The Sandcastle Empire

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
The Sandcastle Empire Book Poster Image
Action, head games in clever thriller with tropical twist.

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Kids say

age 12+
Based on 2 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

The Sandcastle Empire depicts some of the effects of global climate change and world war.

Positive Messages

Freedom is worth fighting for. Friends need to be honest with each other. Life needs to be more than merely surviving.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Smart and resourceful, Eden is driven to survive at all costs. She has a hard time trusting anyone, but she gradually learns to accept help from others. Even after everything seems to have been taken from her, she finds reasons to press on in her quest for freedom.


The first scene of The Sandcastle Empire, in which escapees are shot and killed on a mine-strewn beach, is the most violent. Later episodes include threats with guns, knives, and syringes full of drugs. Some supporting characters are brainwashed and attack others unexpectedly.


Eden is attracted to Lonan, and Alexa has a past relationship with Cass, but there's little opportunity for romance here beyond a couple of passionate kisses.


"Hell" and "damn" are used a half-dozen times each.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The evil warlord swills scotch.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Sandcastle Empire is a near-future science fiction thriller set mostly on a mysterious tropical island. The opening scene is particularly violent -- teen escapees race across a landmine-strewn beach while being shot at -- but the level of bloodshed diminishes after that. Sexual content is limited to a couple of passionate embraces, and the only swearing is "hell" and "damn."

User Reviews

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Teen, 15 years old Written byagirlwholikesreading January 4, 2021


this book is really good. i was a little hesitant to read the full thing through because I had so many questions and was confused. you have to get through the f... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byMayberry June 14, 2018

The Sandcastle Empire

This is a wonderful book. It has plenty of adventure.

What's the story?

The first chapter of THE SANDCASTLE EMPIRE begins with Eden Anderson escaping from a forced labor camp. After crossing a beach filled with landmines, she boards a sailboat with three other young women and sets off for Sanctuary, the fabled island that supposedly offers safety from the Wolfpack, a powerful group that controls the earth's resources in the wake of dramatic environmental change. The four girls do find an island, but nothing there is as they imagined it, presenting dangers and challenges that will test them beyond their limits. One of Eden's compatriots goes missing, and the remaining escapees begin to wonder exactly whom they can trust.

Is it any good?

Boasting a killer setting and a strong set of diverse female characters, this near-future sci-fi thriller mixes physical action and mental head games. In The Sandcastle Empire, author Kayla Olson combines elements of Lost and The Maze Runner to raise the stakes and keep the level of suspense high. Eden and her companions are well defined and multifaceted. Nothing on Sanctuary Island is quite as it first seems, and the plot takes some exhilarating turns. The book sometimes feels a bit bloated, however, with Eden's interior monologue offering more extraneous detail than true insight. Nevertheless, The Sandcastle Empire is a clever, tricky adventure with a tropical twist.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how The Sandcastle Empire addresses the need for trust and security. To what lengths will people go to feel safe?

  • What are the effects of global warming on human populations? Why are they subjects of debate?

  • How is violence used in The Sandcastle Empire? Is it shown to be an effective method of achieving one's goals?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love thrillers and adventure

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