible loyalty and love are a highlight of the novel to me, and his character’s key moments shine.

Other supporting characters
First off, I want to touch on the parents. Sashia’s mother and father, and Cyrus’ father, are excellent characters. Sashia’s father’s strict but genuine love, her mother’s complicated past and growth, and the enigma that is Cyrus’ father all create a rich tapestry in the story. It’s great to see visible parents who are active in the story, especially when those parents are looking out for their children (if in ways the children don’t always understand or agree with). Cyrus’ loyal soldiers and brother Darius are also highlights.

Overall, the characters are strong and concisely realised, and I connected to them so quickly.

The Theme
Gabriel says, right off the bat, that the story deals with polygamy. And it certain does. It’s an unflinching look at the impact this kind of relationship can have on individuals, and the pain it can cause. Throughout the story, we encounter polygamous marriages in a few different ways, and discover how those relationships came to be. Never have I been more heartbroken for people in polygamous marriages, never more clearly have I been able to imagine the pain and irreversible change that kind of marriage can cause.

At the same time, while the story deals with hard topics, and because of the subject matter doesn’t have what I’d consider to be a standard ‘happy ending’, I deeply admire the way Gabriel has handled the issue. The characters, because of their own values and personalities, come out of the struggles not unscathed, but in what I’d consider the best way possible.

The Conflict and the Worldbuilding
I love it when a book has more than one element or conflict to it. In A Crack in the Rock, we have tense relationships with parents, a mysterious figure behind assassination attempts, and struggles of dealing with polygamy.
We also have a beautifully crafted world, focussing on the land of Berush. The wild, rugged landscapes, the detailed understanding of the cultures and political structures, the fabulous descriptions of Sashia’s goatherd life and healing prowess all meld together to form a world that feels very real, very believable, but also unique and memorable.
The setting too, has a real influence on the story. The landscape plays an important role and impacts the characters in very real ways.

Overall, I feel as though this post is a somewhat dry, analytical look at what is, at its heart, a deeply emotive, passionate, wonderful story. I don’t want to say too much that could give things away, but it’s such a good, easy, delightful read. Gabriel has a wonderful writing style that flows seamlessly, while her research shines through in the realism it lends to important elements of the story. The book is 371 pages, and they fly right by.

I highly, highly recommend this book. It hooked me completely, and I’ve just started book 5 of the series after devouring books 2-4 (more reviews will be coming on them too!).

If you love a desert adventure filled with romance, political intrigue, and deep emotional notes (I didn’t even TOUCH on some other roles Sashia takes up and the impact that has on her for good and bad – I don’t want to spoil the story!) you’ll thoroughly enjoy A Crack in the Rock.

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