I went into Rebel of the Sands with high hopes. And I’m pleased to report that it delivered! Every time I cracked open the novel to continue reading, I was immediately swept up in this story. Amani’s adventures held me spellbound from start to finish, and I finished feeling both satisfied and wanting the next book.
This is story of a girl named Amani – poor, orphaned and female – who is determined to leave the dead-end town of Dustwalk, where her only options are wed or dead. As she orchestrates her escape, she encounters a foreigner named Jin, and together, they make their escape. Amani’s circumstances post-escape are the stuff of legends: high speed chases, narrow escapes and surprising revelations about the desert she knows and loves so well, and about herself.
I really liked the cool, effortless blend of culture and genre in this story. Hamilton combined a good ol’ fashioned western escape and journey with elements and magical lore inspired by Middle Eastern culture – and it worked. I honestly was not expecting to love it as much as I did! I was just really impressed by how she seamlessly mixed the two together. It just read really well, and I definitely hope that this combination stays true as the series continues, because I’ve never read anything quite like it.
I also enjoyed Amani as a character. She’s got the worst circumstances to overcome, and in her place, I would probably lose all hope. But she’s stubborn, and got gumption, and she never stopped working towards the future that she wanted for herself. It’s hard not to find a gal with that much agency admirable! I love that Hamilton gave her character admirable qualities (like her sharpshooting skills, her compassion and her brains), but also allowed her to be flawed. Amani does make mistakes in this story, but they lead to her growth as a person. All in all, she felt like a well-rounded, complex character and her personality leapt off the page.
The story moves along at a fast clip, and I wasn’t bored for a second. Throw in our firecracker of a main character, the fascinating setting and the really unique world-building, and you’ve got my kind of story! It’s clear that I really liked Rebel of the Sands, and I think fellow readers – whether you love fantasy or are new to it – will like it a lot too.
Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton
Series: Rebel of the Sands #1
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers | Publication Date: March 8, 2016
Source: ARC from the publisher (Thanks!)
Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mythical beasts still roam the wild and remote areas, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinn still perform their magic. For humans, it’s an unforgiving place, especially if you’re poor, orphaned, or female. Amani Al’Hiza is all three. She’s a gifted gunslinger with perfect aim, but she can’t shoot her way out of Dustwalk, the back-country town where she’s destined to wind up wed or dead. Then she meets Jin, a rakish foreigner, in a shooting contest, and sees him as the perfect escape route. But though she’s spent years dreaming of leaving Dustwalk, she never imagined she’d gallop away on mythical horse—or that it would take a foreign fugitive to show her the heart of the desert she thought she knew.